Late For Work 5/12: Torrey Smith Among NFL’s Most Pivotal Players

Somebody had to battle Skip with Suggs recovering. Ravens, Odom good fit. Solid work, Pat.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 9:11 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Smith Among NFL’s Most Pivotal Players

If you had to choose Baltimore’s most pivotal player in 2012 that could make or break its chances of raising the Lombardi Trophy, who would it be?

You probably don’t have to worry about Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice. You know what they are going to bring.

One could argue that Terrell Suggs or one of the candidates to replace him – Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger or Sergio Kindle – would be the most pivotal. An argument could also be made for Joe Flacco or whoever wins the starting left guard spot.

But Bill Polian, ESPN analyst and former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman, believes the player who could have the greatest effect on a Ravens’ potential Super Bowl run is Torrey Smith because he hasn’t performed up to elite status … yet.

In fact, Polian believes Smith is the 5th-most pivotal player in entire NFL heading into the 2012 season.

“[T]he defense in Baltimore is not the problem,” wrote Polian. “The offense, however, needs a deep threat in the passing game, and Smith is the guy best suited to fill that role.

“For years the air attack has not been as reliable as the other facets of the team, and if Smith can be consistent catching the ball and making plays downfield, it will be the last piece in an otherwise well-rounded contender. The Ravens seem to believe in him since they didn’t address their receiving corps in the draft. They did sign Jacoby Jones in free agency, however, and he could add another speed element.”

Smith finished his rookie season last year with 50 receptions for 841 yards and seven touchdowns – and that was while he was playing through a sports hernia beginning in Week 4.

Given that he had such an impressive rookie season despite the injury and an atypical offseason, Smith may prove Polian right and push the Ravens over the top.

The second-year receiver believes he will top the 1,000 receiving mark in 2012.

“My biggest thing is that I will be healthy and whatever comes with that,” Smith said in April. “I was fast last year even with the injury so I wasn’t really too concerned about that. [I was just concerned about] not being able to play, about not having any pain while playing. I’m just excited about that.”

Below are Polian’s 10 most pivotal NFL players in 2012:

1. New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin
3. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley
4. Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub
5. Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith
6. Buffalo Bills tackle Chris Hairston
7. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones
8. San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews
9. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward
10. San Francisco 49ers’ entire receiver corps

Somebody Had To Battle Skip With Suggs Recovering

With Suggs recovering from Achilles tendon surgery, somebody else had to step in and bring sanity to the world while Ravens fans’ favorite sports commentator [note sarcasm], Skip Bayless, spewed haterade over Joe Flacco.

Enter Stephen A. Smith.

Discussing Flacco (No. 74) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s (No. 91) rankings in the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players, Smith argued that the players, who determined the final list, got it right by putting Flacco ahead.

Bayless argued that Flacco had a “pathetic” performance against the Jets last season and that Ed Reed publicly called him out after a poor playoff performance against the Texans. Bayless said that outperforming Tom Brady in the AFC championship was a fluke, calling him “Joe Fluke-o.”

“I don’t care what you say, I’m taking Romo and never looking back at Joe Flacco,” Bayless said.

Even though Romo has better passing statistics, Smith argued that the Ravens’ fifth-year quarterback performs better under pressure and in big games while Romo can’t get it done when his team needs him most. Flacco has more upside and is still progressing, and Smith says that Romo has hit a plateau.

“When you look at the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are knocking at the door, when you look at the way Flacco performed in the AFC championship game, when you look at the fact that he is relatively inexperienced, that he doesn’t have that many years in the league, pretty much just four years, I think the upside is greater,” Smith said.

“I get the impression with Tony Romo that what you see is what you’re going to get. When it really gets thick, he simply can’t get it done.”

Below is a side-by-side comparison of Flacco and Romo’s stats over the last four years.

Flacco                                                                 Romo

44-20                         Win-Loss                          28-23

60.8                           Comp. Pct.                       64.4

215.9                         Pass YPG                          269.0

80-46                           TD-INT                            94-40

86.0                        Passer Rating                    97.1

Ravens Best Fit For DE Antwan Odom

Would the Ravens have made it to the AFC championship if they hadn’t picked up left tackle Bryant McKinnie in late August last year?

Jason La Canfora isn’t so sure they would have.

That’s why the NFL Network analyst, who by the way is moving to CBS, listed six free agents still on the street that could be critical to a team’s success in 2012.

“A key, cheap free-agent signing can do much more than just bolster depth – it can provide an important starter at a vital position of need,” wrote La Canfora.

One such free agent is defensive end Antwan Odom, who has been largely forgotten about as he recovers from a botched hand surgery.  In 2009, he registered eight sacks in six games for the Cincinnati Bengals and at the age of 30 he could still play several more years, says La Canfora.

“[P]rior to injuries mounting, this dude was tearing up quarterbacks and giving elite tackles a hard time off the edge,” wrote La Canfora. “He’s regaining strength, lifting weights again, and should be able to show off for teams within a month.”

La Canfora reports that teams are calling Odom, including the Denver Broncos, but believes he would best fit in Baltimore. Some have speculated that Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora would also make a good fit in Baltimore, but a trade and contract demands could make him an expensive option.

With a tight salary cap, the Ravens could get Odom for a bargain.

“The Ravens know him well, having faced him so often within the division, and I’d tend to think getting a crack at the Bengals twice a year would suit Odom perfectly,” La Canfora wrote. “Baltimore longed for an improved pass rush depth even before the Suggs injury. Now it’s acute. The Ravens explored options like Mark Anderson early in free agency, and with their cap situation, trading for someone with a big contract isn’t really feasible. Odom is an Alabama product, and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will always have an emotional attachment to that school. Seems like a natural fit to me.”

Quick Hits

  • RavensInsider: Ravens exec Pat Moriarty did eight rookie deals Marshal Yanda restructure signed Jacoby Jones Ryan McBean and extended Bernard Pollard deal [Twitter]
  • jeffzrebiecsun: Even with the new CBA and slotting system, that’s still pretty solid work by Pat Moriarty and the Ravens front office. [Twitter]
  • There’s still no progress between the Ravens and Flacco, but the two sides are expected to keep talking through the remaining offseason months. []
  • SiriusXMNFL: New @Ravens WR Jacoby Jones tells us, “It came down to the Ravens & Panthers but I could not turn down the Ravens offer.” [Twitter]
  • Rice visited Old Mill Middle School in Millersville to congratulate students on their efforts to eat healthier and play harder as part of the NFL Play 60 initiative. [WJZ]

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