The knock on Torrey Smith (Maryland) early in his Ravens career was that he had hands of stone to go along with his rocket-powered legs. Smith caught 99 passes, 15 for touchdowns, in his first two seasons, but he also dropped a combined 13 passes — the most on the Ravens, according to Pro Football Focus.
Smith heard his critics and, sure, wanted to prove them wrong. But he cares more about self-improvement, so he spends time on the JUGS machine at the start of every practice and is known to put in extra time at the end of workouts. Whatever his motivation, the hard work has yielded results this season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Smith is one of two NFL wide receivers who have yet to drop a catchable pass on 45 or more targets. The other is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. There have been a couple of plays in which Smith bobbled passes before catching them out of bounds, like the one in the end zone in the Week 2 win over the Cleveland Browns, but those don’t technically count as drops.
"It's just making less mental lapses. I think that obviously there's a few plays that I consider drops that I should have made, but I don't know how stats were reported or whatever,” Smith, 24, said Friday, downplaying the stat. “I don't know how many drops I have this year."
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said Thursday that in his time with the Ravens, he thought Smith showed an ability to consistently catch the football. Caldwell said he didn’t understand why Smith’s hands were ever scrutinized.
“I remember the year before, there was some talk about how his hands were a bit inconsistent, but I didn’t see that,” said Caldwell, who joined the staff in 2012. “I’ve only seen the guy that’s been able to catch it because he works at it. He stays after practice and he works. He’s constantly challenging himself in that area. He’s been extremely dependable.”
Smith has been targeted a team-high 57 times this season. He has 31 receptions for 629 yards and a touchdown. He leads the NFL with 14 catches of 20 or more yards and also leads all NFL regulars with an average of 20.3 yards per reception.
"It's my job to catch the ball,” Smith said. “It's not going to happen all the time. My college coaches always say, 'Catch the easy ones and go 50-50 on the hard ones, and you'll have a heck of an average.' That's what we have to strive towards.”