When the Ravens traded veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick following a contract dispute, they did so with the knowledge that they would be counting heavily on his replacement.
With Boldin gone, the Ravens will need an even bigger contribution from Torrey Smith as the most established wide receiver on the roster.
And the Ravens are confident in the abilities of the former University of Maryland standout after watching him catch a total of 99 passes for 1,695 yards and 15 touchdowns during his first two NFL seasons.
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“He’s adjusted quite well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He runs all the routes very well. Torrey is a guy that is only going to get better, because he works hard at it. He’s not a guy who spends any time thinking about anything other than what he can do today to be the best he can be. That’s what makes him so good. So, he’s running all the routes really well.
"We have a lot of leaders on this team, nobody less than Torrey Smith. Torrey’s a great leader. He’s been a leader in his family, high school. He was a leader the first day he got here in a lot of ways. He’s a guy that we think a lot of.”
Last season, Smith caught 49 passes for 855 yards and eight touchdowns.
In a AFC divisional-round double-overtime victory over the Denver Broncos, Smith caught three passes for 98 yards with two touchdowns as he consistently created separation behind veteran cornerback Champ Bailey.
While it was Boldin who caught 22 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns in four playoff games and 65 receptions for 921 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season, Smith led the Ravens with 17.4 yards per catch. He ranked fourth in the NFL. He caught 16 passes of 20 yards or more last season, one less than Boldin.
Smith just wants to expand on what he's done so far.
"I came into the offseason, I felt like I was way farther along at that point then obviously I was the year before," Smith said. "And I feel like I’m way farther along now than at the end of the season, which is what it’s all about. You want to see progress and continue to grow and continue to get better. And I think I’m looking like how I want to look, getting there, obviously. To me, I still have a long way to go, and it’s about doing the right thing all the time.”
Besides his play, the Ravens are relying upon Smith to emerge as a leader on the field and in the locker room.
"I think naturally, myself, I just try to lead by example," Smith said. "Even veteran guys, they’ve respected me since I’ve been here, so I don’t want to try to go out there and be like Major Payne, the drill sergeant guy. I just go out there and be myself. That’s leading by example and trying to do the right things. Obviously, we have great leadership here in our locker room and with our coaches, so for me, I just go out there and try to lead by example.
"And I can tell it’s a little different. The younger guys lean on me, and all of our guys, we look at each other the same, who have been here the same time. I can tell still tell they look at me in a little bit different way, but it’s the same. Leadership-wise, I feel like I do it naturally, so I don’t feel like I need to go out there and do anything special.”
From a character standpoint, the Ravens are confident that Smith is well-suited to that role.
"Torrey is a lot of things," Harbaugh said. "Torrey is a good person. He’s a humble person. He’s a hard worker. Obviously, a really talented guy. He’s a real engaging guy, and he’s honest. He’s very trustworthy. You could go on about Torrey and a lot of other guys. You know him. He’s a heck of a guy.”