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Here's something that has to hearten the Ravens after they watched Torrey Smith light up the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore's 31-24 win Sunday: the kid has only just begun to scratch the surface of his enormous potential.

His day against the Bengals was huge: six catches for 165 yards and a touchdown, a career high in catches and receiving yards. And his 590 receiving yards in 10 games is a new Ravens rookie record.

Will he lose his trademark dreadlocks after Bengals corner Adam Jones tackled him from behind by his hair and nearly pulled his head off?

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Smith says no, although I have a feeling Ravens coach John Harbaugh may try to talk him into visiting a barber soon.

But dreads or no dreads, it's been a joy to watch Smith improve by leaps and bounds this season.

"Looking at film from when I first came into camp to now, it's a big difference," he said after the game yesterday. "(Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler) and Anquan (Boldin), they would talk a lot to me about technique and just preaching that I can run ... I am able to get open fast and separate, and that's pretty much credit to Coach Hostler."

He's nowhere near a finished product, however.

The Ravens will tell you his route-running needs to be crisper. And they'd like him to focus more on catching with his hands than using his body to trap the ball against his chest.

But those are technique issues that can be practiced and refined over time.

What you can't teach a rookie wide receiver is speed. And not only does Smith's blazing speed give the Ravens a legitimate home-run threat down the field, it opens up the middle as opposing corners and safeties play deeper to keep Smith from flying by.

Which he's done. Quite a few times.

"My receivers coach ... is always like 'You don't understand how rare it is to get behind someone.' So when it happens, you have to take advantage of it."

The Ravens plan on doing just that the rest of the way. For a team bent on going to the Super Bowl, Smith is improving by leaps and bounds at exactly the right time.

McClatchy-Tribune photo of Torrey Smith by Doug Kapustin / Nov. 20, 2011

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