OWINGS MILLS - Torrey Smith took noticeable strides as a wide receiver from his rookie season to last year, and he continues to evolve going into Year Three.
Smith is noticeably more savvy and more polished as a route-runner.
His hands, once viewed as shaky and unreliable, have been sure and steady this summer.
And he's still fast, maybe even faster than he was during his first two years in the NFL, when he established himself as one of the league's top deep threats.
How much has Smith improved since last season? Not quantifiable.
How will he fare in his first season as the unquestioned top receiver in the Ravens' passing game? Time will tell.
But this much has been apparent through three weeks of training camp and one preseason game: Smith, who has been consistently good all summer, is a better all-around receiver than he was even at the end of the last season.
"He's gotten better and improved and done a great job, like he always does," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "And he's having an excellent camp. Torrey is an explosive big-time receiver, and people are going to have to deal with him."
Many eyes will be on Smith and the Ravens' corps tonight, when Baltimore hosts the Atlanta Falcons in its second preseason game - the other receivers because no one has emerged as a viable starter opposite Smith, and Smith because this is a new role for him with more responsibility and more attention focused on him with Anquan Boldin having been traded to San Francisco.
Tight end Dennis Pitta's hip injury only adds to Smith's importance.
"My job doesn't change," Smith said. "I'm a receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. When Joe [Flacco] throws the ball, catch it. When Ray [Rice] is running, block. So, my role doesn't necessarily change - just running routes like everyone else. "Obviously, I expect more out of myself performance-wise whether they were there or not.
"It's tough to lose Anquan. Obviously, he was the leader of our group and a great leader on our team. Pitta was as well. ... [But] we have a 'next man up' mentality. I think we have some guys who are ready."
It's not like Smith hasn't been a focal point of opposing defenses before.
Even with Boldin in Baltimore last year, opposing defenses often assigned their top cornerback the task of covering Smith, and they often rolled safety help to Smith's side of the field because of the threat of Smith's speed and big-play potential.
There were games where Smith was a non-factor statistically, but he did lead the Ravens in touchdown catches (eight) and ranked second behind only Boldin in receiving yards (855).
He's had 841 yards or more in each of his first two seasons, and his average of 17.1 yards per catch during the last two years ranks among the best during that time period.
But more will be needed from Smith with Boldin gone and Pitta injured.
What kind of numbers Smith puts up remains to be seen, but he has impressed this summer.
"Torrey is a guy that improves every day," Harbaugh said earlier in camp. "He really does a great job, and he is the perfect example of how to maximize your ability. That's what I see in Torrey Smith.
"He just tries to do and tries to understand and tries to grow as a football player, and he makes the most of every single day. He's as far along as anybody could possibly be at this stage of his career."

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