Even though he was only there for a couple of years, Steve Smith is probably one of the most popular wide receivers in the Baltimore Ravens’ history. Potentially a future Hall of Famer who spent the bulk of his career with the Carolina Panthers, he finished off his days as a rival of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, and he’s consistently retained good relations with the Ravens.
But that doesn’t mean he loves everything about the team. “I was in that locker room. Once a Raven, always a Raven”, he said last week on 105.7 The Fan. He does wonder what’s in store for the team’s passing game moving forward, given how run-focused they have become over the past year and a half.
“I’m a wide receiver, and my question is going to be, how is this passing game gonna develop?”, he asked. “I hate to say it this way, but as a wide receiver, I l loved to block, but I didn’t wake up trying to block and run 70 plays a game and 68 of them are run plays”.
Last season, the Ravens ran the ball an astonishing 596 times versus just 440 pass attempts. Unsurprisingly, those numbers ranked first and 32nd, respectively. A lot of this had to do with the fact that had a number of early leads, granted, but clearly their offense was built around the running game, as they said themselves numerous times. Smith went on to express his concerns over how they will put the passing game together:
What the Baltimore Ravens have done all year is run the ball efficiently, play keep away, hold the ball, make opposing offenses reach and do things outside of themselves because they hold the ball so long. Then they go into the playoff game and they come out there and do totally the opposite of what got them there. But here’s the interesting part. By doing that, what did you do? You showed people that you’re not ready to be that. So the problem with that is, when are you gonna start to work on it? And Covid-19 is now [prevented] everyone to be able to work on their game. Yeah, you could be out there practicing with guys, but you can never simulate a guy going against another DB full-speed, and there’s a roaring crowd, and your adrenalin is pumping. That can never be simulated, and no virtual, Zoom call or air-conditioned room can ever simulate that. You have to learn and do that good old-fashioned hard work, hand-to-hand combat, and on-the-job experience. And they haven’t gotten that yet. What kind of passing game will this be with these wide receivers, and how effective will they be? Because they haven’t had a chance to practice with each other.
Though he didn’t throw the ball a ton, Lamar Jackson was efficient when he did, enough to lead the league in touchdown passes and earn MVP honors. But the wide receivers weren’t a big contributor to those efforts, and they actually recorded more rushing yards (3296) than passing yards (3225).
Last year, they drafted Marquise Brown in the first round followed by Miles Boykin in the third. This year, they added Devin Duvernay in the third round and James Proche in the sixth. Willie Snead and Chris Moore are two returning veterans. At what point will they be able to get on the field together this offseason?