As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. We next take a look at the Baltimore Ravens.
Torrey Smith will stretch defenses
In the 16-year history of the Baltimore Ravens, the franchise has hit on one defensive prospect after another, but it hasn't been easy finding a franchise receiver.
Names like Jermaine Lewis, James Roe, Patrick Johnson were baffling nonstarters early on. David Reed, Marcus Smith and Yamon Figurs solved no problems in recent years.
Torrey Smith is a different story. A second-round pick in 2011, Smith showed us early what he's capable of. In his first start, in Week 3, he pulled in five catches for 152 yards and three scores against St. Louis. We -- along with the poor Rams -- caught a glimpse of what the Ravens now have at their disposal. Smith can rip the top off a defense; a suitable match for Joe Flacco's powerful arm (say what you want about Flacco, the dude can wing it).
The knock on Smith is predictable: He goes deep, but doesn't do much else. We expect him to improve on his 50 catches and seven touchdowns from a season ago. The Baltimore Sun witnessed improved route-running and acceleration during the team's offseason gatherings.
We all know Flacco is capable of spinning himself into a dark place. It's never pretty. Ray Rice is one solution to "Bad Flacco," but Smith is another.
With the loss of Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' offense will be pushed to produce more points. The Ravens were 19th in the league in passing last season, throwing for 213.9 yards per game. This is a quarterback-driven league. They can't ask Rice to pull them out of every pit.
Smith changes Baltimore's offense, if he stays healthy. All seven of his scores came in five games last season, hinting at what he could do more consistently in 2012. With a year of service under his belt, we expect Smith to put on a show.