Three months later, Smith realizes the team's younger receivers now will "lean on" him, but he doesn't believe the loss of Boldin affects his own game.
"A lot of people are talking about me being a No. 1 this season," Smith told Sports Illustrated's Don Banks on Thursday, "but I don't see much difference because last year I got double-teamed, and had the best cornerback guarding me basically every game. So in terms of the attention from defenses, I don't view it as any different."
What Smith will have to do differently is master the full route tree after concentrating primarily on downfield "go" routes during his first two seasons. Due to quarterback Joe Flacco's big arm and his tendency to take chances on downfield jump balls, Smith caught only 49 of the 110 passes thrown in his direction last season. That 45 percent success rate was among the league's worst.
"Torrey is a guy that is only going to get better, because he works hard at it," Harbaugh said Friday, via The Baltimore Sun. "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."
We're confident that Smith will graduate from occasional flashes of brilliance to a top-25 NFL wide receiver. The question is if he finally earns Flacco's trust in key situations as Boldin did during the Ravens' Super Bowl run.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.