The most consistent answer from the Ravens is that the hard-working Smith has improved everything. Smith attests that he still runs the same routes he always did.
On Wednesday, quarterback
It’s Smith’s hands, his Achilles heel when he first came into the league three years ago.
“He’s become a guy that you can throw the ball to, and you know he’s going to come down with the ball,” Flacco said.
“You look at before that, he had the ability to make all kinds of plays, and he would make a lot of plays, but he’d put the ball on the ground here and there. Sometime last year, he became that guy that caught really everything you threw to him.”
That kind of trust between a quarterback and wide receiver is essential. It’s along the lines of what Flacco was saying about Anquan Boldin near the end of last season, when Boldin was going on a tear through the playoffs.
Smith didn’t come into the league as a natural hands catcher, meaning he often liked to bring the ball into his body and didn’t have consistent technique snatching balls with his mitts. But he worked hard as a rookie to improve and still has a routine of taking extra passes off the JUGS machine.
“Obviously, you can’t catch enough passes in practice – you have to do things outside of practice,” Smith said. “But the biggest thing is don’t panic. Don’t doubt yourself. … It’s on me when the ball is thrown to just make the play, whether it’s short or long.”
Smith is now playing with loads of confidence that comes from having success. Flacco pointed to a big play in the Miami game as an example of his improved hands.
The Ravens were tied late in the fourth quarter when Flacco rolled to his right off play-action. Smith had cornerback Brent Grimes on his back, but still elevated and snatched a pass a bit behind him for a 14-yard gain. The catch put the Ravens in range for
“It’s just a matter of being comfortable with the atmosphere of everything and who he is, and not worrying about the little things, and just being able to go out there and play football,” Flacco said. “Now he’s able to catch those things like it’s just second nature.”