Torrey Smith Calls Out Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe for 'Ridiculous' Criticism of Lamar Jackson
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe were critical of Lamar Jackson after the Ravens' loss to the Steelers in Week 5, questioning whether the team was getting its money's worth from him. The timing of their criticism was a head-scratcher considering Jackson's receivers dropped seven passes in the game, including a few that could've gone for touchdowns.
Former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith called out the analysts for their "ridiculous" take.
"Anyone that watched that full Pittsburgh Steelers game realizes that Lamar Jackson was not the problem," Smith said on his "Trending Thoughts With Torrey Smith" podcast. "In fact, the team would have blown them out if things had been executed because it's a team game. Being a player that has dropped passes myself, you have to talk about the truth about what happened. The receivers did not get it done.
"So I think there's a responsibility for everyone to have responsible conversations when it comes to players and their performances."
Former NFL quarterback J.T. Sullivan took a deep dive into Jackson's performance against the Steelers on his YouTube show, "The QB School," and had a more reasoned analysis rather than a half-baked hot take.
"It is so refreshing to see Lamar Jackson in what I would consider a much more modern, comprehensive, sophisticated, NFL passing scheme. That's the No. 1, main takeaway for me," Sullivan said. "Are there still some issues as far as his precision, his ball placement? Yes. … That being said, he threw the ball well enough certainly for them to have a better opportunity to win that game. You can't catch it for them, and that was on full display in this game."
The Ravens entered the game as one of only two teams to have zero dropped passes, so there's every reason to believe the receivers' disappointing performance was an aberration.
What's Gone Right and Wong on Offense and Defense to This Point?
With more than a quarter of the season over, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec took stock of the 2023 Ravens.
Zrebiec noted that Baltimore is "in a relatively good position" at 3-2 but would be 5-0 if not for giving away games against the Colts and Steelers it had no business losing.
"In flashes, the Ravens have had the look of a team that could make a playoff run. At other times, they've looked sloppy and confused, destined for another late-season flameout," Zrebiec wrote.
Here are some more of Zrebiec's observations:
What's gone well on offense?
"Even after Sunday's drop fest in Pittsburgh, Lamar Jackson's completion percentage stands at just under 70 percent. He's on pace to set a career high in that category. Jackson hasn't been perfect, but through much of the first five games, he's thrown the ball well, made good decisions and stressed defenses with his arm and legs. Jackson has more rushing yards (265) than Pittsburgh's Najee Harris, Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs and Houston's Dameon Pierce, so while he seems less aggressive as a runner this year, he's still taking advantage of some opportunities."
What has not?
"The Ravens are far too often beating themselves. They've lost six fumbles in five games, and most of them have either taken away potential points or led to points for the opposition. Kenyan Drake's fumble deep in Indianapolis territory and Justice Hill's fumble at midfield in Pittsburgh were momentum killers. Jackson's ball security has been an issue all year, too. You expect the occasional fumble on a blindside hit, but a few of Jackson's fumbles are the result of carelessness more than anything else. The Ravens won't progress as an offense until they stop giving the ball away."
What's gone well on defense?
"The Ravens have been pretty good across the board. They rank second in overall defense, tied for second in points allowed per game, third against the pass, seventh against the run and first in the red zone. It's probably helped that they've faced two backup quarterbacks, and another in Joe Burrow who wasn't healthy when they played the Bengals. But Baltimore has been missing a ton of guys on the defensive side of the ball, too, and its level hasn't dropped."
What has not?
"If there is one situational area that Baltimore's defense needs to be better in, it's on third down. The Ravens had chances to get off the field in numerous games and allowed the opposing offense to pick up too many third-and-mediums or third-and-longs. In the fourth quarter alone Sunday, the Ravens allowed Kenny Pickett and the Steelers to pick up a third-and-8, a third-and-9 and a third-and-4. They need to be better in that area."
Where Do Ravens Rank on 'Panic Scale?'
NFL.com’s Adam Schein ranked nine teams on the "panic scale." The Ravens came in at No. 6.
Schein said he "still really likes" the Ravens, but their penchant for giving away winnable games has become a disturbing trend.
"The thing is, this is now a thing," Schein wrote. "After Sunday's painful loss to the rival Steelers, the Ravens are now tied with the Raiders for the most blown double-digit leads since the start of the 2022 season (five). Oof.
"Lamar Jackson is 1-3 with four total touchdowns, 10 turnovers and a 66.8 career passer rating in starts against Pittsburgh. The Ravens quarterback was seen throwing his helmet in frustration on the sideline, and frankly, I don't blame him. After all, the man's teammates completely failed him on Sunday, dropping crucial passes all game long. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's offense had been inept for most of the season ... until Kenny Pickett and Co. put 12 points on the board in the fourth quarter to steal the win."