Will Joe Flacco, Ravens Wide Receivers Get It Done Without Steve Smith Sr.?


Cornerback Jimmy Smith says it's quieter these days at Ravens practice without wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

"You can hear a pin drop," he joked.

While Smith's presence and personality can never be replaced, the Ravens are hoping his on-field production can be.

No, the Ravens don't have a receiver of Smith's stature left on the roster. Yes, it would probably be crazy to think Baltimore won't feel the loss at all on the field.

But Baltimore's receivers are determined to pick up the slack as much as possible. And it's a group with a lot of potential. While Smith's injury is a downer, the upside of those that remain is exciting.

"There's disappointment on the one hand; there's excitement on the other hand," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We're out here working every single day and trying to get this thing as tight as we can get it so those guys can perform and prove what they're capable of doing."

Kamar Aiken will move into the leading role with Smith out. He received the second-most targets (43) behind Smith's 73 through the first half of the season.

The Ravens know what they're getting out of Aiken. He's tough, he's sure-handed (despite a fumble in Oakland) and he's a good route-runner. The only thing he hasn't done is make big plays. Of his 25 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns, only four plays have been for 20 yards or more.

The former undrafted journeyman turned starter is now Baltimore's No. 1 receiver, but his attitude hasn't changed.

"Ain't nothing going to be put on my shoulders," Aiken said. "I'm going to go out there and make the plays that come my way and continue to do what we do. We understand that we have to step up, but we're not going to add any extra pressure on ourselves."

Baltimore has named Chris Givens as the other starting wide receiver on the newly released depth chart, which is assembled by the team's public relations department. He's leapt over Marlon Brown.

Givens has flashed since the Ravens traded for him before Week 5. He has gotten open deep several times and made catches of 31 and 39 yards the past two weeks. He finished with three grabs for 57 yards against San Diego.

"I think he's a really good player, and he's helping us a lot. He's helping us a ton out here," quarterback Joe Flacco said of Givens. "Every time he has gotten in the game, he has made plays. I think guys see that, guys react well to that. I think he's becoming one of us, and he has been doing a great job."

Flacco said having Givens' speed on the field more will open things up for the rest of the offense in the second half of the season. The Ravens were hoping to get that from first-round rookie Breshad Perriman, but he has yet to suit up. Known for his deep ball, Flacco hasn't had many opportunities to throw it so far.

"It's not always about throwing it, but when you have a guy that can do it and you can at least take those chances, I think it definitely helps you out as a football team," Flacco said. "He's definitely going to give us that availability, and teams are going to have to focus on him a little bit just in case we do that."

Givens has a confident demeanor. He said Smith's injury isn't a challenge, but more an opportunity. Givens said there's a lot of confidence in the Ravens' wide receivers room.

"Everybody is going to get an opportunity to make plays and go out there and make a name for themselves," Givens said. "It's tough losing a guy like Steve – our emotional leader – but at the same time, we have a job to do."

Givens is only one of the three newcomers the Ravens have signed or traded for at wide receiver since the season began.

Baltimore brought in another speed threat, former New Orleans Saint Joe Morgan, last week after Smith's injury. The team added former Detroit Lions returner/speedster Jeremy Ross earlier this year. Ross has caught nine passes for 88 yards.

Brown hasn't made many plays yet this season, as he has 13 catches for 106 yards on 29 targets, but he is still the team's tallest threat outside.

Without Smith gobbling up the lion's share of targets, the ball may be spread around a lot.

"Everybody wants to go out there and prove themselves," Brown said. "But I feel like all the guys in the room are always on fire to get the ball, whether Steve was here or not."

The Ravens receivers still very much feel Smith's influence.

Givens shared that when he moved to wide receiver in college at Wake Forest, Smith was one of the players he used to watch YouTube highlights of. When he got word he was coming to Baltimore to join Smith, he was "ecstatic, because his game is similar to mine, and his attitude and demeanor."

The other receivers don't quite show it the same way as Smith, but they say they feel it.

"To be honest, Steve did enough impacting us and giving us a certain mentality. I think we'll carry that with us and be fine," Aiken said.

"We want to do it for ourselves, first of all, but we also want to make him proud. He did a lot to mold us to be the guys that we need to be when he's not here or when he does decide to retire. We want to take everything he showed us while he was and go out there and show it."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content