Leading up to the 2016 NFL trade deadline there was a lot of speculation about Torrey Smith landing in Philadelphia, which as we know by now did not come to fruition.
Instead the Eagles waited until the offseason to acquire the services of Smith and given months to reflect on the signing, it made perfect sense for their vision of the team’s 2017 receiving corps. The Eagles big offseason addition was obviously Alshon Jeffery, but Smith may prove to be one of the key additions once the season rolls around and has the potential to prove this rather quickly.
Smith comes to the Eagles after two underwhelming seasons in San Franciso after cashing in on a big five-year deal worth $40 million. The 49ers pursued Smith aggressively after four successful seasons as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, but quickly found out he may not be capable of being a true No. 1 receiver and moved on after two seasons of 53 receptions, 930 yards and seven touchdowns.
Luckily for Smith, he won’t face those expectations as a member of the Eagles. Eagles Director of Player Personnel Joe Douglas knows Smith’s capablities better than anyone in Philadelphia at the moment and his right hand man Andy Weidl played a pivotal role in the Ravens selecting Smith in the 2011 NFL Draft. Those voices vouching for him in the Eagles front office speaks volumes to what this team believes Smith brings to them.
Smith will not play in Jeffery’s shadow, who is clearly the Eagles new No. 1 receiver, but he also won’t necessarily be asked to be the second option in the Eagles offense. With tight end Zach Ertz emerging to be Carson Wentz’s favorite target towards the end of the season, a productive receiver in Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor catching attention during OTA’s, Smith is in a position to prove himself rather than have expectations placed on his shoulders like he did with the 49ers. That may be the most positive factor into Smith’s rejuvenation.
Another aspect being overlooked by many is the competiton Smith faced as the 49ers No. 1 wide receiver. Many look at Smith’s stats in addition to being graded ProFootballFocus’ worst receiver in the NFL this past season (119 out of 119 eligible receivers graded) and think lesser of him just due to those reasons. There’s one thing missing in those statistics – context.
Here’s some context to add to those statistics in two tweets:
Torrey Smith averages +0.95 PPR per target more vs. positively graded CBs than negatively graded CBs. Largest discrepancy this past decade.
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) June 8, 2017
What that tweet is basically stating is that Smith, according to ProFootballFocus ratings of cornerbacks, faced the best cornerbacks in the NFL more than every receiver in the NFL and a noticeable amount more than Julio Jones by 22.4%. That’s astounding.
Smith will face nowhere near that stiff of competition just due to Jeffery’s presence alone. Smith has been in that type of situation before as he played second fiddle to Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. In Baltimore. If you don’t think Douglas and the Eagles are aware of that, I have a bridge to sell you.
Smith may of only played two seasons alongside Boldin and one opposite of Smith Sr., but it shows the Ravens valued him as the No. 2 option and decided that was his best chance at success. The Eagles clearly feel no different.
The biggest threat the Eagles were missing in their passing attack in 2016 was a receiver to stretch the field. Smith, as we all know by now, offers that proven skill set to the corps. With a career average of 17 yards per catch, Smith’s home run threat ability gives the Eagles a chance to be more creative with their passing attack.
My lovely partner Liam Jenkins hit on this perfectly in his film room piece on Smith that I highly recommend viewing after reading this piece so you can see with your own eyes what I’m preaching isn’t just purely blinding optimism.
The Eagles are poised to improve their 24th passing offense from a year ago with all the additions they’ve made to their receiving corps. Smith will be a noticeable addition to that as well and hopefully you’re better convinced of this after this piece.
Photo Credits: John Jones/Sportswire