Steve Smith was brought in to revamp the Ravens' 18th-ranked pass offense and the 35-year-old wideout will embrace the heavy-laden role, one that Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason filled in the past. Here's a quick run down of how the Ravens' ball catchers were deployed in the Ravens offense since 2004.
Under Offensive Coordinator Matt Cavanaugh
Under OC Jim Fassel
2005: WR Derrick Mason (86) Heap (75) WR Mark Clayton (44) and Chester Taylor (41)
2006: Heap (73) Mason (68) and Clayton (67)
Under OC Rick Neuheisel
2007: Mason (103) Clayton (48) and RB Willis McGahee (43)
Under OC Cam Cameron
2008: Mason (80) Clayton (41) Heap (35) and RB Ray Rice (33)
2009: Rice (78) Mason (73) Heap (53) and Clayton (34)
2010: WR Anquan Boldin (64) Rice (63) Mason (61) and Heap (40)
2011: Rice (76) Boldin (57) TE Ed Dickson (54) WR Torrey Smith (50) and TE Dennis Pitta (40)
Under OC Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell
2012: Boldin (65) Pitta (61) Rice (61) and WR Smith (49)
Under OC Jim Caldwell
2013: Smith (65) Rice (58) WR Marlon Brown (49) WR Jacoby Jones (37) TE Dallas Clark (31) and Dickson 25
Under OC Gary Kubiak
Based on what we see from previous years, the former Carolina Panther could easily lead the Ravens in receptions this season. Sure the wideouts on the outside are faster, but they tend to not get as many receptions as tight ends and inside route runners, like Boldin and Mason with quarterback Joe Flacco. While Flacco has a cannon for an arm, he typically enjoys his security blankets and throwing more moderate passes to his physical receivers who smaller defensive backs struggle with.
According to PFR, Houston Texans OC Rick Dennison had his three quarterbacks (Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates) air it out in 2013--an astounding 633 total pass attempts--which would have placed the three musketeers 5th on this list ahead of Tom Brady (628) and Flacco (614).
Don't fret. Head Coach John Harbaugh already wants Smith Sr. to give his receiving corps tips on how to improve their game.
"He’s one of the best receivers ever at going back and getting a football...He can chase and out-run a defender to the ball, so it’s a little thing, but it’s a pretty important trait for a wide receiver."
While the offense learns the fresh and easy playbook, Smith believes that building a strong foundation with his new friends, wide receivers Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and the others, is equally imperative.
Having chemistry with your quarterback isn't enough to succeed in today's pass-happy league, and the prudent Smith Sr. has already gone out to dinner with his fellow teammates to back up his talk.
Could Steve Smith lead the Ravens in receptions in 2014? Certainly seems to have a precedent for it.