For the first six weeks of the season, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. was flying around the football field like a bat out of hell.
As of late, not so much.
Smith, Sr. was the talk of the league after his two-touchdown, 139 yard performance against his former team, the Carolina Panthers. At the time, Smith, Sr. was Top 3 in the NFL in receiving yards and was playing as if he was 25-years old, not 35. However, since the Ravens Week 6 throttling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Smith, Sr. notched 110 yards and a touchdown on five catches, he has rarely been a major factor in a game.
In last Sunday's nailbiting loss to the San Diego Chargers, Smith, Sr. easily had his worst performance of the season with a single catch for only two yards. Now 12 games through the season, his first half of the year paints a far different picture than the second half.
Here's a look:
First Six Games: 35 catches, 573 yards and four touchdowns.
Past Six Games: 19 catches, 246 yards and one touchdown.
With such a drastic change, it's hard to put your finger on just exactly what is the cause for the his decline. Are defenses picking up on Smith, Sr.'s role in offensive Gary Kubiak's offense and easily figuring it out? Maybe there's a lingering injury that we're not aware of? Or, is this just a string of bad luck?
Smith, Sr.'s best performance as of late came two weeks ago on Monday Night Football against his his former NFC South foes, the New Orleans Saints. In the game, Smith, Sr. had four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. Not to discount his performance, but could some of his success been attributed to the fact that Smith, Sr. knows that division and those players so well?
A large majority of his success has at the expense of the NFC South. In total, Smith, Sr. has 19 catches, 405 yards and four touchdowns against his former division.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to discount Smith, Sr.'s performance this season because even the numbers he has already put up is far more than most should expect from a 35-year-old wide receiver. However, for the same reasons I was so excited for his performances in the first week in the season is the same reason that I'm questioning his abilities during this second half decline.
Even when Smith, Sr. was playing out of his mind in the first half of the season, I was saying that his arrival in the Ravens offense shouldn't curb the team's plans of adding a top-tier receiver next season. With Smith, Sr. not putting up major numbers recentl and the impending free agency of Torrey Smith, the Ravens certainly need to make sure that addressing their receving corps is near the top of their offseason priority list, right behind the secondary.
I still believe Smith, Sr. has a good season of football left in him. Unfortnately, the Ravens can't play the NFC South every season, so I'm going to table some of my expectations from here on out. Regardless, Smith, Sr. is still one of my favorite players to watch on the field, and that's not even brining up what he does as an offensive leader. For that alone, the Ravens could certainly utilize him for another season.
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