OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With starting wide receiver Lee Evans sidelined for the second straight week, a starting role will once again be entrusted to rookie Torrey Smith.
What will he do for an encore?
After becoming the first rookie — and 12th player overall — in NFL history to catch three touchdown passes in a single quarter of play in the Ravens’ 37-7 win over the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, Smith certainly grabbed the attention of the New York Jets, who will come to Baltimore in a nationally-televised game on Sunday night.
However, Jets head coach Rex Ryan expressed little concern over Smith’s five-catch, 152-yard performance. The former Maryland standout abused Rams cornerback Justin King for three touchdowns of 74, 41, and 18 yards in the opening quarter, but matching up against New York cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie is a much different task.
“He’s a fast guy and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t think he’ll have equal success this week,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “If he does, then I’ll just stay in Baltimore.
“If we just based everything on that performance then we’d have our cornerbacks about 20 yards deep. We’ve played against speed receivers in the past and we’ll have an idea on how to play him. If we want to shut him down, we can always just put Revis on him.”
After returning to practice on Thursday, Cromartie was less complimentary than his head coach about the rookie’s performance last week. The veteran will likely draw the primary task of covering Smith with Revis having the assignment of taking away Anquan Boldin in the short and intermediate passing game.
The six-year veteran will play despite bruised ribs suffered in the Jets’ 34-24 loss in Oakland. Cromartie will wear a protective vest as he tries to slow down the second-round pick from Maryland who torched the Rams secondary.
“He had one big game, that’s it,” Cromartie told the New York media. “He has five catches for his whole career. He has a three-game career.”
Instead of firing back at the Jets defensive back, the 22-year-old Smith took the high road on Friday afternoon, smiling over Cromartie’s comments that showed a lack of concern for his big-play ability in the vertical passing game.
Should a veteran like Cromartie be worried about the six-foot receiver?
“I mean, he shouldn’t be,” Smith said. “He’s been in the league for six years. He shouldn’t be worried about me at all. What he said is the truth. I’ve only been in the league for three games, and I’ve only had one big game, so there was nothing really crazy about what he said.”
That doesn’t mean Smith is backing down, of course, as he matches up against one of the best cornerback duos in the league.
“I’m excited about it,” Smith said. “I’ve been watching those guys play for a long time. You can do nothing but respect and admire their games, so to have the opportunity to play against them, I’m excited for the challenge.”
It’s one Smith will need to be ready to answer after virtually streaking up and down the field without any resistance a week ago.
Cromartie or Revis waiting across the line of scrimmage under the bright lights of Sunday night is a much taller undertaking.
Hear more from Torrey Smith, Lee Evans, and John Harbaugh as well as my Friday morning conversation with Andre Gurode on AM-1570 WNST in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.