Flacco: Torrey Smith can catch 100 passes

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is gaining such a comfort level with wide receiver Torrey Smith on a variety of routes that he has big plans for the wide receiver primarily known for big plays.

While the general debate with Smith is whether he can develop into a No. 1 wide receiver, Flacco contends that Smith can become one of the NFL's leaders in receptions.

"What I believe is [that] Torrey is a 1,000-yard receiver and he’s a 100-catch guy, and the thing that’s going to get him to those 100 catches is going to be ... those little things," Flacco said. "It’s going to be the 5-yard catches that he turns into 12-yard gains. It’s going to be the 5-yard catches and [he] gets tackled. Those are the things that are going to take him from being however many catches he had last year to being a 100-reception guy. And I’m seeing all those things this year from him. He’s really developing that, and I feel great about it.”

Smith, a 2011 second-round pick, has never had more than 65 catches in his three NFL seasons. Just like Flacco said, the only way for Smith to boost his receptions is to become a viable target on the shorter, higher-percentage passes.

Last season, he had 39 catches on throws that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the air, which ranked 71st among NFL players. Marlon Brown, an undrafted rookie, had one more reception on those shorter passes than Smith in 2013.

The perception of Smith being a downfield threat didn't change in the season opener. Of the seven passes thrown his way, only three went 10 yards or fewer in the air.

Smith has been known to go deep against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will line up against him Thursday night. Over the past 10 seasons, no one has more catches on passes over 20 yards against the Steelers than Smith (four catches for 150 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown).