How will the veteran free agent impact the Eagles’ offense?
In case you haven't heard, the Eagles signed a new wide receiver on the first day of free agency and his name is Torrey Smith! OK, Smith might not be the sexy signing of the Eagle’s free agent class, but he is one that should come in and contribute by adding an element that the team has been missing from the Eagles for a few years, a deep threat. In preparation for this film piece I watched Smith’s 2015 and 2016 campaigns. I didn't want to go too far back because a lot changes in two years and I thought that despite his numbers, I’d get the best feel for what kind of player Smith will be in 2017. A lot of you guys are used to how Jonny does his film pieces, but mine will take a slightly different approach, so without further adieu, here we go!
I’m going to start off by apologizing for the terrible quarterback play you're going to witness in the piece. Blaine Gabbert may be the worst football player I’ve ever watched, and throughout this you may soon figure out why. Here Smith gets a free release off the line against Mo Claiborne, but doesn't get a ton of separation. Scheme work to bring the high safety up and allows Smith to break towards the middle of the field. Gabbert badly under throws the ball when he should've thrown it more towards the middle with Smith having his man beat to the inside. You can see Smith’s speed a little here as he's able to get past his man but the next few plays will exemplify that even more.
Here Smith is able to fight through contact and win off the line (something he doesn't do often) against Ronald Darby, a cornerback that ran a 4.38 two years ago. This allows Smith to get a step on on Darby, but once again, a bad throw (this one overthrown) prevents another Torrey Smith touchdown. The encouraging trend here is that we didn't really see any Eagles receiver show the ability to separate like this downfield.
Separation/Tracking and Adjusting
If you’re a fan of Jonny’s film room pieces, you'll notice that he likes Bryce Treggs, but voices that he's terrible when it comes to tracking deep balls. Smith (bottom of the clip) runs a go route and separates on his man by outrunning him. Colin Kaepernick does a poor job of leading Smith further down field, so he has to stop and track the ball. If you go back to the Seattle game and Week 17 Dallas game, you'll notice the troubles Treggs has tracking deep balls, but when watching Smith I thought he did extremely well at this.
Once again, Smith does an excellent job winning and separating against Tyrann Mathieu in man coverage with a clean break at the stem of his route. I will say that Smith gets a little help from the scheme that brings the high safety up, but Doug Peterson did a tremendous of job of scheming wide receivers open open last year, just look at all of the three level stretch plays they ran to get Jordan Matthews open on a corner route. This is another ball that Smith has to slow down, track and wait on from Gabbert. While watching these plays I envision what Wentz will be able to do with a much better arm. I don't want to get too overexcited but he might be the perfect compliment to Alshon Jeffery.
Here the defense has to respect Smith’s speed so they play off of him, giving him a free release. The trend of the last few clips has been his ability to break on a route quickly top get open. Smith does that once again here while adjusting to ball that was thrown behind him (out of necessity with the linebacker underneath). The ability for Smith to create these cushions is key because it opens up space underneath for the run game and other players such as Matthews, Ertz and Sproles.
Kaepernick gets flushed again and scheme gets Smith open, but he’s open by miles after breaking to the middle. Kaepernick terribly under throws this one but once again I believe this is a throw Wentz can make due to what he showed us in 2016 and the plays the touch he put on passes like this one. I noted a moment ago that Doug did well to scheme the receivers open last year and it helps when guys can capitalize.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter knows how much I despise Jordan Matthews’ body control or lack thereof. I typically don't use broadcast views, but this clip is a prime example of the body control Torrey Smith possesses. The pass is thrown a little further to the sideline than what is ideal, but Smith does an excellent job of adjusting his body and securing the catch. For comparison you can take a look at the play at the end of the Week 9 matchup against the Giants where Jordan Matthews failed to make an adjustment on the ball. Some believe there was no chance, I believe that Matthews had an opportunity to make a play but couldn't adjust because he’s physically limited to what he can do. Smith is not held to those same limitations as you see above.
Here’s another example of Smith’s body control and the level of concentration he possesses. He's able to tip the pass that is wide once again to himself and maintain possession before Richard Sherman can even get his body around to realize what happened. The agility and athleticism to even make that play possible is a wonder in itself. Ill stress this point again, but body control is an absolute must for a wide receiver to make up for deficiencies in his game. If you've ever watched Jordan Matthews and wondered why he jumps when its unnecessary, its because he doesn't really know how to adjust to a pass that might be a little behind or right up on him. Two examples are catches he made against the Giants in Week 9 and against the Falcons where he jumped for no apparent reason. His lack of body control also forces him to sacrifice yards after the catch. This is one ability that will be overlooked about Smith that shouldn't.
For receivers that lack a level of physicality, they need to find ways to get free releases off the line. John Ross who just broke the NFL Combine 40 yard dash record does a good job of winning with his footwork.
In the clip above we see Smith matched up against Sherman again at the bottom of the screen. Notice how Smith uses his feet to get Sherman to open up, giving him a free release on the slant route. It’s important to note that Torrey Smith will likely not be attracting a team’s top cover corner week in and week out playing opposite of Alshon Jeffery.
Again, Smith is at the bottom of the screen, but he uses his footwork to get a clean release and a step of separation on Patrick Peterson. This is a little more significant than getting the step on Sherman because Peterson is more agile and faster than Sherman.
I love the footwork here by Torrey Smith, as he's able to stop and go to create separation. Its a really good route and the corner bites on it allowing Smith to burst upfield. Eagles receivers rarely created this sort of separation and it’s encouraging that Smith is able to do it without having to just beat his man deep every play. Once again a better thrown forces Torrey Smith to stop and adjust when he has a chance to secure more yards, or even better, score a touchdown.
Again, I love the stop and go ability Smith exemplifies here. He fakes inside and catches Janoris Jenkins (from 2015) leaning that way. He then explodes out of his break to the sideline creating more separation allowing himself to secure YAC. I really like what he brings to this team with the ability to create for himself when he needs to and I can't help to think that will only improve playing across from Jeffery.
I wanted to add this play because I was amazed at how explosive he was here. Smith works through the contact and once again just explodes upfield, getting as much as three yards of separation after breaking upfield. I dont know about you guys, but I’m excited to see if he can still display these talents in 2017!
Smith does a good job of separating, but if you get physical with him you can throw his game off. At the top of his route above, Sherman throws him off with constant contact (Illegal contact?) and Smith is unable to fight through it and work back to the ball in time.
Another weakness, as expected for the type of receiver Smith is, is that he doesn't often win at the catch point unless he’s established. In the play above, the pass is not wide and the ball is pretty catchable, Smith just doesn't come down with it. This is a play you’ll expect Jeffery to make but not Smith and I can't be too disappointed in that. A lot of the previous plays show Smith working well through contact, but thats not his game. Im not saying he’s going to lose physical matchups most of the time, but you shouldn't expect him to constantly win those 50/50 chances, but thats why they have Alshon Jeffery.
I praised and talked Smith up a lot in this piece, but I really like what he brings to this team. If the Eagles had traded for him midseason, I don't think he would’ve had the same impact he’ll hopefully have in 2017 because he would've been asked to play as a number one receiver. With Alshon Jeffery likely commanding double teams and safety help, it will free up Torrey Smith and guys like Ertz and Matthews for one on one matchups against team’s second and third best corners. I’m cautiously optimistic about Smith’s impact, as his deal lends him to be cut if he doesn’t perform in training camp, but if he does, its not an exaggeration to believe he could return to being a 1,000 yard receiver in 2017 and provide the Eagles offense with a dangerous threat they’ve been missing for years.
This post first appeared on Bleeding Green Nation, A Philadelphia Eagles Commu, please read the originial post: here