It's no secret that rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith has struggled through the first month of his NFL career.
Smith, the speedy wideout who the Ravens selected in the second-round of this year's draft, had two more drops last night against the Redskins, and while he brought in a reception mid-way through the first quarter, it went for just six yards and marked only his second reception of the entire preseason.
After the game, a clearly discouraged Smith talked with a couple reporters about where he's at mentally at this point.
"Assignment-wise and stuff, I did alright," Smith said of his performance against the Redskins. "I made one mistake motion-wise, which led to a timeout, and (had) two plays that I should have made. It's frustrating. I've kind of been pressing. I've been a playmaker forever. That hasn't changed, but I haven't really been able to make an impact, so I've been kind of pressing the issue instead of letting it come to me. Once I sit back and relax and play like myself, I'll be fine."
Smith acknowledged that he's been feeling the pressure that many high draft picks feel early on - the pressure to succeed and succeed early. Being a local guy who went to the University of Maryland might not be making things any easier on the 22-year-old.
"I know they drafted me high for a reason," Smith said. "They believe in my skills, and I believe in myself as well. Being a local guy and knowing I've performed well in front of these same people before, the pressure that comes with that. People know how I played at Maryland, and they want me to play the same way here. I want to play the same way here.
"It's just frustrating. I've just got to let it come to me, instead of pressing the issue and I'll get back on track."
It can't be easy for a kid who should be entering his senior year of college to step onto a team with Super Bowl aspirations, stand next to future Hall of Famers like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and then not perform to the level that he or the team expected he would.
I'm not making excuses for Smith; many rookies in that same situation come in and perform from Day One. Jimmy Smith, the Ravens' first-round pick, has settled in nicely, and fourth-round wide receiver Tandon Doss appears to be learning and improving every day. On the flip side, however, some struggle with the transition from college to the pros, and take time to get acclimated to the new level of play.
Watching Smith in practice the last month, it's clear his confidence is shaken. He doesn't run routes like he's sure of his assignments or get out of his breaks with quick, sharp steps; instead he often rounds his routes off. He's been spotted hanging his head after a dropped pass on a number of occasions, or slowly walking back to the sideline following a play, seemingly trying to give himself a pep-talk.
His quarterback has seen those signs as well.
"Torrey just has to go out there and play - use his abilities," Joe Flacco said last night. "Got to make a move, run by guys, use his hands, go out there and play confidently and use his ability and make moves. I think he has a tendency to overthink things. He always wants to do the right thing. He always comes up to me and tells me he wants to do the right thing. Sometimes when you go out there on Sundays, you just have to let it go and play. If you go out there and make mistakes, you make mistakes. You just have to go out there and play.
"He's just going to have to learn that. He has all the ability to go out there and let it come to him."