- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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"There was a key third down [during practice] … If I dropped the ball like I did today, then I’m not going to be very good," Smith said.
A drop by Smith has been a rarity at Ravens training camp. He's been catching nearly everything thrown his direction, which is why he's been the team's best and most consistent wide receiver this summer.
It's not unusual to see Smith twist his body to pull in a pass that sails high and behind him. He's also made diving catches deep downfield.
The Ravens knew they were getting a fiery leader when they signed Smith as a free agent in March. They didn't know about his hands, especially after looking at his numbers.
Over the past 10 seasons, Smith has the third-most drops in the NFL, trailing only Brandon Marshall (68) and Dwayne Bowe (57).
In analyzing the stats, Smith's success rate catching the ball is heavily affected by his starting quarterback. In two seasons with Jake Delhomme throwing the ball (2004-05), Smith had a 2.7 drop percentage. From 2006 to 2010, when the Carolina Panthers had seven different starting quarterbacks, Smith's drop percentage jumped to 5.6 percent. Over the past three seasons with Cam Newton, who isn't the most accurate passer, Smith lowered his drop percentage to 4 percent.
So, what's the expectation with Smith catching passes from Joe Flacco?
"He throws a lot of good, easy balls that you can snag [with] one hand," Smith said. "It makes it look good, so I like those."
Smith has been one of the most consistent receivers over the years. Over the past nine seasons, he has caught more than 70 passes in six seasons and put together six 1,000-yard seasons.
His approach to catching the ball is a very simple one.
"It may sound rhetorical, but you have to catch the ball first," Smith said. "You have to figure out when you catch it, why did you catch it that way? And you have to evaluate yourself the same way if you drop it. You catch the pass, you drop the ball -- you have to be able to evaluate. "
Smith added, "A lot of times it’s just getting antsy -- just taking your eyes off of it when you’re wide open. You start to move, you feel the corner on the outside, so you try to give him a little move to the inside, and you forget the ball. It just happens sometimes, and it’s part of the process."