49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith’s production has suffered mightily from the lack of consistent passing this year downfield with quarterback Blaine Gabbert. On pace for another career-low season he is the biggest disappointment thus far of 2016.
It’s been a rough year for the 49ers passing game as they rank dead last in the NFL with 170.0 yards per game, per NFL.com.
Many of these struggles can be attributed to the lackluster performances from recently benched quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
It’s widely known he has been the biggest reason for the troubles in the passing game. But did we really expect anything more from him coming into the season?
The expectations were substantially higher on wide receiver Torrey Smith, who signed a five-year $40 million dollar contract just a year ago, of which $22 milion is guaranteed, according to Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Smith has quickly become the lost man in the new uptempo offense, managing a measly nine catches for 106 yards and a score through five games. He is on pace for another career low season.
Per USA Today, Smith has caught only 39 percent of the passes he’s been targeted on. This mark is currently the lowest catch rate of his career. The frustrations are mounting for the veteran WR and he hasn’t shied away from showing that on the field.
In the Week 3 game against the Dallas Cowboys he threw his helmet on the sideline after Blaine Gabbert clearly underthrew Smith on a deep pass, turning a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter into an interception.
In the post game interview with CSN Bay Area following the loss, Smith exposed his feelings to reporters on the situation.
“I was very frustrated, especially after the big post we missed on, because that’s a game-changing play,” Smith said.
Oct 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; The Dallas Cowboys celebrate stopping a first down conversion by San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith (left) during the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
He has only one dropped pass on the year. But a number of misfires by Gabbert, when Smith was wide open, has left the receiver in a rut.
The lone bright spot on the 49ers offense has been WR Jeremy Kerley, who signed with the team this year. He has posted the highest totals for the Niners WR core with 26 receptions, 304 yards and two touchdowns.
But head coach Chip Kelly wants more weapons to get involved in the offense, saying on KNBR, “we need to get more contribution and get more other receivers involved to spread the ball around, besides just one guy.”
With quarterback Colin Kaepernick back at the helm in Week 6, it remains to be seen how well he can acclimate to the new uptempo system. Smith has been optimistic about Kap’s return under center and hopes to get more targets in next week’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
In the previous two games, Smith has been targeted only three times and had one grab for three yards. On Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals, he was targeted once and had zero receptions. These are alarming numbers for the receiver who was cemented as the No.1 target following his lucrative contract.
“I’ve been saying since the beginning of the year, our team is only going to go as far as our passing game goes,” Smith said.
For Smith, the production will hopefully increase sooner than later with Kap dishing out the ball. His main strength is his speed, which was under utilized with Gabbert because he lacks the arm strength to throw down the field. (1-of-10 from 20-plus yards)
The production better come sooner than later for the speedster or the patience from the front office and the fans will grow shorter with each game.