Making comparisons that are insanely overwrought is a rite of passage this time of year. Though we’ve only seen one game, grand conclusions have been drawn in an attempt to be the first to get it right. Unfortunately I’m part of the problem. Bloggers anonymous has yet to be created – one day, one day – so I’m outing myself here. If you’re reading this, thanks, you’ve only enabled my addiction.
Today’s conclusion: Emmanuel Sanders will be this year’s Torrey Smith.
Last year, Smith began the season as the Ravens No. 3 wide receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans –yes, Lee Evans was considered a starting caliber just wideout one year ago. Smith would emerge in Week 3, lighting up a porous Rams secondary for 152 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Smith was a second round choice out of Maryland who was primarily a deep threat in his rookie season. While he put up some solid numbers – 841 receiving yards and seven touchdowns – Smith was prone to dropping passes at high rates. This year Smith is an unquestioned starter in a Ravens passing attack that looked very good on Monday night.
Sanders is in his third year, coming out of Southern Methodist, a considerably smaller school than Maryland. Both were drafted on day two of the draft – Smith in the second, Sanders in the third. Sanders begins this year behind Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace on the depth chart. Not only is that a more formidable duo than Boldin and Evans were, but Brown and Wallace are much younger. Sanders caught more than two balls in just two games last year.
But then on Sunday night something happened. The Steelers have made their reputation on methodically drudging through the heart of opposing defenses with a smash mouth running attack that features a plethora of running backs. That hasn’t changed. Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall is a pretty excellent group – not to mention rookie Chris Rainey. But if Sunday’s game against the Broncos is any indication the Steelers are more inclined to pass the ball this season, even when facing two of the best pass rushers in the league in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
The Steelers used three receivers on 52 of 71 offensive snaps and Sanders tied for the team lead with eight targets. The trio of Wallace, Brown and Sanders call themselves ‘Young Money’ – a good sign for anybody who knows how important it is to be included in the coolest clique in school.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger opted to use the no-huddle for much of the game as well, looking to take advantage of a sagging defense that couldn’t keep up with the Steelers’ speed.
Obviously it’s far too early to anoint Sanders as the next big thing in hidden fantasy gems, but in leagues with deeper formats the Bellville , Texas native could be the Kevin Ogletree of the AFC. Remember who told you to pick him up when you’re collecting your money at the end of the season.
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