Carolina Panthers offensive player to watch: WR Steve Smith

 

Steve Smith torched the Redskins for seven catches for 143 yards in their meeting last season. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

How he beats you: The 12th-year veteran still ranks among the best in the league, having recorded 35 catches for 589 yards (11th in the NFL). Smith boasts a 16.8-yard-per-catch average, which ranks eighth in the league. And his 84.1 yards per game average ranks ninth in the league.

“He’s a hard worker, hard-nosed, tough, physical, fast, and he just finds ways to make plays,” Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said of the five-time Pro Bowl receiver. “Cam [Newton] is getting him the ball, and he’s got strong hands, goes up and gets it, and has great concentration.”

Smith routinely gives the Redskins fits. Last season, he had seven catches for 143 yards in a 33-20 win over Washington.

In addition to his great skill set, Smith has a fiery nature that fuels him whether while running pass routes or blocking on run plays.

“He’s definitely competitive. He’s going to get into it,” Wilson said. “You’ll watch on film sometimes and it has nothing to do with the play, and he’s wrestling in the background. He’ll definitely get physical with you, and you have to be ready to dish it right back to him.”

How to stop him: As Wilson indicated, one of the biggest keys is to match Smith’s intensity. A cornerback must go at Smith with a wide range of techniques, and can’t sit back and try to react to whatever the receiver throws his way.

“You have to be on your P’s and Q’s every play. Can’t fall asleep at all,” Wilson said. “You get back there and get comfortable and he’ll take advantage of you. You can’t sit here and play 70 plays the same way. You have be able to change it up, keep him off guard, and make sure he’s reacting to you and you’re not reacting to him.”

The only problem is, Smith has been playing in the NFL for so long, that he has seen pretty much every coverage there is, so it’s hard to throw him off.

“Steve Smith’s been doing it for a long time. He’s a savvy vet, and he knows all the tricks to the trade,” fellow corner David Jones said. “At the end of the day, you try to do the best, and try to limit the big plays. But Steve Smith, he’s going to bring his A-game, and you know you have to bring yours as well.”

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