Torrey Smith Returns with Eagles Still Searching for a Deep Threat
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - You're playing revisionist history if you try to spin Torrey Smith's one season in Philadelphia as more than it was.
There was a reason the Eagles sent the speedy receiver to Carolina for cornerback and Philadelphia native Daryl Worley after winning Super Bowl LII.
The organization felt a need to improve at the X position after Smith compiled just 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns last season, although there was some improvement in the postseason (13-157-1).
“I knew I would be there or I would be traded,” Smith said on a conference call with the Philadelphia-area media. “It wasn’t really anything where I was blindsided, and I appreciate that.”
The best-laid plans haven't worked out, however, as Smith's hand-picked replacement, Mike Wallace, is out with a fractured fibula and the safety net, second-year player Mack Hollins, is also on injured reserve with a groin injury. Meanwhile, Worley never played a down in his hometown after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence as well as weapons and disorderly conduct charges near the NovaCare Complex a month into his stint with the team.
Fast forward to the season and the Eagles are having trouble finding a consistent presence as a deep threat while Smith is coming off his best game with the Panthers, hauling in a fourth-quarter touchdown and two-point conversion from Cam Newton during a 23-17 loss to Washington in Week 6.
Overall, Smith has 12 receptions for 110 yards for Carolina as the club gets ready to try to right the ship at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
“Torrey has been a heck of an addition to our football team,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera, a former Eagles assistant in the Andy Reid days, said. “He’s got great speed, and in last week’s game he really showed up big for us and did some really good things."
Like the Eagles, Smith's impact on Carolina seems to focus on the more intangible things like presence, blocking and his impact on the locker room where he served as one of Philadelphia's most insightful and engaging players.
"He’s a good blocker. He blocks very well on the second level for us. He’s been a good route runner. He’s a good deep ball threat for us," Rivera explained. "He’s been that kind of guy. And then he’s been a good locker room guy. He really fits in well with our guys. ... I’m just really excited about him.”
And Smith is excited about returning to Philadelphia for the weekend.
“There’s only one way to look back on it, we were Super Bowl champions,” Smith said when discussing his time with the Eagles. “To be a part of a special team, a special unit is something I’ll never forget and something the city will never forget. For me, my family, my in-laws are still up there, I’m still in Philadelphia all the time. It’s pretty special to know that every time you pass the Linc or every time you come in contact with an Eagles fan out there how much it meant to be a small piece of that.
"Even to go to the airport, it’s like a constant reminder of the history and I was glad to be a small part of it with some great men.”
Smith is still in touch with many of those "great men," including the tight-knit receiving group and Carson Wentz, a favorite of his son.
“It’s never really about football,” Smith said. “Just talking about family. ... My son still talks about Carson. Every time we’re watching TV or see him on TV, it’s like ‘there’s my friend Carson.’ I love him to death, man. and I’m so excited to see him on the field and see him continue to get more comfortable playing the game he loves."
For 60 minutes on Sunday, the Eagles and Smith will be adversaries. The rest of the time, they will walk in history, together.
“I think the world of Torrey,” Eagles star Malcolm Jenkins said. “He’s one of those hard-nosed veterans that works really hard, does the dirty work when it comes to blocking, knowing his assignment and holding guys accountable. He’s a good voice to have in any locker room. And obviously what he does off the field is pretty incredible as well – in multiple communities around the country.
“He’s obviously missed, but we look forward to seeing him this week.”
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 24, Panthers 20
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen