SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Torrey Smith entered the season as one of the few San Francisco receivers with any proven track record in the NFL.
One quarter of the way through the season, the Niners have struggled to get their best deep threat the ball.
Smith has just nine catches for 106 yards and one touchdown through four games with the NFL’s least productive passing offense and the frustration was apparent when he threw his helmet on the sideline after one failed attempt last game.
“I’m fine being patient, I’m completely fine not getting the ball as long as we’re moving the ball and we’re scoring points,” Smith said Tuesday. “I’ll never complain about that. It’s tough when I’m waiting and I know we have an opportunity to change a game like that and we miss. It’s tough.”
Smith had a couple of outbursts during Sunday’s loss to Dallas when he was targeted just twice all game. The most notable came when he threw his helmet on the sideline after Blaine Gabbert badly underthrew a deep pass, turning a possible go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter into an interception.
“I feel like if we hit that, we win the game,” Smith said. “I was frustrated. I shouldn’t probably show it as much but I want to win. I’m passionate about winning. We work too hard not to win here and I know that we can. It was just a little frustration moment but it won’t happen again.”
That was the first time all game that Gabbert even threw the ball in Smith’s direction. The only other pass to Smith came on San Francisco’s final drive when he caught a 3-yard pass on fourth-and-6 that ended the Niners’ hopes for a comeback.
But the rest of the day most of the passes went toward slot receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight end Garrett Celek.
“We’re not trying to force anybody the ball,” offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said. “Torrey is going to get his looks. That’s going to happen. We’re confident in that. Torrey is confident in that. What the defense tells us is kind of where the ball goes and he’s going to get his fair share as the season goes on. I’m confident in that.”
Smith’s biggest strength as a receiver is his ability to get deep and that has not meshed well with Gabbert’s abilities. Gabbert has completed just one of 10 pass attempts at least 20 yards down field — a 28-yard TD catch by Smith against Carolina — and his 33.3 rating on those attempts is the second worst in the league, according to SportRadar.
The Niners had their best success a year ago throwing to Smith, generating a 116.9 passer rating on those throws in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. That has not been the case this year when that rating has dropped to 37.7
Smith was targeted 16 times the first two games — catching just five of those passes — but has been rather invisible the past two games with just six targets and four catches for 38 yards.
“A lot of it just depends on how people play us and what they’re doing,” coach Chip Kelly said. “We’ve gotten a lot of man coverage out there. Sometimes people are leaning safeties toward his side. So, we’re taking advantage of what’s going on.”
NOTES: DL DeForest Buckner (left foot) and CB Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) did not take part in practice. … Kerley was upgraded to limited with an ankle injury.