First of all, I don't mean this to turn into a Smitty bashing thread. He's the best offensive football player this franchise has ever had and I still think he has an outside shot at a HOF bid. But, let's just look at the facts...
Smitty is 5'9" and much of his game is built around his speed and explosiveness. Those are the first things to go with age and I think we can all agree that we've finally seen the signs that old Father Time is finally catching Smitty. Time is not friendly to short WRs and Smitty has been shucking and jiving Father Time longer than almost all the rest. More concerning to me are the drops. Smitty has always had the occasional drop as many WRs who are dangerous after the catch do. Those types of guys are always thinking about what they're going to do after the catch and that causes them to simply look past the catching part on occasion. But, I think Smitty is simply letting his declining physical skills mess with his head. He's still trying to be that dynamic guy and he's trying to overcompensate. I wish he'd simply focus on catching the football and take the YAC opportunities when they come. Speaking of YAC, the old Smitty smoke screen should be put out to pasture. He simply no longer has the explosiveness to turn those into 10+ yard plays. We're lucky to get a couple of yards out of that play these days.
I think Smitty can still be a valuable player for us, but I do think we need to change the way we use him and he needs to change his approach to the game. Smitty can no longer be our game breaker. He no longer has the speed to blow the top off of the defense. I think this is directly tied to our lack of big plays. During Cam's career the Panthers have been known for big plays. Steve Smith was a big part of that - both directly and indirectly. When you look at our passing game numbers, I think our lower numbers all point directly back to Steve Smith no longer being a legit #1 WR. Our WR corps is built to revolve around a true #1. We've always relied on Steve Smith to carry the brunt of the load. Now that he doesn't have game breaking speeds and other teams know that, we're simply getting less big play opportunities. He's also no longer a huge threat after the catch unless we can get him the ball in space. He's not that guy who's going to make multiple people miss and who can run through tackles. We still see occasional glimpses (just ask Janoris Jenkins), but they're few and far between.
I love Smitty to death, but he's done as our #1. It's simply time for us to accept that. I don't blame him for his decline. He's 34 years old and we should've seen it coming, especially with the type of WR that he is. It'll be interesting to see what Gettleman does in the offseason with this WR corps because it needs an overhaul. Part of that overhaul may be revisiting Smitty's contract. His production and impact are no longer in line with his contract. To be honest, I'm not sure that we're not watching his swan song. He doesn't strike me as a guy who will be willing to hang around as just a guy. I know he's been talking about wanting the Panthers to acquire some WRs to take the burden off of him, but I just don't think Smitty has it in him to be a 600-700 yard WR. It's just not in his nature. If he can't be a true difference maker, I think he'll hang up the cleats.
I'll put my flame suit on, but before you go to raving like a madman, understand that Smitty is on pace to barely surpass 700 receiving yards this season. His last season worse than that was an injury shortened season with Jimmy Clausen as his QB