Week in and week out, Denver Broncos’ cornerback Champ Bailey draws the most productive receiver on the other team. Earlier in the season it was Julio Jones and Roddy White, Brandon Lloyd, and Marques Colston. Just last week, it was A.J. Green who stunningly racked up 7 receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.
This week, Bailey draws 12-year veteran Steve Smith when the Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers. Smith doesn’t have the size that some of the others have had, but there’s a reason why he’s put up such great numbers over the course of his long career.
“He plays bigger than he is,” Bailey said Thursday afternoon. “He’s really no different because when the ball’s up, he goes up like he’s 6’4″. He runs the ball like he’s 220 (pounds). He’s no different. He’s been amazing for the last 10-12 years, and he’s a special talent. He hasn’t fallen off at all.”
Smith is 13th in the league in receiving, sandwiched between Miles Austin and Julio Jones with 38 receptions for 630 yards and a touchdown.
Bailey knows of Smith more than he actually knows him. The last time these two met was in 2003 when Bailey was with the Washington Redskins.
“I don’t remember exactly how that game went, but he was tough,” Bailey recalls. “He was pretty much coming into his own at that point, making a name for himself. So was I. He’s one of those guys, you just cannot sleep on him. I don’t care how small he is. He will make you look bad.”
Because Bailey can’t remember, I dug through the record books. The Panthers won 20-17 while Smith had 4 catches for 50 yards. Meanwhile, Bailey led the Redskins with 9 tackles and he recovered a fumble.
But that was nine years ago. A lot has changed about these two men and around these two means. Nevertheless, the secondary is where you will want to keep your eyes as two of the best at their respective positions go head-to-head.