Written by BSR Contributor: Cody Colston
Between all the offseason competitions, wide receivers, center, inside linebacker, the one that seems to fly under the radar is the second cornerback slot behind Lardarius Webb. In the middle of that competition, with all eyes watching, sits the Ravens’ 2011 first-round draft-pick, the cornerback out of Colorado, Jimmy Smith.
Smith, 25, written off by many Raven fans, is remembered for generating a “non-call” when he covered Michael Crabtree on the San Francisco 49ers final drive of the Super Bowl. In Colorado, Smith was known as a big, physical corner that excelled in press coverage, generating 3 interceptions, 21 pass deflections, and 18 third downs stops in four years and 40 games at Colorado.
Entering the draft, Smith was expected to be drafted in the first half of the first round, but questions about his maturity, three failed drug tests and an aggravated assault charge, is what many believe had him fall to the Ravens at 27.
Since entering the NFL, Smith has been a disappointment to most, starting only 5 games and not playing a complete season in his 2 years and recording only 11 pass deflections and 2 interceptions.
Entering his junior year in the NFL, this is Smith’s year to prove himself and while the coaching staff may want him to start, he still has competition. That competition comes in the form Corey Graham, Chris Johnson, and Chykie Brown. Graham, signed last offseason to help on special teams, played dividends during the post season, picking off Peyton Manning twice and returning one for a touchdown. Johnson, an early season signing last year, was signed after injuries to Webb and Smith and is looking to expand his role on the defense. Brown, a 2011 draft pick, is also looking to expand his role and has impressed the coaching staff. Graham, in my opinion, is Smith’s biggest competition, right now.
While the coaching staff wants Smith to start, Graham was listed ahead of him on the first depth chart after a good camp. Smith has shown many coverage inconsistencies, while Graham has rarely been beat and tends to swarm towards the ball, reports have said. While, both Graham and Smith are out to prove themselves, it seems to be Graham job to lose, “Jimmy’s getting better and better. He’s a talented guy. He’s big, strong and fast. He’s picking up the game.” Graham said of Smith, “Obviously, it’s a competition between me and him, but not just me and him – everybody…” Graham also said.
While most have written off Smith, I’m not going to just yet. I believe head coach John Harbaugh said it best when it came to Smith, “Jimmy’s biggest issue has been, I think two things: They never threw at him in college….And he’s been injured quite a bit. Being healthy now is really going to help him.” Smith has been assertive as well, slimming down to 200 pounds from 220 pounds. Smith’s fire has never left him either, “Anybody can emerge and be a starter,” Smith said. “I’ve been wanting to be a starter since day one…”
Follow Cody on Twitter @The_OtherCody.