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During a town-hall conference call with Ravens season ticket holders, 61 percent of fans predicted that cornerback Jimmy Smith will have the biggest impact in 2011 of the team’s rookie class.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome agrees.
“Well, we picked Jimmy first,” Newsome said.
“I think Jimmy will have the biggest impact, and I kind of hope so because [Owner] Steve [Bisciotti] wants me to be right on this one. So, I need for Jimmy to have the biggest impact this year.”
The Ravens’ 2010 rookie class had some success, but several players battled injuries and most played behind the team’s more established veterans.
After missing the first three games with a knee injury, nose tackle Terrence Cody recorded 13 tackles in 13 games behind Kelly Gregg. Tight end Ed Dickson remained mostly healthy and notched three starts after Todd Heap went down with an injury. He had 11 receptions, including a touchdown.
But top pick linebacker Sergio Kindle sat out the year after fracturing his skull and tackle Ramon Harewood spent the season on injured reserve.
Tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver David Reed missed multiple games due to injury. Reed was establishing himself as one of the league’s top kick returners and brought one back for a touchdown against the Texans.
This year, the Ravens are hoping for a larger impact from the rookies.
However, impact isn’t always measured in statistics. Newsome said Smith, who will compete for a starting spot from the get-go, will open up more opportunities for other Baltimore defenders.
“Jimmy’s impact may not be in interceptions, PBUs [pass breakups] or a bunch of tackles,” Newsome said. “It might be that people get to the point very early on into the season not to throw at him. When that happens, that will allow our defense to do a lot of creative things.”