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It’s unknown whether Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams running with the first-team defense all last week, and then getting the start versus the Kansas City Chiefs, is a sign that they’ll be the opening duo on Sept. 11 versus Pittsburgh or whether it’s just a byproduct of their peers rehabbing injuries.
But after Friday night, there are signs that if called upon, Smith and Williams are up for the challenge.
Both players had some hiccups against the Chiefs and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, but for the most part, held up very well.
“I feel like I’m a starter,” Williams said. “I can compete at a high level and play fast with the guys. I think I showed that tonight.”
“I think just playing in the first game, to get my feet wet gave me confidence,” Smith added. “It’s more confidence to see what to really expect out of a Pro Bowl receiver like that.”
The Chiefs went at Williams and Smith, who combined have one career NFL start between them, from the get-go.
Smith was in Bowe’s pocket when the 6-foot-2, 221-pound wideout – who didn’t dwarf the first-round pick like he does so many other cornerbacks – caught a 14-yard pass to convert on Kansas City’s first third down. Smith was physical at the line and tipped the ball, but Bowe reeled it in with one hand.
On the Chiefs’ next drive, quarterback Matt Cassel floated a pass to the sideline that Smith was in position to defend but didn’t turn his head around fast enough to swat away. Bowe caught it for a 26-yard gain, then muscled Smith to the turf as he went out of bounds.
“I mean, I went against a Pro Bowler and I felt like I had blanket coverage,” Smith said. “He just made great catches. … I thought that I had good coverage on all the plays, but I’ve got to figure out a way to get that ball out.”
Williams, who has been primarily a special teams player for his first four years in the NFL, was also tested.
Facing a third-and-4 on their second drive, the Chiefs tried to hit Bowe on a quick out. Williams, who stands in at 6-foot-1, was also physical and deflected the pass away to force a punt.
On the next series, Cassel tried to hit Jerheme Urban on a quick slant. Williams jumped the route and had an interception bounce off his hands.
However, Williams was in coverage at the end of the second quarter when the Chiefs scored their lone touchdown on a 4-yard slant to Terrance Copper.
That didn’t faze his confidence. Asked whether he felt he could step in right away against the Steelers, Williams without hesitation stared directly back and boldly said, “No question.”
“I definitely feel like I have the ability to start Week 1 against the Steelers, Sept. 11,” he said. “I’m going to come out there and play with the same physicality, the same nature I played tonight. It’s just going to be for four quarters.”
The Ravens also welcomed cornerback Domonique Foxworth back for his first game since tearing a knee ligament on the eve of training camp last year.
Lardarius Webb worked in with the second team while last year’s starter, Chris Carr, sat out due to a hamstring injury.
“I think the other guys did a good job too, not just the young guys,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“Foxworth looked good with his knee. Lardarius played well, taking away the quick passes, slants, the look passes, those things. Downfield, on the one they completed, they made a nice throw-and-catch on the right side early, [but] Jimmy was right there on that one. The corners played really well.”