Smith’s Role Expected To Expand

The first-round selection saw action on defense, providing depth in the secondary.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Categories: 2011 Season Gameday, Garrett Downing, Week 8 vs Cardinals

Cornerback Jimmy Smith finally had a chance to make a defensive play.

With the game tied 3-3 in the second quarter, Arizona’s quarterback Kevin Kolb threw a pass intended for Early Doucet, but the Ravens’ first-round pick broke it up to force a fourth-down situation.

The play — the first real action Smith had seen all season — brought big cheers from Ravens fans as his name was called across the stadium speakers.

Smith, however, didn’t take time to soak in the moment.

“I was just more into the game,” Smith said on Monday. “I guess my mind was [not on the crowd].”

That’s understandable, given that a lingering injury has limited the rookie’s involvement in the defense. Smith sprained his ankle playing special teams on the opening kickoff of the season, and essentially missed the first five games.

He returned to action against Jacksonville, but played only on special teams. On Sunday, he saw his first action on defense, getting in on the dime packages.

“Just getting in the game to play I think was big for him,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said during Monday’s press conference.

Smith’s role is expected to expand as he is worked in on different packages, both in practice and the games. The Ravens drafted him to bring another game-changing presence to the defense — a big physical corner with the ability to lock down an opposing receiver.

“He’s going to be a guy that we’re counting on going forward,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have an expanded role I would think, hopefully, every week as we go forward.”

Getting healthy was Smith’s top priority after Week 1, and now that he feels more comfortable with his ankle, the focus has shifted to getting more familiar with the defense.

“I feel good,” Smith said. “I’m doing as much as they’re allowing me, and I think it’s at a good pace. I feel capable of making plays now. I’m more confident with my ankle.”

Smith’s continued development, along with the return of cornerback Chris Carr and safety Tom Zbikowski, provides reinforcements to the secondary that has played well throughout the season.

Ladarius Webb and Cary Williams have played most of the snaps at cornerback this year, but adding bodies gives the Ravens more options and sets.

“It builds our depth, which is big,” Harbaugh said about the return of the injured players.

The Ravens already have the third best pass defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 174 yards per game through the air.

As Smith continues to progress, the coaching staff will find ways to work him into the defense, giving the Ravens plenty of options in the secondary.

Sunday’s game was just a start, but it was a step in the right direction.

“He did a good job,” Harbaugh said. “And we’ll just have to see where it goes from there.”

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