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Jimmy Smith heads into his first NFL offseason hoping to earn the starting cornerback spot when he returns this summer for training camp.
“I’m going to have a great offseason so I can get that corner spot,” Smith said while cleaning out his locker Monday.
The Ravens’ 2011 first-round pick was primarily used as the third cornerback this season, behind Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. Smith came in on likely passing situations in the Ravens nickel package.
He showed flashes of his athleticism and potential at times, but both Webb and Williams are expected to return, making it a tight competition for the top two spots.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Smith said. “Lardarius got eight picks [regular season and postseason], Cary had a solid season, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. I love competition, that’s what I play for.”
Smith’s rookie season got off to a slow start because of an ankle injury he suffered on the opening kickoff in Baltimore’s first game. He essentially missed the Ravens’ first five games, and was gradually worked back into the rotation once he was healthy.
Smith finished the season with 18 tackles and two interceptions. He also added a fumble recovery and interception in the postseason.
His interception of Tom Brady in the AFC championship game showed the kind of play he is capable of making, as he snagged the ball just inches off the turf after it was deflected by safety Bernard Pollard. After making the diving play, he returned the interception 39 yards.
“I feel like it was an OK rookie year,” Smith said. “I started out really slow and then I think I progressed throughout the season. It was OK for me.”
Smith and the rest of the Ravens’ rookies now get a chance to experience their first full offseason, without the limitations of the NFL lockout.
After getting drafted in April, they weren’t able to start learning the playbook until the lockout ended in July, and Smith said he is looking forward to the chance to work with the coaches in the offseason to develop a better grasp on the playbook and their schemes.
“We get to have a full offseason with training and to come in here and learn the playbook and do all that and actually fine tune your craft,” Smith said. “There are obviously holes in my game that I need to work on to get better.”
After coming within a play of the Super Bowl in his rookie season, Smith said he is optimistic about what he and the Ravens could accomplish in the coming season.
“I’m always excited about my future, but I’m more excited about the team’s future,” Smith said. “I’m just excited to go back at it and try to get a championship.”