NFL Nation: Jimmy Smith

Do you think Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is fan of cornerback Jimmy Smith?


"I’m a believer in Jimmy Smith. I believe Jimmy Smith is going to make history as a cornerback," Harbaugh said after Thursday's win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I believed that from the day he got here. I’ve watched him progress. He’s one of the most coachable, teachable, hard-working, smart, talented players you’re going to find. And you’re seeing the fruits of that labor."

This has to be the most glowing compliment Harbaugh has ever given to a Ravens player. I'm not sure if Harbaugh is pushing for an extension for Smith or trying to adopt the 2011 first-round pick.

Harbaugh's praise is warranted. In the first two games this season, Smith has only allowed five catches for 23 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. The longest pass completed against Smith has been eight yards.

Quarterbacks are only completing 55.6 percent of their passes against Smith and have a 60.9 passer rating when throwing at him.

Yes, it's extremely early to give Smith a Pro Bowl invitation. But he has put up these shutdown numbers while going against A.J. Green and Antonio Brown.

Smith, 26, turned the corner last season after making five starts in his first two seasons in the NFL. He broke up a career-high 16 passes while limiting some of the best receivers in the league.

The Ravens exercised their option on Smith, meaning they will pay him about $6.8 million in 2015 to keep him from becoming a free agent. In late July, Smith sounded pessimistic when asked if he thought he would get an extension before playing out the final year of his contract. But, based on Harbaugh's strong vote of confidence, the Ravens are obviously interested in keeping Smith for the long term.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There shouldn't be many health questions for the Baltimore Ravens heading into Sunday's season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

All 53 players were suited up at Tuesday's practice, including running back Bernard Pierce and the Ravens' once-banged-up cornerbacks.

The Ravens' top three cornerbacks -- Lardarius Webb (back), Jimmy Smith (chest) and Asa Jackson (ankle) -- all participated in position drills and looked fine backpedaling as well as changing directions. All three had missed at least half the preseason, but they had returned for the Ravens' last practice on Saturday.

Pierce, who missed the preseason finale with a concussion, also practiced for the entire media-viewing portion of practice. He is expected to replace suspended Ray Rice as the starting running back for the first two regular-season games.
The Baltimore Ravens looked like a healthier team when they took the field for Saturday's practice.

With eight days before the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, running back Bernard Pierce (concussion), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) and offensive tackle Jah Reid (concussion) all dressed for their non-contact workout.

It should be noted that Smith and Webb participated in some position drills but were limited in others during the media viewing portion. Jackson did the most among the injured cornerbacks.

Webb has missed the entire preseason, and Smith had sat out the past two games. Pierce, who was injured in the third preseason game, didn't practice last week and didn't make the trip to New Orleans for the preseason finale.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was absent during the media viewing portion of Monday's practice.


Smith bruised his chest after jumping up for a pass intended for wide receiver Dez Bryant and landing on his back in the opening drive of Saturday's preseason game at the Dallas Cowboys. Smith's head also bounced hard off the turf. He was seen spitting blood on the field, and he was reportedly also doing so in the locker room after the game.

X-rays to Smith's chest were negative, and he didn't return to the game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh downplayed the severity of the injury, but Smith expressed more concern, saying he couldn't remember parts of the game.

Running back Ray Rice was participating in individual drills after injuring his shoulder in the second quarter Saturday. Tight end Owen Daniels was not on the field after sitting out Saturday's preseason game. Harbaugh has said Daniels isn't injured and is resting his legs.

Other Ravens not practicing Monday: cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle), offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten (undisclosed), guard Will Rackley (head) and nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip, physically unable to perform list).
Teams can't play scared and rest every starter for the entire preseason. But there are instances when you have to play it safe.

For the Baltimore Ravens, it's time to be safe and smart with their starting cornerbacks. Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb shouldn't suit up for another game until the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Put a red jersey on them so no one hits them in practice. Heck, put them in bubble wrap if it ensures they'll be able to line up when games matter in three weeks.

Even if Smith (bruised chest) and Webb (back) can return in the preseason, the Ravens can't take the risk of getting either one banged up. The situation would be different if the Ravens had depth at that position. But they don't.

The Ravens are looking at 0-2 if they have to line up Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks as their starting cornerbacks against the likes of A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. This makes you yearn for the days of Frank Walker. Well, almost.

The Ravens' cornerback position has been as snakebitten as the drummers for Spinal Tap. Aaron Ross, who may have ended up as the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback, tore his Achilles in a conditioning test before training camp started. Webb hurt his back July 25 and hasn't practiced since. Asa Jackson, who had been the team's top backup, hurt his right ankle Aug. 10 and wore a protective boot at Saturday's preseason game.

The last injury the Ravens needed was one to Smith. Five plays into Saturday's preseason game, there was Smith landing on his back, hitting the back of his head against the turf and spitting up blood.

While Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes Smith "should be fine," the 2011 first-round pick was more concerned about his health status.


"I don't know what is wrong with me," Smith told The Baltimore Sun. "On the field, I was throwing up blood. The X-rays came back negative, but I still don't know what is the problem. I don't want to say I'm OK, or it is one thing, and then it is something else. I really don't know."

It only took one series for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to take advantage of Smith's absence. Wide receiver Dez Bryant elevated over Franks to pull in a Romo pass for a 31-yard touchdown.

The Ravens don't have many other options on the team. Tremain Jacobs is raw, and fellow undrafted rookie Deji Olatoye got beat on consecutive passes, including a 5-yard touchdown throw.

There are really no easy fixes here. If free agents like Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson could help, each would be in some team's training camp by now. The best bet is looking at the cornerbacks who get cut when teams trim their rosters to 53 before the regular season. Teams don't release good cornerbacks, but there could be a player who is better than what's on the Ravens roster right now.

Come the season opener, the Ravens may be in decent shape at cornerback if Smith, Webb and Jackson are all healthy enough to play. Harbaugh has never described any of those injuries as major.

But if either Smith or Webb can't start, there's going to be a vulnerable spot in the Ravens secondary that Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger will look to exploit.

The Baltimore Ravens scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in a sloppy 37-30 preseason win at the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night.

The Ravens held a 14-7 lead in the first quarter before quarterback Joe Flacco even touched the ball. Touchdowns by outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (26-yard fumble return) and kickoff returner Deonte Thompson (108-yard return) staked the Ravens to an early advantage.

After shaking off a slow start (1 of 5 for four yards), Flacco finished strong by completing eight of his final 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens improved their record to 2-0. His 19-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith put the Ravens ahead 24-10.

Here are some other thoughts on the Ravens' second preseason game.
  • Injuries continue to give the Ravens reason to worry. Cornerback Jimmy Smith (chest)) and running back Ray Rice (shoulder) both left in the first half and didn't return. X-rays to both players were negative. Without Smith, Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) at cornerback, the Ravens went with Chykie Brown and Dominque Franks (who was beaten by Dez Bryant on a touchdown) on their first-team defense. That's not reason to worry. That's reason to panic.
  • This was the worst tackling effort from the Ravens in recent memory, especially in the defensive backfield. The first-team defense once again struggled to contain the outside runs and failed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback beyond Pernell McPhee. The Ravens believe they can be a top-five defense. In two preseason games, they don't look like a top-20 one. The defense did get two turnovers: a fumble recovery by Upshaw (on a gift from Tony Romo) and an interception by Brynden Trawick.
  • Deonte Thompson made his strongest statement of the summer to make the team. He's been awful in training camp, and he's the unofficial leader in dropped passes. But he showed off his speed in Dallas, returning kickoffs for 108 and 50 yards. If Thompson doesn't make the Ravens' final roster, another team will look at him for his return ability.
  • The Ravens once again put together a powerful and explosive running game. Bernard Pierce, who started in place of Rice (who is suspended for the first two games), averaged 7.8 yards per carry. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro gained 58 yards on tough running in between the tackles and scored a 3-yard touchdown. The biggest concern is holding onto the ball. The Ravens' running backs fumbled twice for a second straight game. In total, three backs (Pierce, Taliaferro and Justin Forsett twice) have coughed up the ball this preseason.
  • Tyrod Taylor is a great athlete but continues to be a below-average backup quarterback. He finished 6 of 8 for 59 yards, but he missed two big plays. Taylor threw a laser pass high to a wide-open Kamar Aiken in the end zone instead of making an easy lob to him. He also ran out of the pocket when he had tight end Nathan Overbay open downfield. Third-string quarterback Keith Wenning had a rough start, fumbling and getting sacked on his first two drop backs. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 23 yards.

Breaking down Ravens 2014 camp

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens wrapped up their 19th training camp, one that will be remembered for Steve Smith's spectacular catches, Jimmy Smith's deflections, Kelechi Osemele's pulverizing hits and a couple of season-ending injuries to the defensive line.

Looking to rebound from their worst season since 2007, the Ravens believe they're a much better team than the one that began camp three weeks ago.

"That's the beauty of training camp -- you have an opportunity to really see [the] progress," coach John Harbaugh said. "You're in a crucible, and every single day it's all you do. It's wall-to-wall football. It's morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you're back at football. There's no escape. There's nowhere to hide, [and] there's nowhere to run. It's all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go. We just have so much work to do still between now and then, and that's what we have to focus on.”

With 24 days until the season opener, this is what stood out in this year's training camp:

Most impressive player of camp, offense: Left guard Kelechi Osemele. If he dominates this way in the regular season, the Ravens could have another Pro Bowl guard. He put so many defensive players on their backs that I'm surprised IHOP hasn't signed him to an endorsement deal.

Most impressive player, defense: Cornerback Jimmy Smith. He has carried all of the momentum from last year into this summer. Smith was the only defensive back who repeatedly won in one-on-one drills, and he regularly knocked down the few passes thrown in his direction.

Most disappointing player, offense: Wide receiver Deonte Thompson. He never resembled a player who had made the Ravens the past two seasons. His continual drops have pushed him on the wrong side of the bubble.

Most disappointing player, defense: Cornerback Chykie Brown. He entered camp as the front-runner for the No. 3 job, and he's now the biggest concern on the defense after allowing a deep pass on nearly every day of camp. Injuries to Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson have put Brown on the first-team defense by default.

Best play: Wide receiver Torrey Smith. He provide the highlight of camp during a red-zone drill at M&T Bank Stadium, where he skied in the air over cornerback Asa Jackson and hauled in Joe Flacco's pass with one hand.

Worst play: Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on the second day of joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers. It's a scene that won't soon be forgotten, from his gut-wrenching screams while laying on the ground to players from both teams kneeling down to pray around him.

Best addition: Wide receiver Steve Smith. It's hard to remember a day when you weren't by a catch he made.

Most disappointing addition: Tight end Owen Daniels. Unlike Steve Smith, Daniels looked like a player who doesn't have much left.

Biggest sleeper, offense: Wide receiver Kamar Aiken. After being cut by three teams, Aiken has impressed the Ravens with his strong hands, which has helped him go from a long shot to someone who is inching closer to a roster spot.

Biggest sleeper, defense: Cornerback Tremain Jacobs. The undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M has become a favorite of the coaching staff. He isn't going to be the No. 3 corner this year, but he has the potential to develop into one in future years.

Most improved player, offense: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Last year, the Ravens re-signed Vonta Leach because Juszczyk wasn't ready as a rookie. Now, Juszczyk is primed for a breakthrough year as a lead blocker and a receiver.

Most improved player, defense: Linebacker Pernell McPhee. Don't be surprised if he matches his six-sack total from his 2011 rookie season because he's healthy and looks more explosive.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' Jimmy Smith is a big, physical cornerback who excels at jamming wide receivers and throwing them off their routes.

His style of play, however, is now in the crosshairs of NFL officials this season.


A major "point of emphasis" is cutting down contact by pass defenders after 5 yards, which has led to penalty flags littering fields this summer. In the first 17 preseason games, there were 53 defensive holdings, 27 illegal contacts and 15 pass interference calls -- which is almost six pass-defense penalties per game.

"You don't want to play tentative where you don't want to be on your game, but, at the same time, you know it's going to be ticky-tack. So, after those 5 yards, you really can't touch him," Smith said. "So, you really do have to cover with your feet."

Smith developed into one of the top young cornerbacks in the league last season because of his press coverage. He limited some of the best wide receivers in the game, including Cincinnati's A.J. Green and Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, by playing that way.

But his emergence also led to an increase in flags. Smith committed six pass-defense penalties last season, and only St. Louis' Janoris Jenkins had more.

So, the spike in holding, illegal contact and pass interference penalties this summer has certainly grabbed Smith's attention.

"It's a big adjustment, actually," Smith said. "Having these referees out here [at training camp], you start to really realize how ticky-tack all these fouls are going to be called. The referees say the same -- it's not going to be easy this year. Every game, you're really going to have to be on your P's and Q's after 5 yards as far as touching people."

Judging by the number of flags on the secondary during the three-day joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens are still trying to adjust to the new rules emphasis.

It wasn't as prevalent for the Ravens in the preseason opener, when only two Ravens defensive backs were penalized. Chykie Brown was flagged for holding and pass interference (later declined), and Deji Olatoye was called for illegal contact.

"The [officials] out here that have been with us, they're trying to figure it out, too, [what] exactly they're going to call," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We teach our guys to play good technique. When you play good technique within the rules, then you're going to be fine. That's what we always try to do, and we'll try to continue to do that."

The increase in penalties this preseason isn't the only concern for Smith. He can only imagine where the game is headed.

"In 10 years, it will just be 7-on-7 and illegal to play man coverage, I'm sure," Smith joked.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their three days of joint practices, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith said he won the office pool because players had an over-under on the number of fights he'd get into with the 49ers.

"I had zero, so I got all the cash," Smith said.

Surprisingly, there were no fights at all between the teams. There weren't even many close calls, perhaps a result of the Harbaugh brothers' message of keeping everyone safe.

The practices were still fast. They were intense. And they were productive because these eight hours of on-field work couldn't be replicated.

"I feel like we got a week-plus worth of work in," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's not just because of tempo and attention to detail. It's the fact that you just see schemes that you're not going to see. You can practice for months out here and you're not going to see the things we see because our team doesn't do those things on both sides of the ball. [It was] very valuable."

The Ravens went to great lengths to make the 49ers feel at home. There were signs in the Ravens' dining area welcoming the 49ers, and there were even 49ers logos painted in one end zone for all three fields.

This comes just 18 months after the same two teams were battling for the Lombardi Trophy.

“Honestly, I don’t think either side could have predicted this, but it’s been very professional,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “We’re sharing the facility, sharing showers. Everybody has been cool.”

This is the first time the Ravens have held a joint practice with another team in their 19-year history. It's also the first time that John and Jim Harbaugh coached together on the same NFL field.

"You look over there every now and then and say, 'Wow, that's unique,'" John Harbaugh said of working with his younger brother. "It was fun to work together. Smart guy. I have even more respect for him now than I did before."

Even though there is a family connection, many thought the workouts between the Ravens and 49ers would get heated. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis thought there would be fights because that's what happened when they scrimmaged the Oakland Raiders.

"We have all been helping each other," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "They are an NFC team and we’re an AFC team. You would have never thought the two teams would have gotten along so well. I guarantee you if we have to face them in Arizona in February, there isn’t going to be that much brotherly [love].”

Ravens Camp Report: Day 12

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:
  • Joe Flacco carried the momentum from a great season opener with a sharp practice. He continually found holes in the San Francisco 49ers zone, dropping in passes to his receivers. His best pass was a 50-yard completion to wide receiver Marlon Brown after Flacco rolled to his left and threw off his back foot.
  • There were no fights in the first joint practice with the 49ers. There were a few close calls, especially with guard Kelechi Osemele and linebacker Pernell McPhee. My guess is the players were warned about throwing punches after what the head coaches said before practice.
  • Jimmy Smith was the only cornerback who held up well for the Ravens. Smith set the tone in the one-on-one drill against Anquan Boldin, knocking the ball down in front of the former Ravens receiver. When Smith spoke to owner Steve Bisciotti during practice, I couldn't help thinking about the size of the check that Bisciotti will be writing Smith in a couple of years.
  • Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn't run in team drills for the first time in recent memory. The only way the Ravens can evaluate how he's progressed as a pocket passer is if he stays in the pocket. Taylor rushed his reads early and had several passes batted down when he tried to dump the ball off. He did finish with two deep throws, hitting Steve Smith (who had to dive for the ball) and Michael Campanaro.
  • Like he's done for most of camp, Osemele was crushing defensive linemen. Osemele knocked 49ers defensive tackle Tank Carradine to the ground three times during one session of team drills.
  • One of the more anticipated matchups didn't go the Ravens' way as Terrell Suggs couldn't get past 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. On the other side, Elvis Dumervil had his way with backup right tackle Jonathan Martin.
  • Cornerback Chykie Brown struggled again after putting together some decent practices. He was faked out early and often, allowing too many easy catches to 49ers receivers.
  • The Ravens started rotating rookie fifth-round pick John Urschel in with the second team at guard. This comes after Ryan Jensen got pushed around in the preseason opener. Jensen missed time in practice after injuring his left knee, but he returned after getting checked out by trainers.
  • Schedule: The Ravens hold their second joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers at noon Sunday.
  • Injury wire: This is the healthiest the Ravens have been since the start of camp. Only four players didn't practice. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his 10th straight practice. He last practiced July 25. ... G Will Rackley (head) also didn't practice. ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. ... DE Brent Urban (torn ACL) is out for the season.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Asked about the upcoming joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith talked about wearing his Super Bowl ring.

 Smith was joking, of course. OK, maybe half joking.

Starting on Saturday, training camp takes an interesting twist for three days as the two Super Bowl teams from 2012 will share the same practice fields as well as the same facility. While the Ravens and 49ers respect each other, these are two spirited teams that are loaded with strong personalities.

If the preseason opener is any indication, the joint practices for "Camp Harbaugh" could get heated. Smith made no friends in the first quarter, when he shoved 49ers wide receiver Stevie Johnson out of bounds on what could have been flagged for a late hit. And Ravens kicker Justin Tucker took a vicious stiff arm to the facemask from Chuck Jacobs on a kickoff return.

Coaches John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh want intense practices so they can properly evaluate their players. They just don't want this to turn into an episode of "WWE SmackDown."

"We fight with our own teammates, so it should be interesting to see how it goes with different team," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "But I think, by the end of the day, it'll be fun."

Moving a second team into the Ravens' headquarters wasn't as difficult as some might think. The 49ers are going to work out of the Ravens' indoor field house, where the Ravens have set up a locker room, training room, equipment room as well as a small lounge area.

Although there is no bad weather in the forecast, there is still 70 yards in the field house that can be used for practice if the teams were forced to work inside. The 49ers will hold team meetings in the Ravens' indoor basketball and racquetball courts.

"Were going to make it work and make it a good experience for both teams," said Bob Eller, the Ravens' vice president of operations.

The teams will share a gym, showers and even dining space. The Ravens doubled their capacity in the eating area by using a courtyard area that is now tented and air-conditioned.

“Hold on, we share a cafeteria, too?,” Smith asked. “I don’t know how [joint practices] work. I’ve seen it on TV. But every time I’ve seen it on TV there’s been nothing but fights.”

While joint practices are becoming increasingly popular in the NFL, this is the first time the Ravens have done this in their 19-year history. Trust is a big factor when you put two teams on the same field for multiple days, and it obviously helps that the two head coaches are siblings.

The Ravens are expected to practice at the 49ers' facility either next year or in 2016.

"[The 49ers are] coming all the way across the country, and we want to be good hosts and make the most of it," John Harbaugh said.

Asked whether a certain head coach will make it known if something goes wrong, John Harbaugh said, "I might hear about it, yes.”
video Jimmy Smith became the fifth Baltimore Ravens player arrested this offseason when he was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct late Saturday night.

The embarrassment for the Ravens isn't the individual arrests, per se. Three players were arrested for misdemeanors, and none may go to trial on any of the charges.

Five years from now, the lasting black eye from the Ravens' trouble-filled 2014 offseason will likely be running back Ray Rice's incident and the cumulative effect of the arrests.

The numbers are nearly unbelievable since this year's Super Bowl:
  • The Ravens have had five players arrested, and the other 31 teams combined have had 14 arrests. This means one out of every four NFL players arrested this offseason have been Ravens.
  • There are only three other teams with multiple arrests (San Francisco, Buffalo and Chicago), and none has more than two. The Cincinnati Bengals, who have been known for making headlines for arrests in the past, have had only one off-field incident.
  • The Ravens' five arrests have been in a five-month span this year and are one more than they had in coach John Harbaugh's previous six seasons.

Most of these legal issues have been resolved. Rice (felony aggravated assault) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (misdemeanor battery) have both been accepted into pretrial intervention programs, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (felony possession of marijuana) had his case dismissed.

Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (misdemeanor destruction of property as well as drunk and disorderly) has a July 31 court date, and Smith will have a court date assigned.

While many want to point a finger at the Ravens for not having a tighter rein on their players, all five arrests occurred when the players were on a break from offseason workouts. In fact, all but Smith's arrest occurred outside Maryland. There is only so much a team can do to keep an eye on all 90 players on its roster.

The good news for the Ravens is that the offseason is almost over. There are only 10 days until the entire team reports for training camp. The Ravens can only hope they don't add to this police blotter of an offseason before then.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The highlight of Baltimore Ravens' practice on Wednesday came when cornerback Jimmy Smith picked off Joe Flacco and playfully taunted the quarterback as he made his way to the end zone.

This outburst of swagger isn't surprising considering it keyed Smith's breakthrough season last year. The unusual part was that Smith had the ball in his hands.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Smith
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsCornerback Jimmy Smith hopes to create more turnovers this season.
Boosting turnovers is a priority for Smith and is the last step in turning the 2011 first-round draft pick from an emerging cornerback to a Pro Bowl one. Smith made only two interceptions last season and has picked off four passes in 39 career games.

"As a corner, you want to have 15 interceptions," Smith said. "It might not happen being a man-to-man corner, but you want to watch the film and see exactly what you did wrong or how you can make your game a little bit better. I didn’t play a lot of off-coverage, so when I play off-coverage I look for certain things about how I’m playing it and what I can do to make it better so that teams will throw at me a lot and I can get some interceptions.”

Smith is the most physically gifted cornerback in team history since Chris McAlister. Just like Smith, McAlister had the size and speed that teams want at the position.

At his best, McAlister would not only shut down one side of the field but he would make plays. He returned five of his 26 career interceptions for touchdowns.

Smith believes he can reach that playmaker level. To get there, he doesn't necessarily have to improve his ball skills. It's getting better at the mental part of the game.

"You want to get a few plays every game where you feel like you could steal something," Smith said. "That’s more of what I’m focused on. I know our defense, and I try to get better at mastering that. But, at the same time, I want to understand the offense and what they’re trying to do to me so I can make more plays for our team.”

There was a time not too long ago when there were doubts that Smith would become a starter, much less the top defender on the team.

His slow development can be chalked up to bad timing and bad luck. As a rookie three years ago, Smith didn't suit up for his first practice until training camp because of the player lockout.

Then, on the first play of his first game, he suffered a high ankle sprain on the opening kickoff. That sidelined him for four games. In his second season, Smith missed five games because of a sports hernia injury.

"[I’m] not making any excuses, but that’s just how it happened," Smith said.

Last season, Smith lived up to the expectations of being the No. 27 overall pick by staying healthy and playing with confidence. He broke up 16 passes while limiting some of the best receivers in the league: Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.

Much of that success came from keeping his eyes in the right place and knowing where help is.

"To me confidence kind of follows talent and also follows understanding the position really well," coach John Harbaugh said. "He, more than ever since he's been here, understands how to play corner. It makes playing a lot easier. You're not chasing your tail as a corner out there. That's what is breeding that confidence."

The Ravens expressed their confidence in Smith by picking up his 2015 option, which will pay him somewhere between $6.5 million and $6.9 million. This was a no-brainer to keep Smith, a cornerback who is getting better and better each season.

Asked how high his ceiling is, Smith smiled and said, “You can’t ask me that. Can you touch the sky? That’s how high it is.”
The Baltimore Ravens picked up the fifth-year option on cornerback Jimmy Smith well before the May 3 deadline, according to ESPN's Field Yates.

This was never in doubt because coach John Harbaugh said at last month's NFL owners meetings that the Ravens would exercise it. The real question is whether Smith will play the 2015 season under that option salary.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Smith
Kiichiro Sato/AP PhotoRavens CB Jimmy Smith has held his own against the likes of Chicago star Brandon Marshall.
“We are hopeful that we can sign Jimmy long-term," Harbaugh said in late March. "That will be our goal.”

In 2013, Smith lived up to the expectations of being the No. 27 overall pick after a couple of up and down seasons. He not only emerged as the team's top cornerback in his first full season as a starter but he ranked among the best in the AFC North.

The key to Smith's development was staying healthy and gaining confidence. He made two interceptions and broke up 16 passes while limiting some of the best receivers in the league: Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.

The option will pay Smith somewhere between $6.5 million and $6.9 million, the average of the 25 highest-paid players at the position, with the top three excluded. Once the Ravens exercised the option, Smith's fifth-year pay in 2015 is guaranteed for injury. If he’s on the roster at the beginning of the 2015 league year, it’s fully guaranteed.

The Ravens would like to reach an extension with Smith because he's young (he turns 26 in July) and he's going to be hitting the prime years of his career soon. There's an added incentive to reduce that $6 million-plus cap number, but the Ravens have dealt with bigger financial burdens (Lardarius Webb's cap number is $10.5 million this season).

Jimmy Smith, though, isn't the Ravens' priority when it comes to extensions. Wide receiver Torrey Smith is entering the final year of his contract, so he's currently first on the pecking order.

The Ravens ideally would like to sign Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith both to long-term deals this year. If they can't sign either one, the Ravens know they can keep both around for the 2015 season if they use the franchise tag on Torrey Smith and let Jimmy Smith play out his option year.

This is an enviable situation for the Ravens to have. No one would've envisioned the Ravens picking up this option during the 2012 season, when Jimmy Smith couldn't beat out Cary Williams or Corey Graham for a starting job. Then, in two critical end zone plays against the San Francisco 49ers, Smith helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl and turned around his career in the process.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh made it clear the team wants to keep its top two picks from the 2011 draft, cornerback Jimmy Smith and receiver Torrey Smith, for the long term.

The first in line for an extension is Torrey Smith, the Ravens' second-round pick that year. Why is he a priority over first-rounder Jimmy Smith?

It goes back to the collective bargaining agreement, which allows teams to keep first-round picks for a fifth season by exercising an option in May. This is the first year that it has gone into effect.

So, to keep Jimmy Smith from becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Ravens need to pick up his option before the May 3 deadline. All the Ravens have to do is pay him an average of the 25 highest-paid cornerbacks, with the top three excluded. That means Jimmy Smith won't be a free agent until 2016, and the Ravens could put the franchise tag on him to retain him another year.

"We have no doubt that we’ll be investing the option in Jimmy when the time comes," Harbaugh said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "We are hopeful that we can sign Jimmy long-term. That will be our goal."

The more immediate concern is Torrey Smith, who is entering the final year of his deal. The receiver is the type of player the Ravens like to extend because there is little risk in giving him a big-money contract. He is a high-character player whose receiving yards have increased every season.

The Ravens are hoping to get a deal done with Torrey Smith before the draft.




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