EARLY BIRD: Kicking off July 31, eight days before the Ravens open their preseason against the Buccaneers in Tampa.
Two-minute topic: Can cornerback Jimmy Smith finally win a starting job?
Owings Mills, MD – Jimmy Smith turned 25 years old July 25. Did he party? Not in his plans.
"I’m going to go get an IV, and cold tub,” Smith said that day. “Then get some sleep.” That’s the right approach for Smith, a third-year corner who is trying to realize his potential. The Ravens drafted him in the first round in 2011. Back then, people figured Smith would be starting by now. It hasn’t happened.
Earning a starting job won’t be easy for Smith. Corey Graham is coming off his best season at one corner. Veteran corner Lardarius Webb is making steady progress recovering from knee surgery.
Whether he starts or not, the Ravens want Smith to become what they hoped for on draft night, 2011. The Ravens need Smith. Teams around the league are using more multiple wide receiver formations, looking for a favorable matchup to attack. If Graham, Webb, and Smith are all healthy, the Ravens feel good about their ability to matchup when teams spread their defense.
Smith has been plagued by injuries in his two seasons - a high ankle sprain as a rookie, a groin injury last season. But during the offseason, Smith made a commitment to conditioning. He is 10 pounds lighter, and stronger. Camp has been going well for him so far.
“I think he’s gained some confidence from last year, basically, in the end of the season and the playoff games,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees. “I think he’s trying to play with that confidence.”
Asked what he has learned during his two seasons, Smith said, “The amount of preparation that goes into becoming a starter, and becoming a good player on this team.”
Training camp and the preseason will determine if Smith starts. But it already looks like Smith has determined he will be a better player.