Did Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith give people a glimpse Sunday of what to expect from him next season?
Smith had his best game of the year, rising to the challenging of defending perhaps the NFL’s best receiver corps. In one-on-one situations against both Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, Smith did a superb job of playing aggressively, breaking up passes, and making open field tackles whenever he did allow a completion. Smith also had one interception, dropped another possible interception, and had a 101-yard pick-six nullified by a penalty.
Smith has never used last year’s foot surgery as an excuse, but he did not start the season 100 percent, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh alluded to that after the game.
“Here’s a guy that has been battling foot (issues) and a myriad of things that go with that, all season long,” Harbaugh said. “To go out there and practice the way he practices, it shows up in the two-interception performance, one for a touchdown (called back) game that he had today.”
Prior to his Lisfranc surgery, Smith was being mentioned among the NFL’s top cornerbacks. The Ravens hope Smith returns to that level in 2016 after an offseason of rest. His play has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, and when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw at Smith, he usually answered.
“To get a turnover period is a great thing,” Smith said. “To get a turnover in a rivalry game when things are not going the way we want to is even better.”
The Ravens (5-10) aren’t going to the playoffs, but after Sunday’s loss, the Steelers (9-6) may not be going either. Smith hopes to close the season on an upbeat note next weekend in Cincinnati, facing another premier receiver in A. J. Green of the Bengals, who had 227 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens in Week 3.
“Since we can’t go to the playoffs, the only next thing that’s going to be great is us beating Cincinnati,” said Smith. “That’s the next goal.”