For the Baltimore Ravens, Jimmy Smith is “the OG” – and a key to unlocking a creative defense

Baltimore Ravens Security DeShon Elliott chuckled at the thought. He may not be sure where Jimmy Smith will line up before a given snap, whether as an outside cornerback or in front of a tight end or deep into the secondary in a center-field type role. But does he ever feel preoccupied with how his veteran teammate will handle the task at hand?

The Jimmy Smith?

“Jimmy, he’s an old man; he’s the OG, ”Elliott said. “I know he can do his job. I know he’s going to do plays, so we don’t have to worry about “Jimbo”.

Smith, the longest-serving defensive player in the Ravens roster, has carved out a reputation among his teammates and coaches for his consistent play. And this season, he fills a multi-faceted role, which makes this year different from the others since joining Baltimore as a first-round draft pick in 2011 – and positions him as a crucial factor for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles (1 -3-1).

After Smith spent most of the past decade solely as an outside cornerback, the Ravens (4-1) have relied on the 32-year-old to play safe more often this year. He also sometimes came back around the corner and lined up in various places around the high school.

Other Ravens defenders delivered more highlights during a strong start to the season, but Smith unlocks much of defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s playbook. His ability to bounce from position to position allows Martindale to use other defensive backs as blitzers and mix up staff to generate favorable clashes.

Not everyone could handle such a move, said coach John Harbaugh. Smith’s previous nine seasons playing in the Baltimore defense allow him to be so flexible in 10th grade.

“His experience makes a big difference,” said Harbaugh. “He just saw a lot of things. He attended many meetings, he played many games. He knows, fundamentally, fundamentally, how all covers are constructed. “

That knowledge helped the Ravens allow the fewest points in the NFL in five games, while forcing 10 turnovers, tied for second in the league.

In Game 1 of the season, Smith played mostly safe, entering the field to pass passes and bringing Chuck Clark closer to the line of scrimmage in a dime linebacker role. This allowed the Ravens to put additional defensive backs on the pitch.

After cornerback Tavon Young injured his knee in Week 2, Smith played his old cornerback position more. But it moves according to the staff of an opponent. The Ravens sometimes used him to cover Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce during Week 3. In Sunday’s win over the Bengals, Smith played almost exclusively in the outside corner as his physical style gave Baltimore their best encounter against the big receivers and receivers of Cincinnati.

“It was fun,” Smith said. “I can do different things. I play tight ends, go down in the security blanket, play in a corner, which is what I’m used to. “

The Ravens could count on Smith’s versatility and knowledge even more than usual Sunday in Philadelphia. Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, despite a drop in production in recent weeks, remains one of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s favorite targets.

Wentz threw at least five passes to Ertz in every game this season.

As Baltimore waits to see if Philadelphia receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery return from injury to play on Sunday, Martindale knows his defense will face Ertz. Smith, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound defensive back with experience spanning a wide range of wide receivers, is better suited to defend Ertz than any other Raven.

“Ertz has been doing this for a little while now, so we know what he looks like,” Smith said. “He is really savvy with his routes. He has good hands, he has good speed. So it’s going to be a factor that we have to deal with this week.

The Ravens brought Smith back on the roster this year to help with that type of challenge.

This offseason, Smith went into free agency and conceded he didn’t find the buzzing market he expected. He said he still wanted to return to Baltimore, and he did so on a one-year contract worth $ 3.5 million.

Harbaugh welcomed him with open arms. The Ravens envisioned Smith following a path Rod Woodson forged in the early 2000s and Brandon Carr followed last year as a cornerback who evolved into versatile chess pieces later in their careers.

“I don’t think it’s really normal for guys to do that kind of – I don’t mean a move or a change because he’s always playing a wedge – but to stretch out like that,” Harbaugh told About Smith’s new role. . “I’m really proud of him.

Coaches are confident Smith can stand up to a star winger like Ertz. If the Ravens want Smith to be away to defend Jeffrey on Sunday or if they decide to play him as traveling safety, they won’t hesitate to move him. And young players like Elliott won’t worry about Smith no matter where he ends up.

“He knows a lot about football; he knows the ploys, he knows the playbook, obviously, ”Elliott said. “I can count on Jimmy.”

Aaron Kasinitz covers the Baltimore Ravens for PennLive and can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @AaronKazreports. Follow PennLive’s Ravens coverage on Facebook and Youtube.

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