When talking about the top cornerbacks in the NFL this season, the name of Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith probably doesn’t get mentioned unless that conversation takes place within the 410 and 443 area codes.
But after two forgettable seasons to start his NFL career and a pair of poor performances in the first month of 2013, Smith has been one of the NFL’s stingiest cornerbacks over the past couple of months.
Since the Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers, when Smith got his lone interception of the season by picking off star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Smith has been targeted 31 times in seven games. He allowed just 16 completions over that span for 191 yards and no touchdowns. He has deflected six passes.
In recent weeks, he has fared well against top wide receivers such as Cleveland's Josh Gordon, Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, and Chicago's dynamic duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Things have clicked for Smith, who is playing with more confidence and better technique, often using his size and strength to stuff or reroute receivers at the line.
According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks completed a pass against Smith every 16.9 snaps in coverage and averaged just 0.71 yards per coverage snap over that span.
To put that into perspective, Tennessee's Alterraun Verner leads the NFL this season with 17.8 cover snaps per reception, according to Pro Football Focus. And Tampa Bay's Darrelle Revis is allowing 0.55 yards per snap in coverage. Smith would rank second in the league in both those categories if you forgot his first five games.
Of course, that would be cherry-picking stats and seven games is a small sample size, so it’s too soon to call it Smith Island. But the point is that Smith’s coverage area has been pretty desolate over the past two months.
Not many people outside of Baltimore are talking about it. But if Smith, who was knocked out of last week's win over the Steelers with a concussion but could play Sunday, continues to shut down wide receivers down the stretch, he may get some national recognition.