And perhaps because of that sentiment, Smith shrugged off that expectation.
“I’m making strides,” he said with a smile after Tuesday’s practice at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills. “I’m still a young player, but I’m gearing towards that.”
There may be some within the organization who are not as patient. When the franchise used the 27th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft to take Smith, the prevailing thought was that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound cornerback would join Lardarius Webb in the starting lineup.
But a high left ankle sprain while covering the opening kickoff in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers derailed that prospect, and although he recorded two interceptions in 11 games, Smith finished 2011 as the third cornerback behind Webb and Cary Williams.
Injury has been a factor this preseason, too, as Smith has battled back issues that haven’t been too serious, but have done just enough to take him away from the practice field at times. That has played into Williams remaining a starter and Smith wondering about his recent spate of ailments.
“It feels like I’ve run into a stroke of bad luck,” he said. “But it’s nothing where it’s affecting my play. The team won’t put me out there unless I’m ready to play. It’s nagging little things, but nothing I haven’t dealt with before.”
That wasn’t the case Friday night when the Detroit Lions visited M&T Bank Stadium. Calling the 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson the largest wide receiver he has ever lined up against, Smith was fodder for the highlight-reel replays of Johnson running a fade route and snatching a pass from Matthew Stafford out of the air for an 18-yard touchdown in the second quarter of a 27-12 loss.
Smith, who turned back to Stafford about a half-second before Johnson caught the ball, put the blame squarely on himself.
“I never saw the ball, but you can’t play him like that because of how big he is,” he said. “I never played against a guy that big. So playing on top of him was a bad idea. And when I looked back for the ball, he had already jumped and got it. It was good positioning, but for me, that’s not OK. I have to make that play, and for me to be in that position, I really feel like I should’ve made that play. Looking back on it, I just feel like it was bad technique.”
Smith is expected to see plenty of playing time Thursday night when the Jacksonville Jaguars visit, but he said he’s not concerned about making a statement about his candidacy to be a starter.
“I think we have three very good corners that can compete with anybody,” he said. “The starting job, that’s more of the media hype right now. We’re more focused on the two games where they caught balls, and we’ve got to fix that. That’s our main concern, not who’s starting on Day 1 because we’re going to be on the field a lot.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun