Ravens Notebook: Injured CB Smith not guaranteed starting job upon return to the lineup

OWINGS MILLS - Corey Graham wasn't fooled, sniffing out the Steelers trick play and coming away with an interception.

Graham has started each of the last four games at left cornerback in place of injured starter Jimmy Smith and has played well enough that he could remain the starter even once Smith is able to return to the lineup.

Smith had surgery to repair a sports hernia three weeks ago.

"It will be based on how they practice," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.

Graham has 26 tackles, six pass deflections and two interceptions in his four games as a starter.

"He's played well," Pees said. "He has had his moments like they all have. ... I think for what we've asked him to do, and the role that he has expanded throughout the season, I am very proud of what he has done."

Smith was Baltimore's first-round pick in last year's NFL draft, but had a disappointing start to the season. He replaced Lardarius Webb in the starting lineup following Webb's season-ending knee surgery in mid-October and started two games before being sidelined for each of the last four. He's practiced on a limited basis each of the last two days, although it appears unlikely he'll play against the Redskins Sunday.

OFFENSIVE ISSUES: Asked about Ray Rice's limited workload during the second half of Sunday's loss to the Steelers, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron pointed toward the Ravens' ongoing struggles to extend drives on third down.

Baltimore is ranked third-worst in the NFL in time of possession (27:44) and is fifth-worst in the AFC in third down conversions (36 percent).

The Ravens' time of possession this season is the team's worst since Cameron took over as offensive coordinator in 2008.

Baltimore possessed the ball for just more than 25 minutes of Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. The Ravens were 3-of-11 on third down.

Rice averaged more than six yards per carry against the Steelers, but carried the ball just 12 times, including only five times in the second half.

"That's our own fault," Cameron said. "It's our job on offense to convert on third down. If we convert on third down, we are out there for, hopefully, another three downs. When you don't convert on third down, you aren't going to be out there.

"Our guys know we need to do a better job of converting on third down. Then you get more opportunities. For us to be at the lowest we've have been in five years in terms of time of possession is strictly on our offense. We need to convert on third down better, and we need to stay on the field longer."

Rice's 12 carries against Pittsburgh represented the fourth time this season he's carried 13 times or less, including the third time in the last six games.

MIMICKING RG3: Practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon is helping Baltimore's defense prepare for dynamic rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins' Pistol offense.

Dixon ran the same offense in college. Dixon played at Oregon from 2003-07. As a senior, he led the Ducks to wins in eight of their first nine games and a No. 2 ranking in the BCS before he suffered a season-ending knee injury and Oregon dropped three of its final four games.

The Ravens originally planned on having backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor mimic Griffin in practice until Pees watched Dixon run the Pistol offense in practice.

"Tyrod is good. Dennis Dixon is great," Pees said of running the Pistol offense. "[Dennis] ran it at Oregon. He is good. I was shocked. I was sitting down there the other day talking to Tyrod about, 'Here is what I need you to do.' Dennis is looking at me like, 'What am I?' So, I said, 'Yeah, you can jump in there.'

"He gets in there [Wednesday] and started riding that thing down, and I am going, 'Holy smokes! You're doing a great job for us. Tyrod, move over. Dennis is up.'"

INJURY REPORT: Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) and tight end Ed Dickson (sprained knee) both missed practice for a second consecutive day Thursday.

Middle linebacker London Fletcher (ankle) was the lone non-participant for the Redskins. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (ankle/knee) and left tackle Trent Williams (thigh) both practiced on a limited basis after missing practice Wednesday.