On Carson Palmer's first two passing plays Monday, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback connected with John Brown for 11- and 15-yard receptions, ignoring the fact that the speedy wide receiver was being guarded by Jimmy Smith, the Ravens' top cornerback.
Teams are targeting Smith more and more, a departure from last season when the former first-round pick was at the top of his game. And defensive coordinator Dean Pees has a good idea why.
"I think he's been tentative and just not kind of letting it go," Pees said Thursday when asked about Smith. "Whether that's the injury or whether it's not, only he can tell you that. I just haven't seen him quite be the, where I'll say, productive player, but it's more [having] a lot of confidence [to] go up there and really be aggressive, you know, basically at the line of scrimmage, because he's a big guy and when he gets his hands on you he does a great job, but I think sometimes he's been a little tentative and I think he'll say that, too. And maybe it is the injury. I can't tell you."
Smith had surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in his left foot last November. He's repeatedly declined to comment on whether the injury is still affecting him, but he's also stopped well short of saying that he's healthy.
Quarterbacks seemingly think that he's not 100 percent. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been targeted 52 times, far more than anybody else on the Ravens.
"Have I been surprised? Not at all," Smith said Wednesday. "I'm coming off an injury, so, it's expected."
What hasn't been expected, especially after the Ravens signed the cornerback to a four-year, $48 million contract extension in April, was Smith to struggle so much. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 33 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns against him in seven games, according to Pro Football Focus. In eight games last year before his injury, Smith allowed 20 catches for 163 yards and no touchdowns.
"Some things are going to happen that may not go your way," said Smith who was beaten for two short touchdown throws against the Cardinals last week, a 3-yarder to Michael Floyd and a 4-yarder to Brown. "You just keep fighting. It's not like I'm out there just getting killed. I'm not depressed by it. The balls are going to come. I expect them to come. I got to make plays."
Smith's play could loom large this weekend because Sunday's opponent, the San Diego Chargers, have the league's leading offense. Smith could find himself matched up against Keenan Allen, who has a league-high 62 receptions.