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Ravens DC Don ‘Wink’ Martindale expects bigger role for CB Jimmy Smith; OC Greg Roman ‘starting to get a feel’ for running backs | NOTES

"At safety, you're a little more free, and you're doing different things. Being back there, it gives you a little jolt," said Smith on his new role.

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith made his season debut Sunday against the Detroit Lions after missing the first two games with an ankle injury.

With injuries plaguing the Ravens so far this season, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale rejoiced Thursday about Smith’s return.

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“Thank god Jimmy’s back,” Martindale said about Smith. “I’m waiting for more guys to come back.”

Martindale praised Smith for the job he did when covering Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson on Sunday. Hockenson, who caught 16 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns in Detroit’s first two games, was held to only two receptions for 10 yards against the Ravens.

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“I think the numbers showed the job that he did with Hockenson,” Martindale said. “He played a big role on third down for us, and that’s going to be expanded this week.”

Smith, who played in 19 of the team’s 63 snaps (30%), also said he expects his playing time to increase in the coming weeks.

“It feels great to be back out there,” Smith said Thursday. “I hate sitting on the sideline with an injury. Story of my career, right? It felt good to get out there, especially to get a ‘W’ and get my feet wet again.”

Smith has dealt with injuries for almost his entire 11-year career with the Ravens. He’s missed multiple games because of injury in eight of his now 11 NFL seasons and has played more than 12 games in a campaign just twice, with the last coming in 2015.

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The sprained ankle Smith sustained in August was worse than originally expected, he said, keeping the 33-year-old out for more than a month.

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) celebrates as he leaves the field following a game against the Colts in Indianapolis on Nov. 8, 2020.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) celebrates as he leaves the field following a game against the Colts in Indianapolis on Nov. 8, 2020. (Darron Cummings/AP)

“It was inside and outside, so I was having trouble moving,” Smith said. “So to go out there and cover [Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver] Henry Ruggs and all that, I needed the right amount of time to be out there and be able to cut.”

Smith’s return is a welcome one for a Ravens secondary that is embattled with injured players, including Marcus Peters (torn ACL), Iman Marshall (knee), Khalil Dorsey, Chris Westry (knee) and now safety DeShon Elliott (quadriceps). Elliott was injured in the second half against the Lions and has missed two straight practices.

Smith, who has played several different roles for the Ravens’ defense in the past three seasons, filled in on a few plays at safety after Elliott’s exit Sunday. Smith is enjoying his role as a “mercenary” in the Ravens’ secondary, adding that he’s gotten a “jolt” from playing safety.

“This is my third year in this type of role,” he said. “I’m excited for ... whatever the challenge is.”

Roman talks run game

Against the Lions, the Ravens’ running backs carried the ball only 15 times for 58 yards compared to 40 drop-backs for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday that imbalance, which is rare in his run-heavy offense, was because of how the Lions defense was playing against the Ravens.

“Some weeks we’re going to run it more than others. Last week, they were doing some things and we saw some opportunities, so we threw it a lot more,” Roman said. “Every week is a little bit different.”

Ty’Son Williams paced Ravens running backs by taking 50% of the snaps, while Latavius Murray led the backfield with seven carries for 28 yards. Devonta Freeman chipped in with three carries for 8 yards on nine snaps.

Roman said he’s “starting to get a feel” for the Ravens’ running back room that was decimated by injuries in the preseason. The team’s top three running backs to open training camp — J.K. Dobbins (torn ACL), Gus Edwards (torn ACL) and Justice Hill (torn Achilles) — are all out for the season.

“[The running backs] have all been kind of learning our system,” Roman said. “The first game, [Murray and Freeman] got here a couple days before the game. We like what we see with all of them. We want to keep them fresh and ready to roll and [go with] whoever’s got the hot hand.”

Roman also said he’s hopeful that Le’Veon Bell, who hasn’t played this season and is on the team’s practice squad, can “add something” to the offense “at some point this year.”

“Le’Veon wasn’t in camp. He’s really had some time now to get in shape,” Roman said. “I think he has a really good enthusiasm. He’s a smart guy. It’ll be interesting to see how he can help us. So far I’ve been very impressed with him. You can see why he’s been so successful.”

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