Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith appears to be moving better and reacting quicker since returning from the torn left Achilles tendon that sidelined him for the final four games of last season and the four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.
The 30-year-old cornerback acknowledged his improved play in recent weeks, which he credited to “just being healthy, being confident in my ability, knowing what I can do.” But he shut down further queries about his recent performances.
Since his first start of the season in a 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 21 when he was flagged twice for pass interference and surrendered several big plays, including wide receiver Michael Thomas’ 5-yard touchdown catch, Smith has not been in the spotlight. That can be interpreted as a sign that he has been solid in coverage.
While Smith was reluctant to discuss himself, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale was not as hesitant.
“He stood up a couple weeks ago and spoke to the defense,” Martindale said. “We do that on Saturday nights, and a different player will speak, and he even acknowledged that — where he was at physically and mentally and where he was going to go. He’s followed with what he said, and I think we’re getting the dividends from him now.”
Six starters return to practice
Quarterback Joe Flacco was not the only starter to return to practice. Thursday’s session also welcomed back five others in wide receiver Michael Crabtree (not injury related), rookie running back Gus Edwards (ankle), Smith (illness), free safety Eric Weddle (not injury related) and right guard Marshal Yanda (not injury related). Flacco and Edwards were limited, while the others were full participants.
Running back Alex Collins (foot), defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. (ankle) and slot cornerback Tavon Young (groin) also participated on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday’s session. Right tackle James Hurst (nerve root) was limited for the second straight day, while outside linebacker Tim Williams (illness) practiced fully.
Strong safety Tony Jefferson (left ankle) did not practice for the second consecutive day. Wide receiver John Brown (not injury related) was also absent.
Coach Dan Quinn, a Salisbury University graduate, sounded slightly optimistic that Jones, who was activated off injured reserve Nov. 12 and led the Falcons in tackles last season with 138, could be available Sunday.
More work for Montgomery
Since being acquired via trade from the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 30 and being a healthy scratch for his first game with the Ravens against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 4, running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery has been more active on offense. After playing nine snaps in a 24-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 18 and taking a lateral from rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson for 5 yards, he played 28 snaps in Sunday’s 34-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Montgomery carried the ball eight times for 51 yards and caught three passes for 13 yards to complement the downhill running style of Edwards.
“Ty’s a good football player,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “He’s got some unique skills. He was here a week, wasn’t up, and then was up and a little more, a little more, and he’s done a nice job with his preparation as well as on the practice field and in games. He’s been quite productive for us when we’ve put him in. I’m glad he’s on the football team.”
» The absence of Young because of a groin injury forced the defense on Sunday to slide Brandon Carr to slot cornerback from his traditional spot on the outside. But Martindale said there was no drop-off between the 11-year veteran and Young.
“Brandon, he can play anywhere,” Martindale said. “It is an adjustment though. Everything happens faster and it really becomes matchups – receiver-wise, size-wise. The thing we also saw, Double A [rookie Anthony Averett] came into the game and made a play. Cyrus [Jones] came in and made a couple plays. So even the younger guys, we’re developing the depth, and [secondary coach] Chris [Hewitt] and [coaching analyst] Jesse [Minter] have done a great job with that, getting guys ready to play. So we’re just ready to step up and go.”
» Mornhinweg said he was startled to see Jackson had carried the ball 26 times in his first career start in the team’s 24-21 win against the Bengals.
“It was still too many, and I didn’t sleep very well. I usually sleep pretty good after one of those,” he said. “Man, I was shocked after that first one because it was a little bit more than I had planned for.”
» Coach John Harbaugh described Edwards as “all business” in his interaction with coaches and teammates alike.
“It takes a really funny thing to get him to smile a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “If you want to get him to smile, you better be on your joke game. You better bring a good one. But I really appreciate his approach to the job.”