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Who Starts: Jimmy Smith Or Corey Graham?

Posted Dec 7, 2012

Corey Graham has two interceptions in four games since stepping in for Jimmy Smith.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith may be headed back to the field soon, as he’s practicing for the first time since hernia surgery in mid-November.

But will he have his starting spot back when he returns?

Corey Graham has played well in his absence, said Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees. He has two interceptions in four starts and led the Ravens in tackling Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Pees said it won’t be a difficult decision on who starts when both are healthy enough to play.

“It will be based on how they practice,” Pees said Thursday.

“You can’t have enough good players. I hope the worst problem I ever have is trying to figure out who is the best player out of two good players to play. That’s always a good problem to have, and I hope I continue to have it.”

Before Lardarius Webb suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6, Graham was the Ravens’ No. 4 cornerback. He moved into the nickel position after Webb’s injury and Smith, the Ravens’ 2011 first-round pick, became a starter.

When Smith went down with a sports hernia that has sidelined him for the past four weeks, Graham stepped into his spot.

Graham was especially good against the Steelers. He logged eight tackles, three pass deflections (including two in the end zone) and one interception in Pittsburgh. He had 11 tackles and an interception when he sniffed out a reverse wide receiver toss Sunday.

“He has had his moments like they all have,” Pees said. “Everybody has. 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.”

Graham isn’t surprised by his strong performance. He said the main reason he wasn’t a starter in Chicago last year was because the Bears wanted to utilize him on special teams (he was a Pro Bowler there), and starting outside would have been too many snaps.

“It’s nothing new,” Graham said of his play. “It’s just that people are finally getting to see it.”

In eight games and two starts, Smith had 28 tackles, three pass deflections and no interceptions this year. The big, physical corner had some troubles with double moves, and allowed a 25-yard touchdown in Houston.

He practiced in limited capacity on Wednesday and Thursday, showing he may have a chance of playing Sunday in Washington.

Smith declined talking to the media this week as he is trying to come back from his injury. Graham said he hasn’t even thought about who might start.

“When he comes back, Jimmy’s going to play,” Graham said. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to play. I don’t know whether it’s going to be outside, in the nickel or what. I’m just sure we’ll both be on the field.”

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