Jimmy Smith didn't want to become a starter like this.
But the 2011 first-round pick is thrilled to be entering the spotlight.
With cornerback Lardarius Webb suffering a possible season-ending ACL knee injury, Smith is in line to take his spot on the outside.
"I'm absolutely ready for it," Smith said. "It's what I've been waiting for."
Smith has been the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback ever since being drafted. Cary Williams won the starting job last year and maintained it through competition this season, despite his early struggles.
Smith still saw a lot of playing time in three-wide sets, but had the desire for more.
His playing time immediately increased as soon as Webb crumbled to the turf in the first quarter Sunday. Smith's first thought when Webb clutched for his knee was, "Oh, oh he's down." Smith seemed to realize the severity of the injury.
His second thought? "Let's go."
"That's my friend. So first and foremost I'm sad that my friend's hurt," Smith said. "I feel bad for Webb, but I'm very excited. … Next man up. Our hearts go out to Webb and his situation, but when the game plays, you have to go."
Smith was asked whether the Ravens defense can be as good without Webb, who is the team's top cornerback and a potential Pro Bowler.
"No shot toward Lardarius – obviously he makes us that much better – but I think we have enough guys to step up and fill his role," he said.
The Ravens dipped deep into their cornerback ranks against the Cowboys.
Smith moved immediately outside on a full-time basis, except for on a few plays when he came to the sidelines with a strain. He finished with seven tackles, including one for loss, and a pass deflection.
Veteran free-agent addition Corey Graham slid into the nickel role, which he played well last year in Chicago (three interceptions, 13 tackles). Chykie Brown filled in for Smith when he was sidelined with the injury. Safety Ed Reed even occasionally played in the slot and James Ihedigbo entered the game.
The Ravens also have rookie fifth-round pick Asa Jackson, but he was inactive.
"Jimmy played really well, and I thought Cary played really well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Corey Graham stepped in and played really well, that's why we brought him here. And, then, Chykie… so we went deep in that position. I thought all of the guys played really well, and you're right they're going to have to."
The loss of Webb will have a ripple effect on the entire cornerbacks unit. But Smith, who had two interceptions as a rookie, is confident that this could be the start of something big for him.
"It's not next man up. It's like next six guys up," Smith said. "For me, I think I'll be starting for a while."