If Super Bowl XLVII taught us anything, it's that you can always count on Jimmy Smith on the goal line.
Smith made the defensive play of the day Wednesday when he drilled tight end Nick Boyle just short of the goal line in a "live" drill near the end of practice.
Boyle caught the pass at the 1-yard line and looked ready to cruise into the end zone, but Smith was coming fast, scraping across the line of scrimmage. His hit set off a raucous defensive celebration and punctuated a good day for the unit overall.
"Hats off to Jimmy, he had a good play," Boyle said. "I let my guard down a little bit when I caught that, I thought I was wide open. I have to have a better sense of urgency there – pluck it, tuck it and get in the end zone. I guess he was hauling."
It surprised Boyle that Smith closed so fast, but that could be the new normal for the veteran cornerback. Head Coach John Harbaugh revealed after practice that Smith dropped 10-12 pounds this offseason while keeping his muscle.
"Jimmy is legit," Harbaugh said. "He's a very big, thick guy in his low 220s. He's maybe 207 now, 208, somewhere in there. I really think it's helped him. I think he looks quick and fast, really really looks good out there. Jimmy's having a really good camp."
Smith is entering his 10th season in Baltimore and is in a different position this year with Pro Bowlers Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters entrenched as the top two corners. Smith, 32, has always had elite talent, but injuries have stifled his career.
Still, he's proven his worth time and time again, which is why Baltimore brought him back on a one-year deal this offseason. Even though he's not a starter, Smith will still see a lot of action in the Ravens' versatile defense. His role could evolve somewhat to include safety duties, and Smith has the ability to match up on tight ends and bigger wide receivers. While he's faster, the 6-foot-2 Smith is still a physical presence, as he showed with his hit on Boyle.
Here are other highlights from Wednesday's rainy practice:
- The pass rush turned up the heat during 11-on-11 drills. Earl Thomas III came in untouched for one "sack" and defensive lineman Calais Campbell and outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Aaron Adeoye got in on the action too. Campbell has been a force already in practice. Entering a key fourth year, Bowser seems to have improved his bull rush and had a standout day.
- Rookie wide receiver James Proche II made the offensive play of the day, and perhaps the catch of camp so far, when he went Superman with a full-extension diving catch down the middle of the field on a pass from Robert Griffin III. Proche could see more than just punt returner duties this season. Third-round wide receiver Devin Duvernay also continued to show off his speed and make deep catches.
Harbaugh included a session of one-on-one battles with the whole team watching, which are always fun and get the competitive juices flowing. Here are some of the best from that:
- Rookie offensive linemen Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson each had strong reps. Rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike had a good initial bull rush, but Phillips recovered with a strong anchor. Bredeson had a very nice block from start to finish on Broderick Washington.
- Rookie linebacker Malik Harrison broke up a pair of passes intended for tight end Charles Scarff. The first was a test of Harrison's range as Scarff went deep and had a step, but Harrison knocked the ball away with his back turned to the ball. Harrison also quickly broke on an outside route to get another PD.
- Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins went deep on Queen and made a really nice over-the-shoulder catch on a deep pass. Queen was tight in coverage, but it showed how dangerous Dobbins can be as a receiver.
- Speaking of Dobbins, he got into a heated exchange with undrafted defensive back Nigel Warrior that Harbaugh stepped between to end. Dobbins also didn't back down talking with safety DeShon Elliott. Dobbins is a good-natured guy who is constantly smiling, but it showed he has a fiery, competitive side as well.