Jimmy Smith's bid for a starting job hit a rough patch last week against the Atlanta Falcons.
The former first-round pick struggled to defend wide receiver Julio Jones, and quarterback Matt Ryan connected with Jones three times in Smith's direction. Those three catches went for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Despite struggling against Atlanta, the Ravens have confidence that Smith is in store for a big season heading into Year 3.
"I know it maybe wasn't a great game for him per se, when you look at it from the outside," Secondary Coach Teryl Austin said. "But I have the utmost confidence in Jimmy that he's going to have a fine, fine season for us. He'll make the plays that he's capable of making and should make, and I have no doubts about that."
Smith graded out poorly against the Falcons, according to the statistical analysis website Pro Football Focus that grades every snap. Smith received a -3.1 grade in pass coverage, the lowest mark on the team.
However, sometimes it's difficult to determine who is at fault without knowing the actual defensive calls.
"It depends on the coverage," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said this week. "There certainly has been some times when the guys get blamed for something on a coverage that may not be theirs. But for the most part, if the ball is deep and there are two guys there, it's him.
"That's part of living on the edge and playing defensive back. Look, there's not a defensive back in the Hall of Fame that hasn't gotten beat – none. Let's be realistic. Everybody gets caught up in this stuff. It's how you learn."
In reviewing Smith's game from last week, the biggest problem Pees noticed was in his fundamentals.
"I don't think he played particularly good the other night," Pees said. "He's got a technique [that] he's got to use, and he didn't use it the other night. He's got a distinct advantage in a way that he can play, and he didn't necessarily play that way last week, and I think he will [this week]. And I think he'll learn from that."
Smith and the Ravens got back to work this week on correcting the mistakes that came up against the Falcons. When Smith returned to the practice field after last week's game, the Ravens liked the attitude they saw from him.
"He'll be able to shake that off," Austin said. "And he shook that off for us. I didn't see anything where he came in and was, 'Oh, man that was so bad.' There was nothing like that. It was like, 'Okay, let's get to work. Let's see what we can improve. What can I do better this week?'"
Smith is in the middle of a competition with seven-year veteran Corey Graham for a starting job opposite top cornerback Lardarius Webb. Smith and Graham have taken the first-team reps during training camp and the preseason, as Webb has been eased back into action from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The plan is for Webb to be ready for the start of the regular season, and the Ravens would then have to decide whether Graham or Smith gets the starting nod.
Despite the off night for Smith, he has been impressive during training camp and the Ravens still have high hopes for him this season.
"I think he's been outstanding. He's worked hard. He's in great shape – the best shape he's been in since he's been here," Austin said. "He's really working at it, and he is – on a daily basis out here – everyday, when we go through however many plays we go through, he stands out."