When the Baltimore Ravens open the 2012 regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, Sept. 10, they expect to have Ed Reed starting at free safety and Bernard Pollard at strong safety. With the ink long since dried on his six-year, $50 million contract, Lardarius Webb will be the starting left cornerback.
Who starts opposite Webb remains up for grabs and John Eisenberg of Comcast SportsNet Baltimore handicapped that battle Monday, which is expected to be between 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams, a restricted free agent the Ravens tendered at the second-round level this offseason. Corey Graham, Danny Gorrer, recent fifth-round picks Asa Jackson (2012) and Chykie Brown (2011) are vying for the No. 4 cornerback role.
Smith had a strong showing during organized team activities and minicamps, according to Eisenberg, while Williams has been slowed by offseason hip surgery.
As well as Williams played in 2011, it would not be a surprise if Smith overtook him for the starting job. Smith is a tall (6-foot-2), physical corner who might have earned a starting job last season if it weren't for the lockout and a high ankle sprain suffered on the first NFL play of his career. Smith is a lock to play more than the 250 defensive snaps he saw as a rookie.
Whomever starts opposite Webb might not matter all that much. As the game moves more towards the perimeter, No. 3 cornerbacks can play more than 50 percent of the snaps, so both Smith and Williams will see significant playing time this season.