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Ravens X-Factor: Jimmy Smith can eliminate the Broncos pass catchers

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 4, the 2-1 Ravens will travel to face an undefeated Broncos team. The contest is an important October showdown for both AFC clubs. The Broncos aim to prove they are genuine contenders, while Baltimore hopes to stack another win in the early portion of their schedule.

Vic Fangio’s Broncos are a well rounded squad that currently boasts the 4th most efficient passing offense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has posted a 76.8-percent completion percentage and avoided interceptions over the first three weeks of the season. With Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler injured, Bridgewater has peppered Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Noah Fant with passes.

Sutton has returned from a 2020 ACL injury to post 210 yards and a 75-percent catch rate. He is a jump ball specialist who uses his 6’4 size to win at the catch point. Tight end Fant is also 6’4 and is often utilized at the intermediate level. He possesses dangerous run after the catch ability, 46-percent of his yardage this season has come after the reception.

Fortunately for the Ravens, matchup corner Jimmy Smith was able to return from a preseason ankle injury last week. The perpetually underrated Smith is one of the few corners in the NFL with the length, technique and physicality to neutralize Sutton and Fant. The 11-year veteran has battled big-bodied receivers, including Calvin Johnson, Michael Crabtree and Julio Jones, throughout his career.

Jimmy has not allowed a touchdown into his coverage since the 2018 season. Last year, he allowed just a 57.4 passer rating when targeted, 50-percent completion percentage and 3.3 yards per target. Due to the Ravens depth at cornerback, Smith will not be tasked with a full workload but will be deployed to mark Sutton and Fant on high leverage downs.

If Smith can take away his assignment, lockdown corners Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett can focus on Bridgewater’s primary chain mover, Tim Patrick. And Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale will be emboldened to unleash his relentless blitz packages against an offensive line that has allowed 34 pressures this season.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens offense will be challenged by the Broncos stout, home-field aided defense. In a potentially low scoring affair, General Manager Eric DeCosta’s ample investment in cover corners, especially Jimmy Smith, should prove invaluable.