Za’Darius Smith: The Next Great Ravens Pass Rusher?


When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Za’Darius Smith in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, they knew he would be a project. The pass rusher from Kentucky has all the physical attributes that you want in a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is an explosive, 6’4” 274 pounds. He has long arms and has a powerful build. Could he develop into the next great Ravens pass rusher?

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Going into the offseason, pass rusher seemed like a good place to start improving the roster. Terrell Suggs is coming off his second ACL injury and is 33 years old. Elvis Dumervil is just one year younger and is coming off a down year in his sack totals. It is a logical argument that pass rusher is one of the biggest question marks that this team has.

The most important thing to remember about Smith is that he is an awesome athlete. He needs to expand his repertoire of pass rush techniques. He also needs to prove that he can be an every down player, rather than just a pass rushing specialist. He doesn’t need to prove his ability; we know what he will be capable of in time.

The Ravens have always been good at developing talent, especially on the defensive side of the football. Smith has all the talent in the world, he just needs experience to sharpen his skills. Last season, Smith had 30 tackles and 5.5 sacks. That’s not bad when you consider that Dumervil had 48 tackles and six sacks.

Smith first showed his potential in the Ravens week four win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He sacked Mike Vick twice in the defensive affair. Smith had a minimal impact after that game, but he turned on the jets in the last three games of the season. He had two sacks against the Kansas City Chiefs. He took down Ben Roethlisberger once down in the Ravens surprise win against the Steelers. Smith had half a sack in the Ravens finale against the Bengals.

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Smith surely showed that he has the potential to shine. The Ravens do need to think about their future pass rushing needs. Suggs and Dumervil aren’t getting younger and we don’t know what to expect from Suggs. The Ravens may have found one part of the long-term answer with Smith. He is a player to watch moving forward.