Bad Season Gave 6 Young Ravens A Chance To Grow
Coming out of Kentucky, Za’Darius had a lot of talent to give the Ravens in his rookie year. The Ravens selected Smith with the 122nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was a fourth round pick, because his talent was the raw kind. It would take some time for him to develop When Terrell Suggs was injured in week one, it was inevitable that Ravens new pass rusher would get some playing time.
Playing time was exactly what Smith needed. Mental reps are nice, but actually doing it is better. At first Smith struggled. The speed of the game caught him by surprise. His work ethic was questioned, it looked like he had an uphill battle with the Ravens. Smith is an explosive edge player with length. He has the physical skills but he’s still learning how to use them in the professional ranks.
Smith came on strong at the end of the 2015 season. 3.5 of his 5.5 sacks came in the last three weeks of the season. With Courtney Upshaw still there, Smith would not have gotten nearly as many snaps if Terrell Suggs was healthy. Through trial and error, he learned what it took to make it. You could see that Smith grew as a player. Once he realized that his speed and size were not solely enough in the NFL, he started to attack offensive tackles with a plan. He learned it takes a variety of pass rush moves, and that he could convert his speed into a power move and vice versa.
Next: Shareece Wright