Smith makes waves in Ravens minicamp
Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Greenville native Za’Darius Smith has spent the past several weeks ruffling the feathers of his fellow Baltimore Ravens brethren in a series of minicamps.
The hard work has earned the outside linebacker no shortage of attention from teammates and coaches alike, making Smith one of the most notable rookies on a talented Ravens team.
A recent feature in the Baltimore Sun said that Smith “consistently displayed athleticism, explosiveness and instincts as a pass rusher, and also adept in pass coverage.”
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A pick-six on a screen pass from second-string quarterback Matt Schaub served as early highlight reel material and a potential sign of things to come.
There are a number of tests for Smith on the road ahead, but his teammates are already taking note of his talent.
“The new draft pick [Smith], the guy looks good,” said Terrell “T-Sizzle” Suggs, a veteran outside linebacker, six-time Pro Bowl selection and 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“He looks really good. I think our [linebackers] coach, Ted Monachino, does a good job of making sure he’s prepared and ready to play, and we expect some good things out of him.”
The Ravens have pegged Smith as a situational pass rusher and a replacement for Pernell McPhee, an outside linebacker who migrated to the Chicago Bears in March.
Smith said that the change in roles hasn’t fazed him, as evidenced by a string of excellent camp showings.
“Coming out of junior college, we ran a lot of 3-4, but being at Kentucky, we ran a lot of 4-3,” Smith said.
“Just being in both defenses, I felt comfortable with this team drafting me because I can play multiple positions. I feel comfortable playing outside linebacker, standing up some, and also feel comfortable getting down there in that three technique on the pass rush on third down.”
Smith has signed a four-year, $2.673 million contract that included a $483,124 signing bonus, and he looks to earn his pay behind Suggs and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil as a versatile threat.
“I watched him when he was in Kentucky, and I’m sure [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] brings nothing but great talent here,” Dumervil said.
“He’s just got to follow the lead, man. We’ve got guys who can lead him—myself, Suggs. So far, he works hard. So that’s a great thing.”
Smith’s frame and talent have also drawn comparisons to McPhee, and he solidified the passing of the mantle by assuming his No. 90 jersey.
But Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that there’s more to Smith.
“You have the number and the ponytail, so there’s obvious comparison to Pernell, but he’s a little different than Pernell in the way he plays,” Harbaugh said.
“He’s his own man, very athletic guy, very serious guy in terms of his approach to the game.
“He’s a good fit for our defense, so I’m excited about seeing how he does. This I slike all those guys. Once we get the pads on, we’ll know a lot more. But so far, so good.”