An article previously wrote on SB Nation by Danny Kelly writing about These are the NFL's grittiest defensive role players. Now I don't completely agree that Daryl Smith is only a role player, the definition of role player shifts from person to person. In my mind role player means situational. Courtney Upshaw is still only a role player as he has not turned into a full 3-down player yet. Daryl Smith, is gritty, but he is a through and through NFL starting linebacker. I'll explain...
Courtney Upshaw has clearly been used in one situation and one situation only. Run stopping ability. Courtney Upshaw still hasn't figured out the complete pass rushing technique, therefore the Baltimore Ravens switch in Elvis Dumervil, who is also situational. Courtney Upshaw gets in the trenches, sets the edge, and battles it out to shut down the run game. On third and intermediate & long Upshaw swaps out with Dumervil to get the quarterback pressure. That is NFL grit in my book. Sacrificing the glorified sack numbers for hardcore trench work with little to no glorification.
Now, onto Daryl Smith. Smith is definitely a gritty player. Daryl is on a Baltimore Ravens defense which is always famous for hard nosed playmaking ability. Daryl Smith has been a vital cog in the coverage scheme. While they have the big linemen and other backs playing run coverage and pass rush, the pass coverage is overlooked. Yet, Daryl Smith in his past two seasons with the Ravens his lowest ranking in coverage ability has been ranked 8th in the league for inside linebackers. While we glorify (deservedly so) young stud C.J. Mosley the old battle veteran standing beside him has been just as great, only in the less gawdy talent.
Baltimore's Daryl Smith is another good example of an underrated talent that doesn't get the attention he deserves because he plays on a star-studded defense. He's about to begin his 12th year in the league, and is one of the Ravens' leaders on defense after racking up 120+ tackles in each of the past two years. He's a strong all-around player that can both defend the run and cover in the passing game.
Now while Daryl is in the twilight of his career I fully expect the same from Smith this season. Staying back and waiting out the lethal pass rush Baltimore is loaded with and making key plays in the backfield rather than behind the line of scrimmage.