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Replacing Terrell Suggs: Next Man Up?

The Ravens lost their cornerstone veteran linebacker in their first game, can someone from within step up?

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

It's a painful blow for the Ravens, but one that they have dealt with before. In 2012, the year of the Ravens most recent Super Bowl, the All-Pro linebacker went down in the offseason with a torn Achilles tendon. While Suggs had a miraculous recovery and was on the field only five and a half months later, both rookie Courtney Upshaw and veteran Paul Kruger did a fantastic job filling in for him.

Now some young Ravens must do the same again.

Enter Za'Darius Smith. While Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil will likely be the new starters, this rookie could make a big impact. The talent is certainly there, and now, so is the opportunity.

First, of course, is the obligatory college hype video.

Wow. What a beast. When he was selected in the fourth round of this year's draft, many compared him to Pernell McPhee, the former Raven and a 2011 fifth round selection. While I'm a little skeptical that Smith will be as good as McPhee, there's no reason the believe that he can't make an impact for the Ravens.

Smith has a basketball backgound, and only began playing football in his senior year. Those basketball traits show in his strong hands and linear physique. The linebacker has monstrous arms and hands, measuring in at 32 5/8" and 10", respectively. Smith plays with fervor and can jump off the line of scrimmage exceptionally well.

"Plays like his hair is on fire and is more than happy to mix it up with tackles in the trenches. Strong at the point of attack. Can stack and shed blockers using arm extension and power in hands. Will do the dirty work for a defense and is considered a good team-first player."

- Scouting Report

However, there are some questions marks surrounding Smith. For one, his 6'4" 274 lb. build might not be suitable for the NFL. This presents a further conundrum, is he big enough to be an end in the Ravens' 3-4 defense? His size seems best suited for the role of a 4-3 run stopper, not a end pass rusher.

While Smith is a project player who is very raw, the potential is certainly there. He looked solid in training camp, and even picked-sixed Matt Schaub in the opening days of practices. He was inactive for today's game, but with the Ravens only rostering three healthy outside linebackers, he'll likely see the field a lot more often.

There is also the possibility that the Ravens call up Brennen Beyer from the practice squad. Beyer, an undrafted rookie OLB out of Michigan, looked solid in camp and showed heart, but ultimately didn't make the cut.

The final scenario would be the Ravens signing a free agent. There are quite a few intriguing options out there, including Dwight Freeney and Brandon Spikes.

In the coming days, we will see what Ozzie has in store for this defense. One thing is for sure, Suggs will be sorely missed.