With Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware making every fan jealous of pass rush weapons neutralizing offensive schemes so quickly, Ravens fans are becoming more stressed with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on the wrong side of 30. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker Za'Darius Smith is attempting to quite the critics.
The now sophomore linebacker Za'Darius Smith had an interesting showing last season. Expecting a slow rotational role with Suggs & Dumervil on the field Smith had a chance to learn behind two of the great pass rushers in the league, unfortunately Suggs took another achilles tear, once again heading to the injured reserve list. This forced the rookie to a trial by fire.
By week four the Ravens were winless and beat down. Injuries constantly affecting the squad. Za'Darius Smith took this time to open up a two sack outing, taking the back-up Michael Vick down twice, and on back-to-back plays. NFL.com has the video here, and I will break it down for you.
On the first sack you see Za'Darius watch for anything Vick shows, at the same time engaging and bull-rushing Pittsburgh's right tackle. Pushing back further he sees the play-action by Le'Veon Bell, and the pulled left guard comes to help the right tackle. Za'Darius engages with the pulled guard forcing him back. Vick finishes his rollout (and misses the read to Heyward-Bey). Smith is continuing to search out for Vick. Smith splits between the pulled left guard and right tackle as Vick tries to step in the pocket but Smith has already cut off the angle of escape. Smith never slowed down, showing a high motor and great effort pushing towards the quarterback.
Second sack Za' lines up inside as a 3-4 defensive end. Smith bullrushes the center and gets a single blocker. Smith continues bullrushing until the center is planted seven yards behind the initial line of scrimmage. The inside pressure of Za'darius, and Timmy Jernigan both pushing their blockers seven yards back collapsed the pocket to the point Za'darius side steps the blocker and is already atop Vick. Great power and footwork to engage the blocker through until he reaches the point to sidestep and sack the quarterback.
Za'Darius is showing promise, and his final games showed he finally got into the NFL gearbox. Last three games the linebacker took down the quarterback 3.5 times against AFC play-off teams Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. A little bit too late for any kind of play-off push, but that speaks volumes of character not giving up even as a rookie when the Ravens have been down and out for the entire season.
Smith can be the future Baltimore needs, with 5.5 sacks his rookie season he could possibly reach 10 next year, especially with the secondary becoming bolstered through free agency or the NFL draft. An extra half-second of pass coverage could help this big 6'4' & 275 pound linebacker.