After last seasons sack-stravaganza by Za’Darius Smith, the sophomore linebacker is craving more.
"It’s just getting in the game any way I can," Smith said. "On third downs, I think I’ll be a three technique. That’s what I see myself as, and most people do, because of who I was recruited to be with Pernell. I think I’ll be a third-down rusher."
Za’Darius finished the season with 3.5 sacks in the last four games of the 2015-2016 season. All four of those squads were play-off teams.
This off-season Smith put in serious work, training in Baton Rouge, La., at Traction Sports Performance. His goal, to become a true pass-rush threat and become dynamic on third downs.
"I needed better get-off," Za’Darius said. "My first year, I was more hesitant and just keying different things. Now I know what to key. I’m learning some tricks."
Great news, it’s been working. So much that Head Coach John Harbaugh lost a $1 bet that Smith was offsides on a particular play during Baltimore’s Organized Team Activities (OTA’s).
"He was right on time, and actually, one of the lineman had even flinched," Harbaugh said. "I have to pay him a dollar."
Expectations for Smith have been far and wide. He could be be the edge-setting run stopper on early downs a la Courtney Upshaw. His pass rush skills may keep him as a three down linebacker, keying in pass rush on third, and edge setting on first & second downs. He could become strictly a three technique pass rush weapon when called upon. All that doesn’t matter though, as Za’Darius said earlier, "It’s just getting in the game any way I can".