For an incoming NFL player, the second season is often looked at as the season that sees says player take his biggest steps forward. But by the third season, fans and coaches alike usually have a good idea of what kind of player he is to become.
Za'Darius Smith has rebounded from an anonimous second season to become a legitimate rotation option at outside linebacker in his third year. Tony Jefferson's interception was a direct result of Smith’s quarterback hit, as the ball came out quicker and with less velocity than Tom Savage intended.
Even if Smith rarely wins quickly, his tenacity and his motor allow him to win late in the down and still impact the play. The missed sack opportunity that saw him slip exposed his lack of bend, showing Smith will never be a bookend pass rusher. As a rotation option however, he is more than capable of spelling a stud pass rusher - Terrell Suggs at this very moment - and disrupt plays.
Smith's solid play has kept Tyus Bowser from seeing a significant amount of snaps. While Bowser should see more snaps just by value of being the more explosive pass rusher, Smith deserves credit for keeping him on the sidelines.
Smith could stand to bring more production as an inside pass rusher but the emergence of Willie Henry makes the situation less dire than what it could potentially have been.
For the moment, Smith has solidified his place on the roster. Any added bonus to the Ravens pass rush is a welcome contribution.