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Ravens OLB Za’Darius Smith wins AFC defensive player of the week

Smith was a key catalyst in the Ravens dominant, shutout victory against the Titans

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens outside linebacker and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith was awarded AFC defensive player of the week honors this afternoon. Against the Titans in Week 6, Smith recorded five total tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.

His third sack of the day was the Ravens eleventh on a Sunday, which set the franchise-record for most sacks in a game. It was a dominant performance overall by the defense, but Smith was the most impressive individual player.

Smith is a rising star this season and has been one of the Ravens most impressive defensive players. He currently ranks first on the team in sacks and is tied for fifth in total tackles.

After recording three sacks last week, Smith’s total is now at 5.5 on the season. This matches his career-high, which he set during a strong rookie season in 2015. With 10 games remaining this season, Smith could very well double this number.

Smith looked like a breakout candidate following his rookie season, but struggled to be anything more than a rotational piece over the past two seasons. In his fourth season at age 26, however, Smith appears to be putting it all together.

His 72.4 grade on Pro Football Focus is the highest among all Ravens linebackers and ranks sixth overall on defense behind Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Williams, Tony Jefferson, Brent Urban and Anthony Levine Sr.

In a contract season, Smith may be playing his way out of the Ravens price range. For now, however, all Baltimore can do is reap the on-field benefits of Smith’s stellar play this season.