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Ravens under the microscope: Best case, worst case for LB Za'Darius Smith

Ravens under the microscope: Best case, worst case for LB Za'Darius Smith

As we countdown to training camp, Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka will take turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope this month.

They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day. They’ll begin with players looking to carve out a role, or a roster spot. They’ll end with the Ravens’ most important players, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE – Za'Darius Smith, second-year outside linebacker

Best-case scenario:

Smith is a starter and racks up double-digit sack totals

Why it could happen:

Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are both on the high side of 30 and returning from injuries. Suggs turns 34 in October and is coming off his second major Achilles injury. Dumervil is 32 and had offseason foot surgery. Courtney Upshaw, who started 15 games last year, is out of the picture after signing with the Falcons as a free agent. That could leave the door open for Smith to assume a larger role. The Ravens have big plans for him as a pass-rusher. Smith showed flashed last year, with 5 1/2 sacks, including a pair of sacks in two games. And just as the Ravens did with the versatile Pernell McPhee, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will find ways to get effective pass rushers on the field. If Smith proves to be that, he'll play a lot.

Worst-case scenario:

Smith has a limited, situational role.

Why it could happen:

If they are healthy, Suggs and Dumervil will once again line up outside in pass-rushing situations. The Ravens drafted two outside linebackers in Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon, though Correa is getting a long look as an inside backer as well. If Smith doesn't prove to be the edge-setter against the run that Upshaw was, someone else could take that role. And if a healthy Dumervil and Suggs take command in obvious passing situations, Smith's role could be limited.

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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USA TODAY Sports

As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER

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Heisman Trophy winner turned backup, Robert Griffin III fully embracing new role with Ravens

Heisman Trophy winner turned backup, Robert Griffin III fully embracing new role with Ravens

Robert Griffin III went from Heisman Trophy winner, to second-overall pick, to Offensive Rookie of the Year, to unemployed, to backup quarterback all in the matter of six years.

That's a rollercoaster of a career for a 28-year old, but RGIII is fully embracing the opportunity the Ravens have presented him with.

“I feel like I knew coming into this situation that this is Joe’s [Flacco] team," Griffin said at a press conference Wednesday.

"I understood that when I came in to work out; I understood that when I signed. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn from him. Whatever capacity the coaches ask me to help, that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to compete, and I’m here to get better every single day – work hard. I think they saw that from me in the workout and in our general conversations together. I think they realize I’m ready for the opportunity and I’m ready for this role – whatever that role may be.”

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER

Finding a backup quarterback that you can put some faith in during a time of desperation in today's league is a hard find, with the exception of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. 

While Griffin hasn't played since January of 2017, he offers legitimate experience that isn't being offered by typical backups. 

 "I feel like I’ve been able to get a better grasp of how to play the game in the NFL, what coaches are looking for. I think that’s a benefit, whereas in 2012 when I came in, it was more so learning everything on the fly and just going out and playing. Now I feel like I have to ability to go out and play and also know what I’m doing, be able to protect myself better, get the ball to the guys that need to get the ball and help a team win – in whatever way that is.”

The Ravens signed RGIII on a one-year contract worth $1 million - we're assuming- with hopes he'll never see the field during the regular season. Griffin made it clear he understands that role, but is looking forward to learning how to lead a team under a ten-year veteran. 

RELATED: RAVENS 2018 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

“Most of my interactions with Joe have been at midfield. I really do look forward to getting in the quarterback room with him. It’s a great opportunity for me. I still feel like I’m a young player. I’m 28, but I feel like I’m 25. He’s been through a lot of things in his career, been to the pinnacle and won a Super Bowl – Super Bowl MVP. I think that’s a great opportunity for me to learn and learn from him, and to just see the way that he attacks the game of football, the way he attacks the meeting room, practice, interacting with teammates – all those types of things – the way he leads." 

The RGIII saga in Baltimore is an open book right now, one that could come with an interesting ending.