The Ravens hope outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith becomes an impact pass rusher, after finishing his rookie season with a flourish.
Things clicked for Smith during the final three games of 2015, when he had 3 ½ of his 5 ½ sacks. The Ravens loaded up on pass rushers in the draft, taking outside linebacker Kamalei Correa (second round), defensive end Branson Kaufusi (third round), and outside linebacker Matt Judon (fifth round).
However, the Ravens’ pass rush could be dramatically better if Smith picks up where he left off.
“I just think he needs to be more consistent,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh of an OTA practice. “He’s played very well. He’s shown he can be an explosive pass rusher last year, and of course, now he’s looking really good. He’s another guy that’s in phenomenal shape.”
Harbaugh has stayed on Smith about avoiding careless penalties, like lining up offside. But the Ravens can’t expect veteran linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs to lead their pass rush forever. Smith is one of the young rushers being counted on to step up.