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The Ravens might have found themselves a pretty solid player in Daryl Smith.
For nearly a decade, Daryl Smith plied his craft in relative obscurity in Jacksonville, where their games are rarely shown nationally and sometimes blacked out locally. He did a little bit of everything for the Jaguars. He could tackle, he could cover and he could blitz, and he played all three linebacker spots at different points in his time there, although he usually played on the outside. He never made it to the Pro Bowl, but my friends over at Pro Football Focus graded him out as one of the top five linebackers in football over the past five seasons. He was a spot ahead of Ravens icon Ray Lewis on the list they released last month. But he played just two games in 2012 due to a groin injury, and the Jaguars, who are in the middle of another significant rebuild, parted ways with Smith, who turned 31 in April.
Smith hasn't been in Baltimore for long, but he has already earned the respect of his teammates with his professionalism and preparation. Smith admits he is still learning the nuances of the Ravens' 3-4 defense after playing well in Jacksonville's 4-3 scheme. But in his first game action with the Ravens defense, Smith sure looked like he knew where he was supposed to be. Smith started for the Ravens, was an every-down player and recorded five tackles, including one for a loss. He also was credited with batting down a pass, but let's be honest, that one looked like it should have been a forced fumble, especially in the post-Tuck Rule world in which we currently live. Either way, though, it was a nice start for Smith.
The inside linebacker position still remains mostly unsettled. Jameel McClain has a bruised spine, and while he says he feels fine, he can't step onto the field until doctors clear him. No one knows if or when that will happen. Rookie Arthur Brown is a player I liked a lot coming out of college. He can run, which is why we saw him out there with Smith in some third-and-long situations, but it might be a while until he is ready to start. The Ravens also have a pair of former undrafted free agents in Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan. Bynes started next to Smith on Thursday night. The Ravens have to replace two starters at inside linebacker and, just like at the wide receiver position, the competition is wide open. But I think the Ravens can now pencil Smith in at one of those inside linebacker spots -- and feel pretty good about it.
August 8, 2013