Ravens' Zachary Orr aiming for starting job in 2016, even if Daryl Smith is back

Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr (54) sacks Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in the fourth quarter on Oct. 26, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr (54) sacks Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in the fourth quarter on Oct. 26, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium.(Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

In what has now become an annual season-ending tradition for veteran Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith, the stalwart defender returned home after the team's disappointing 2015 to ponder his future.

If he decides not to return for a fourth season with the Ravens and his 13th year in the NFL, his top deputy this season — Zachary Orr — believes he's the man who should replace him.


"If Daryl comes back, the competitor in me, I'd love to see him back," Orr said earlier this month during the team's locker clean-out day. "But whether he's here or not, I'm going to come in trying to compete for a starting job. Regardless of what I've been doing the last couple years, I'm going to continue to do that the rest of my career."

Orr climbed from an undrafted free agent who played special teams in 2014 to a substitute in the team's third-down defense who sometimes replaced Smith in his second season.

He ended up playing 13.5 percent of the team's 1,063 snaps on defense, filling a substantial role in the second half of the season. Orr said that was a boost as he begins to prepare for next season.

"I felt really comfortable," he said. "I got comfortable the more I was in there. I was really comfortable with the scheme, especially with the practices and everything but game speed is a lot different, so the more I played, the game started to slow down a lot more for me and I was able to read concepts more, and was able to help me out more and help me get more playing time.

"The game is slowing down, I was able to make some plays out there, was able to hold my own out there and the thing that's crazy about it is I know how much better I can be. I'm nowhere near where I know I'm going to be at. That's what gives me confidence."

If Smith returns, he will likely be back alongside  standout C.J. Mosley on the inside of the defense. Orr and former second-round draft pick Arthur Brown were the backups this season. But considering Orr played significantly more and Brown has played just 10 defensive snaps the past two years, Orr has the inside track for the starting spot otherwise.

He had 17 total tackles, including one sack and two tackles for loss. He did well in coverage, and was fourth on the team with five special teams tackles.

"It's just building steps," Orr said. "I look at it as, when I came in my rookie year, I played mainly special teams. Then this year, I was able to earn a role on defense and now I want to take it to the next step. I want an expanded role. You never want to decline. I always want to incline, so whether it's even more reps than I was on this past year, or whether it's starting, I always want to increase. I'm shooting for a starting spot."