After leading the Ravens pass rush in a record-breaking win over the Tennessee Titans, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time Wednesday.
In just 22 snaps, Smith had a career-high three sacks Sunday, the most on a defense that finished with a franchise-record 11. He forced a fumble on his second sack of Marcus Mariota, which, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, was the league’s 13th fastest this season.
The fourth-year player already has 5½ sacks in 2018, tied for fifth most in the NFL and as many as he had in his career-best rookie year. He’s on pace for 14½ total this season; only Elvis Dumervil (17 in 2014) and Peter Boulware (15 in 2001) have had more in a single Ravens season.
“Just growing as a player,” Smith said Sunday. “I didn’t play football that long, and Coach [John] Harbaugh has been talking to me about working on my craft, practicing every day. Practice makes perfect. Me just going to work every day and playing my heart out, man. It’s starting to show, and I’m just glad everybody is seeing it.”
Safety Eric Weddle was the last Raven to be named AFC Defensive Player of the Week, after Week 13 last season. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, previously was the team's only player to be honored by the NFL this season.