Za’Darius Smith brought his A-game last Sunday against the Chiefs. The rookie defensive end from Kentucky had 4 tackles and 2 sacks, both tying career-highs.
Big Z has fought through the rookie learning curve and through some minor injuries, making it difficult to find consistency. Ravens Coach John Harbaugh saw flashes of what he could do in Week 4 against the Steelers, Z just needed a push to get over the hump.
“At one point in time I asked him, ‘Do you believe that you can be a dominant player in this league?'” Harbaugh said Z gave him a smile that we’re all very familiar with, “Of course he wanted to hear that. He can be.”
The speed of the NFL is an adjustment for all. As a pass rushing defensive end, the little nuances of the game make a huge difference. As Za’Darius becomes more disciplined, Harbaugh sees significant progress.
“He’s becoming more active. He’s more physical with his hands. He’s learning to stay in his rush lanes, he’s not just rushing over the top and running by the quarter back like every (offensive) tackle loves for you to do. He’s developed a good counter. He tried to do a crazy spin-move in there at one point on the right-side that we’ll talk to him about, ” he said with a grin. “That wasn’t very effective. He’s young. He’s honing some of that stuff up. He even goes inside and rushes. He’s going to be a factor for us in the future.”
Za’Darius has two weeks left to build on last week’s performance, but it won’t be easy against Division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.