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Daryl Smith Puts On A Show In First Game


Daryl Smith refused to talk about his individual performance Thursday night.

Everything was about "we," and the defensive "unit," after its preseason debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But while the veteran inside linebacker tried to stay out of the spotlight after the game, he was frequently in it between the lines.

Playing in his first game as a Raven, Smith recorded a team-high five tackles in just more than a quarter of work. He nearly added a forced fumble, but instant replay turned it into a pass deflection.

Smith knifed into the backfield to bring down Pro Bowl Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin on the first play of the game. Later in the quarter, he bullied his way through an offensive lineman's outside shoulder and hit backup quarterback Mike Glennon's arm. It was originally ruled a fumble, recovered by the Ravens, but replay reversed it to an incomplete pass.

When Smith was in the game, the standing Jacksonville Jaguars' all-time tackles leader was a magnet to the ball.

"Yeah, Daryl is that kind of player," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's nothing different than what he's done all those years in Jacksonville. He played really well, becoming somewhat of a quarterback of the defense, because he calls the defenses."

Everybody within the Ravens organization has been highly impressed with Smith since signing him on June 6. Harbaugh quickly said he looked to be another free agent unearthed gem by General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Quarterback Joe Flacco, who added that he doesn't usually notice defensive players, said Smith is standing out in practice.

Smith's quick understanding of the Ravens defense has been especially extraordinary. Outside linebackers Coach Ted Monachino said Smith is "ahead of the game – a lot like a linebacker we had here for a long time."

With Ray Lewis retired and Jameel McClain still sidelined with a spinal cord injury, Smith is emerging as the Ravens' leader at inside linebacker. He certainly talks like it.

"I thought as a unit, we came out and did some good things," he said Thursday night. "It's just the first [game]. The more we play together, we'll gain that chemistry and communication and we'll be on the same page."

The Ravens did have some communication issues on defense, which is partly due to having so many new pieces working together. It contributed to a 61-yard pass to tight end Tom Crabtree, in which he was left wide open behind the defense.

It's unknown whether Smith's communication, or lack thereof, contributed to the issues, or whether it was a breakdown in the secondary. But Smith, as the new quarterback of the defense, put it on his shoulders. He's transitioning from playing mostly outside linebacker in Jacksonville to inside linebacker in Baltimore, so it's a new role for him.

"When you have new guys come in to a system, we all have to be talking the same way, we all have to communicate," Smith said. "Communication is a big part of being a good defense. "

After spending his first nine seasons in Jacksonville, where he went to the playoffs just twice, Smith is happy to be in purple and black.

"This is a first-class organization and I'm happy and proud to be a Raven," he said. "I have great teammates and great coaches. Guys come out and work hard every day. Only time will tell, but we've just got to come in and continue to work. If we do that, I think we can do some special things."

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