This may seem like a no-brainer for most people, but my Baltimore Ravens MVP for the first half of the season is inside linebacker Daryl Smith.
How many people could have predicted what the 31-year-old has been able to do this season thus far? Not only does the 10-year veteran lead the Ravens in tackles (62) and interceptions (two), but he is sixth in the NFL in total tackles and has managed to take one of the interceptions back from a touchdown. He also has matched a career high with eight passes defended.
It seems like all throughout the offseason, the main concern this Ravens team had was how they were going to replace former insider linebacker and first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis. Sure, the leadership aspect Lewis provided has dissipated from this locker room, but Smith has become a leader by example.
There isn’t a guy who is a better pure tackler on this team than No. 51. As far as the defense is concerned, he is probably the only player who has been able to shell out consistent performances week in and week out. I guess Smith not being as vocal as Lewis hurts in some regards, but he is generally well-respected throughout the NFL today.
Just last year, he was listed in Pro Football Focus’ Top 100 players in the league as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was easily forgotten about because they are a bad football team. It just so happens that he was battling a tough groin injury that limited him to just two games last season and now, he has come back better than ever. While he’s only tallied over 100 tackles twice in his career, he is well on his way to surpass that mark and then some in 2013.
Smith is the one guy on this defense who I can look to definitively and say he’s the best. As good as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have been for the Ravens this season, Daryl has been the guy who’s kept a low profile and let his play do all of the talking for him.