Ravens' Daryl Smith remains NFL's best unheralded linebacker

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith epitomizes the player who goes to work, does his job and keeps his head down.

Smith generally doesn't get mentioned among the top linebackers in the NFL, and you get the sense that he really isn't bothered by that. Few realize he's the third-leading tackler in the NFL, and that includes Smith himself.

"Wow, really?," Smith said.

Even though he has never made a Pro Bowl, Smith has been one of the most consistent and durable linebackers over the last decade.

Smith's 76 tackles trail only the Indianapolis Colts' D'Qwell Jackson (93) and the San Francisco 49ers' NaVorro Bowman (88). He's on pace for 152, which would be the most by a Ravens defender since Ray Lewis had 164 in 2009.

Signed by the Ravens in 2013, Smith had the inevitable job of replacing Lewis and his reserved demeanor couldn't be much more different than that of the verbose 13-time Pro Bowl player. But you never hear about the Ravens missing the play of Lewis because Smith has filled in so admirably.

"Daryl Smith is the most underrated linebacker in football, without question," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I'll stand on that all day long."

On Sunday, Smith returns to Jacksonville, where he played nine seasons (2004-12). He remains the Jacksonville Jaguars' all-time leading tackler, but Smith's play is appreciated by more than just the Jaguars and Ravens.

"I think he’s one of those players where he should get way more attention, for sure," linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "But [opponents] do try to scheme him, so I think coaches and players know about him."

Smith has had his struggles at different points in the season. He leads the Ravens with 10 missed tackles, and he isn't as disruptive in the passing game (like dropping a Peyton Manning pass for what could've been a touchdown).

But it's remarkable that Smith remains an every-down linebacker in his 12th NFL season. In that regard, he is very much like Lewis.

Smith is the only player in the NFL this season with at least 66 tackles with multiple sacks and pass breakups.

Asked if he's the same player he was five years ago, Smith said, "I don't know. I think I've gotten wiser a little bit, but turn on the film and watch it. I guess I don't break myself down like that. I look at things that I can get better at and I try to work on those things but that's it though."

At 33, Smith is the oldest player on the Ravens' current 53-man roster. He is the second-oldest inside linebacker behind the Cleveland Browns' Karlos Dansby.

Smith, who is signed through the 2017 season, isn't thinking about calling it quits.

"I've got no plans on stopping, not right now," Smith said. "I just come in and give the team everything I've got and hopefully that equates to helping us win some games, get in the playoffs and making a run for a championship. That's all I have on my mind right now."

And on Smith's right now is getting the Ravens' third win of the season, not his second game against Jacksonville. He acknowledged that he thought he would play his entire career with the Jaguars, but he said there are no hard feelings.

Smith chuckled when asked if seeing the Jaguars' uniforms will stir up memories.

"Let's be clear, I didn't put those uniforms on," Smith said, referring to the team's redesigned look.