The Impact of Preston and Za’Darius Smith

Preston and Za'Darius Smith
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 15: Za'Darius Smith #55 and Preston Smith #91 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on September 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers have appeared to strike gold when general manager Brian Gutekunst signed both Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith from the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.

Being active in free agency — which hasn’t been a trend in Green Bay under former general manager Ted Thompson — has turned this Packers team into a contender that starts and ends with the Smiths on defense.

Preston, Za’Daruis Smith Reshaping Green Bay Packers Defense

In fact, both Smiths through 10 weeks of the 2019 season, have already cracked the top 10 sacks list with Preston accounting for 10 sacks (third in the NFL) and Za’Darius with 8.5 sacks (tied for sixth in the NFL).

Creating pressure up the middle and around the edge has been something of a nightmare for Green Bay in recent seasons. Just a season ago, the Packers were near the bottom in several categories on defense. As a whole they were ranked 18th and so far in 2019 …they’re still at 18.

But the eye test alone has proven that this year’s defensive team has played much better through 10 weeks than stats would lead you to believe. And again, it starts and ends with the Smiths.

Preston has had at least one sack in every game but three while Za’Darius has had at least a sack in every game but four. For comparison’s sake, Clay Matthews only contributed 3.5 sacks through 16 games and Kenny Clark added six sacks for a total of 9.5.

Setting the Defensive Tone

The Smiths have already combined for 18.5 sacks which ranks them first in tandems in getting home against quarterbacks.

The emergence of their high-level of play as paid dividends for other key defenders to get off to a strong start, as well. Players like Tramon Williams, Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage had played at a high level this season because they’re not being asked to cover for an eternity while the defense puts the pressure on.

Most importantly is the defensive culture they’ve brought to Green Bay. The two are always doing interviews together, sticking up for one another, and among the first to take the blame when something goes wrong on defense.

It’s been a long time since a defensive leader has walked into that locker room, since, most likely, the days of Charles Woodson

When you have a defense that gels together on and off the field, it can be a tremendous relationship that unifies towards their goal of winning a Super Bowl.

Keeping Their Eye on the Prize

What’s scary is that there are still six games left for the “Super Smith Bros.” to add to their overall totals and being the anchors on defense that they are. Both are projected to have at least 15 sacks each at their current pace — which again, is a feat not seen around these parts in Green Bay.

Losing either player to injury would be a major blow to this Packers defense and you have to give credit to coach Matt LaFleur for keeping his guys constantly healthy through 10 grueling weeks.

It was normal in Green Bay to have multiple players banged up and on the injured reserve, but LaFleur has waved the magic wand, and for it, the Smiths are consistently on the field for nearly every defensive snap.

With their next game getting flexed onto Sunday Night against the San Francisco 49ers, the rest of the league can watch the dynamic duo go to work and show everyone why they were brought to Green Bay.

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