In March, the Green Bay Packers signed free agent outside linebacker, Za’Darius Smith. According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Smith ranked 21 on his “list of best available free agents from the class of 2019.” Smith’s four-year, $66 million deal guaranteed him $34.5 million over his first two seasons with his new team. In 16 games with the Baltimore Ravens last year, Smith achieved 25 quarterback hits and 8.5 sacks. Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst noted this successful season and added Smith to give his defense more punch. It’s no secret that the Packers’ defense had been rather stagnant and trending downward. As Za’Darius Smith continues a monster, Pro Bowl-worthy year, he emerges as the leader in the Packers 2019 defense.
Za’Darius Smith Emerges as the Leader in the Green Bay Packers Defense
The Packers defense has ranked 12th, 21st, 26th, 22nd, and 13th from 2015-2019. The city of Green Bay expects championships. When the defense is consistently ranking out of the top 10, and even into the 20s, there’s no way this team has a chance at sniffing a championship. Even though the Pack currently ranks outside of the top ten defenses, they are making serious strides.
The addition of Smith this season has made a huge impact. Through his 12 games, the edge rusher has 10 sacks, 43 tackles, and 28 quarterback hits. Smith has brought with him the urgency of getting pressure on the quarterback. Zach Kruse of Packers Wire writes, “At his current pace, Smith will finish the 2019 season with 91 pressures, 13.5 sacks and 32 quarterback hits.” This free agency pickup might be one of the best personnel decisions the Packers have ever made.
Za’Darius Smith’s Leadership
Smith brings not only his incredible talent to the game each week but also a contagious joy to the locker room. He maintains a positive outlook during interviews. He leads by his play on the field and his attitude off the field. Up until this season, the Packers defense didn’t have much confidence, and it showed. However, the arrival of Smith has created a new, encouraging, scrappy vibe from which the defensive players can learn and grow.
Smith learned that the mother of Packers equipment staffer Ben Booker was sick and decided to include a tribute to her in his next sack celebration. As Lily Zhao, WFRV Sports Anchor & Reporter shared in the below tweet, Smith showed off a shirt underneath his uniform that read, “We love Eileen”.
One of the #Packers equipment staff members’ moms is sick. Za’Darius Smith told me he’s gonna flash this “We ❤️ Eileen” undershirt if he can get a sack tonight. She’s a huge fan of the Pack. pic.twitter.com/A9Plv8fZKj
— Lily Zhao (@LilySZhao) November 24, 2019
Actions like this help to galvanize the team and create a close bond. It’s clear that Smith is passionate about bringing the entire Packers staff together from players and coaches to equipment staff. That desire can only help the team. Both Smith’s high level of play and his infectious positivity could spur the Pack on to more championships in the coming seasons.