Packers 2020 roster preview: Za’Darius Smith set for another big year

Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Za’Darius Smith is set for another big year with the Packers.

Za’Darius Smith was the star of the Green Bay Packers‘ defense in 2019.

The Packers signed him based on the potential he had shown as a backup edge rusher with the Baltimore Ravens. Finally given a starting job in the Packers defense, he showed just how dominant he is.

And we should expect more of the same in 2020.

2019 stats

Smith started all 16 games, finishing with 13.5 sacks, 37 quarterback hits, 55 tackles, and a forced fumble.

2019 review

A great leader, an elite pass rusher, and a home-run free-agent addition for the Packers.

Za’Darius Smith made play after play last season and proved to be worth the huge four-year, $66 million contract he signed last offseason.

Even when Smith didn’t make the sack he still impacted the game. No player in the NFL had more quarterback hits than Smith’s 37. Only five players had more sacks.

According to ESPN, Smith had a pass rush win rate of 23 percent, eighth-best among edge defenders. He also had the second-best disruption rate with 17.5 percent, according to’s Nick Shook.

After a dominant season, Smith went to his first Pro Bowl. The first of many.

Odds of making roster: 100 percent

No question about it. Following Smith’s breakout season, he’s a roster lock. The question now is whether he’ll make the All-Pro team.

What to expect in 2020?

For the Packers, the hope is for more of the same from Smith.

Za’Darius Smith formed a dominant pass-rushing tandem with Preston Smith, who was also a big free-agent signing by the Packers in the offseason. The two combined for a league-best 25.5 sacks, a total no other pass-rushing tandem could match.

Both Smiths were healthy all season which was huge for this defense. They both dealt with injuries throughout the year, but none was serious enough to keep them off the field for long. Za’Darius Smith battled through and didn’t miss a start all season, while also playing on an incredible 84 percent of the defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will likely want to get second-year Rashan Gary move involved which could potentially lower Smith’s snap count from last year slightly. But if Gary can contribute in his second season, keeping Smith fresh would be great news.

But he’s going to be on the field a lot. Smith’s dominance was key to Green Bay’s pass defense last season and that will be no different in 2020.