In 2019, the Smith Bros. were one of the most productive pass-rushing duos in football. The Green Bay Packers had hit a home run by signing both the previous offseason.
But Preston Smith took a step back last season. His numbers weren’t as strong and his overall performances weren’t the same as we saw in 2019.
Can Smith get back to his best this year?
Last season, Smith made four sacks, 11 QB hits, three pass defenses, and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. According to Pro Football Reference, Smith also had five hurries, six QB knockdowns, and 16 pressures.
Smith entered the season with high expectations but his production dropped in just about every category. From double-digit sacks in 2019 to only four last year, along with fewer pressures and hurries, Smith took a step back in year two with the Packers.
His snap counts dropped slightly as he struggled to repeat his previous season’s form, and he made three fewer starts than in ’19.
There were moments when Smith played like the game-changing pass rusher we saw in his debut season in Green Bay, but they were few and far between.
With Rashan Gary finishing the season strong and Za’Darius Smith consistently making plays, Preston Smith will need to get back to his best to maintain a starting spot in the Packers’ defense.
Will he make the roster?
Yes. This seemed uncertain at the beginning of the offseason given Smith’s big contract, but the Packers restructured his deal to bring his 2021 cap hit down. That was a sign they didn’t plan to move on from Smith, but instead worked out a way to lower his cap hit.
What to expect in 2021
If Smith gets back to how he was playing two years ago, this pass rush will be scary. Za’Darius Smith has made the Pro Bowl two years running and Gary played some great football late last season. This could be an excellent pass-rush trio.
But a lot depends on whether Preston Smith can regain his 2019 form. That year, he made 12 sacks and 23 QB hits, consistently making plays alongside Za’Darius Smith.
However, as Smith struggled to put up similar numbers a year later, the entire pass rush took a step back.
The Packers need Smith back to his best to help this defense reach its potential in 2021.