It seems unlikely Za’Darius Smith will be available for the Packers’ season opener.
Still recovering from a back injury that had kept him sidelined for a few weeks, Green Bay Packers edge rusher Za’Darius Smith appears set to miss his first game with the team.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Smith isn’t practicing on Friday, which he notes “means he’s unlikely to play Sunday”.
Smith had been a limited participant at practice the past two days, so hopefully this isn’t a setback, but rather a day of rest if they know he won’t play on Sunday.
It makes sense to be extra cautious here as back injuries can be difficult. There’s no point rushing Smith back, only for him to make the injury worse and miss more time later in the season.
Clearly, it’s bad news for Sunday’s trip to Jacksonville. New Orleans boasts one of the league’s best tackle pairings and a strong offensive line. If Smith is out, it’d be the first time under Matt LaFleur that the Packers would be without their number one pass rusher.
Over to you, Rashan Gary.
The third-year edge rusher has been picked by many, including myself, as a breakout candidate for the Packers this season. Well, here’s a chance to show it.
To go into this game without Za’Darius Smith, but to put in a strong individual performance and generate a consistent pass rush, would show Gary is ready to take that next step.
With Jameis Winston starting his first game at QB since 2019, generating pressure could be key to forcing turnovers. If Winston has time, he’s talented enough to make the Packers pay.
We await the Packers’ final injury report of the week, which will give us a better idea of Smith’s status. But with the Pro Bowler not practicing on Friday, the outlook doesn’t look too good.