Packers: Za’Darius Smith on track to return for divisional round

Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Packers are getting another star player back for the playoffs.

Without many of their key players, the Green Bay Packers were still able to secure the top seed in the NFC with a game to spare.

After getting All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and starting center Josh Myers back in Sunday’s game versus the Detroit Lions, it now looks like another key player is on track to return.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Packers star pass rusher Za’Darius Smith was ‘fully cleared’ in the past few days and is expected to play in the divisional round.

This is huge news for a Packers defense that has been without Smith since the season opener.

In Smith’s absence, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith were relied on to make the difference, and they have both put in excellent seasons.

Gary led the way with 9.5 sacks and 28 quarterback hits. Preston Smith had nine sacks and 17 quarterback hits.

Now, getting Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith back is huge. He can, of course, rush the passer off the edge, but his ability to line up on the inside also gives the defense a big boost. Even if Smith isn’t immediately given a full-time role and plays on obvious passing downs, he can make game-changing plays.

In his first two seasons for Green Bay, Smith made 26 sacks, 60 quarterback hits, 89 pressures, and forced four fumbles.

So often, it’s Za’Darius Smith coming up with a game-changing play at a crucial moment in a game. Smith has been the team’s best pass rusher in recent years and the Packers have missed him. With him returning to join Gary, who has had a breakout season, and Preston Smith, who has bounced back from last year, this pass rush can be very strong in the playoffs.

The Packers are getting healthier just in time. Let’s hope Smith is joined by Jaire Alexander and Randall Cobb in the divisional round.