Packers desperately miss Za’Darius Smith this season

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

Moving on from Za’Darius Smith was an understandable move by the Green Bay Packers in the offseason.

Smith had only played in one regular season game last season, and the Packers desperately needed to free up cap space.

It felt like the right move for both the Packers and Smith was to move on.

But there’s no doubt that the Packers miss him this year.

Smith has stayed healthy this season and got back to his Pro Bowl best with the Minnesota Vikings. Smith has made 9.5 sacks in the Vikings’ opening 10 games, ranking fourth in the NFL. He has also made 17 quarterback hits.

Smith is on pace for a little over 16 sacks, which would be a new career-best. He is also on track for a little under 29 quarterback hits, which would be the second-most in his career. He made 37 in 2019, his first season for Green Bay.

Packers fans know exactly how good Smith is.

Smith made 26 sacks and 60 quarterback hits in 33 regular-season games for Green Bay, earning two Pro Bowl selections. He was also a second-team All-Pro in 2020.

Green Bay’s pass rush has been solid this season, although most of the production has come from the starters.

According to ESPN, the Packers rank sixth in pass rush win rate this season. However, they only have 22 sacks, which ranks 18th in the league. They have been too inconsistent.

Star pass rusher Rashan Gary made six sacks in nine games before suffering a season-ending injury. Preston Smith has five sacks in 11 games.

But rookie Kingsley Enagbare is the only other edge rusher on the roster to make a sack this season. He has two, and looks to be a good player for the future.

But there’s no doubt the Packers miss Smith. His ability to make sacks at key moments in games and his leadership made him a star player in Green Bay’s defense.

Smith starred in the Packers’ division-winning victory over the Vikings in 2019. He had 3.5 sacks and five quarterback hits in that game.

Three years on, Smith is helping the Vikings take back the NFC North crown.