GREEN BAY, Wis. – In four seasons with Washington, Preston Smith went from 8.0 sacks to 4.5, then 8.0 sacks to 4.0. In three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Smith went from 12.0 sacks in 2019 to 4.0 sacks in 2020 and back to 9.0 sacks in 2021.
See a trend?
With two sacks against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, do you see a trend being smashed?
Smith, who parlayed his nine-sack season into a contract extension, had one of the bigger plays on Sunday. Chicago took the opening kickoff and blew right through the defense for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead. With Green Bay answering to retake the lead, Smith on first down stormed around the corner and leveled Justin Fields for a sack. That kicked off a streak of five consecutive possessions in which the Packers didn’t allow a first down.
“Man, it’s really important that we don’t allow that to happen again,” Smith said after the game. “They moved the ball really well on us in that first drive, scored a touchdown for their team, and we knew when we came back out that we had to get a stop. We had to keep on building off those stops and gain our momentum and take their momentum away. So, we just had to come out there and play sound football after that, and we did really well.”
Smith added another sack in the fourth quarter. Through two games he ranks No. 1 among edge defenders in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-rushing productivity, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. Of 80 edges with at least 30 pass-rushing opportunities, Smith ranks seventh in PFF’s pass-rush win rate.
“After the game, I was sitting there talking – my wife was there, his mom was there, Preston’s wife and two children were there – and it’s just cool to see him come full circle," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said on Thursday, a few days before a Week 3 showdown at the Buccaneers.
“Like us all when we were 22 years old, we did some silly things and we were knuckleheads, and you just grow up. It’s been cool for me personally because I’ve been with Preston at two different places to see that progression and that process. The way Preston works and is a pro and practices every day, when you do those things, usually good things happen when the ball’s kicked off on Sunday.”
The strong start to the season is exactly what Barry and Smith forecast. Speaking at the start of the offseason program in April, Smith said he had an explanation for the yo-yo’ing stats.
“I do but I’m not going to tell you,” he said with a smile. “I just think this year, we’re definitely going to break that curse. We’re going to break that curse and we’re going to make sure we don’t go back down. We’re going to make sure we keep going up. … I feel like this year is the year I break that curse and I don’t have that rollercoaster stats no more.”
So far, so good for Smith, and a good step forward for a Packers defense that allowed too many big plays in a Week 1 loss to Minnesota. The run defense and tackling have been terrible but the Packers will carry some defensive momentum into Sunday’s showdown against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
“Definitely, this is closer to who we are,” he said. “We’re a relentless defense, make big plays, we don’t allow big plays made on us. There were some mistakes made tonight, some big plays made – a credit to the offense of Chicago. But we know if we go out there and we play sound football, it can be a great year for us on defense.”