Last offseason when the Packers brought in Preston and Za’Darius Smith nobody expected them to become the one of the best pass rush tandems in the NFL. Last year the Packers were the only team to have two players surpass the 12 sack mark. However, Za’Darius and Preston will look to be even more dominant in year two.
Za’Darius Smith Will Lead The League in Sacks
After a 13.5 sack regular season, Za’Darius Smith tallied two more sacks in the playoffs. If his sack numbers weren’t already impressive enough, Smith led the leage in quarterback hits. His 37 quarterback hits and 13.5 sacks helped him achieve a 18.2 percent pressure rate according to PFF (@PFF), which led the NFL. Last year the NFL sack leader was Shaquil Barrett. He finished the season with 19.5 sacks. If Smith can turn some of those quarterback hits and pressures into more sacks, he should have no problem hitting the 20 sack mark. Smith will be playing in his second year under Mike Pettine and should be even more comfortable in his role. In addition to his skill set, Za’Darius Smith comes into the season with a chip on his shoulder. He was not selected to an all pro team or the original pro bowl roster. Smith has big goals going into the season and has the motivation to take over.
Preston Smith Will Force Five Fumbles
It’s definitely an odd prediction, but not without reason. Time and time again last season fans saw Preston Smith get around the edge before the lineman was even out of his stance. One example is on Monday Night Football when he was able to get to Stafford on third down by timing the snap count. Ultimately, this is just one example of Preston’s ability to time the snap. Last season he forced one fumble coming around the edge to get Joe Flacco. However, the big reason for this prediction is the possibility of quieter stadiums. Lambeau Field will not have fans for at least the first two home games. It can be assumed that many teams will take similar precautions. Now imagine the damage Preston Smith could do without constant fan noise while trying to react to the quarterbacks cadence. Smith clearly has the ability and will have the opportunity. He forced three fumbles his rookie year so he should have no trouble being able to knock the ball loose. All of this paired with the fact that he will see more one on one opportunities, thanks to Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith, should let him get the ball out a lot this season.