What’s Next for Preston Smith….

The nine-year veteran has been an impact player for the Packers since joining the team in 2019. Often overshadowed by Za’Darius Smith and then Rashan Gary, Preston Smith has been a solid second edge rusher.

Since joining the Packers, Preston Smith has 41.5 sacks (including 12 in his first year with the team), six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one touchdown, and one interception.

Smith tends to have his best seasons in odd-numbered years. That’s holding true for the 2023 season, where he has eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and 21 QB hits. Smith’s PFF grade is a solid 73.5.

He was the most dominant player on defense against the Vikings, taking advantage of the double teams Gary faced. Smith consistently dominated Christian Darrisaw and made life difficult for Minnesota’s QB carousel. He had four pressures, one sack, and forced a crucial fumble. Smith was the highest-graded defender for PFF (90.3) and Andy Herman (+0.75).

Green Bay’s pass rush has faltered against some weak offensive lines in recent weeks, so having one of the team’s highest-paid players showing up in a big way in a must-win game was delightful.

If teams focus on covering Gary, we need to see these kinds of performances from Smith.

It feels imminent that Joe Barry’s time in Green Bay will soon come to an end. The defense was excellent against Minnesota, and Matt LaFleur praised it. But Barry’s overall body of work isn’t impressive. LaFleur’s comments don’t seem like a coach dedicated to keeping his lackluster coordinator around.

We don’t know exactly what LaFleur will seek in his next coordinator. He could stick to a similar scheme with a better coordinator or could (and probably should) consider a different scheme and philosophy.

Whatever route he goes, that new DC will need skilled pass-rushers, something a team can never have too many of. And a nine-year veteran in the room will make that person’s life much easier.

Pass rush coordinator Jason Rebrovich has always lauded Smith’s leadership and value in the locker room.

“He’s got nine years of experience in this league,” Rebrovich said in December. “That’s a lot. I put my arm around him and ask him questions about what his daily routine is and how he does it. How he’s seen it.”

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