When the Green Bay Packers signed the Smith Bros before the 2019 season, Packers fans were elated to see their general manager finally make a move in free agency. Brian Gutekunst also drafted Rashan Gary in the same offseason to bolster the depth along the edge. The two pass rush signings did not disappoint in that first season. They combined for 25.5 sacks and completely changed the dynamic of the Packer’s defense. Za’Darius was selected to the Pro Bowl while Preston was snubbed.
With more help on the back end, the defense that was spearheaded by the Smiths looked to get even better for the upcoming 2020 season. That is not what happened
Za’Darius was still dominant. He once again put up double digit sacks, and was double teamed second most in the NFL per ESPN Stats & Information. Preston was subpar. In his second season with Green Bay, he only racked up four sacks and eleven QB hits. When you play in all 16 games and are coming off a season of 12 sacks, the expectation is to at least be near double digits.
A great way to solve this issue is to slide Rashan Gary into the starting lineup with Za’Darius. Per Football Focus, Preston Smith played 814 defensive snaps this season. He recorded those four sacks, eleven QB hits, and had 42 total tackles. In comparison, Rashan Gary played 456 snaps on defense. He recorded five sacks, eleven QB hits, and 35 total tackles.
To assist even more on defense, Gary had five Tackles for loss, and a pass deflection, still in his limited roll. While Smith did have higher numbers in both of these categories, all signs point to Gary showing more promise if he were to have more snaps, and his averages for these numbers are larger than Preston Smith’s averages.
While this is only one season’s worth of a sample, Rashan Gary has clearly improved as a pass rusher in his limited role behind Preston Smith. He should be given an improved roll this season as either the starter opposite Za’Darius, or should split reps more evenly with Preston. Gary was more efficient rushing the quarterback, and tackling the ball carrier in a much smaller load size opposed to Preston Smith. What to do with Preston is another worry, but Rashan Gary earned his role, and should be rewarded as such.——————
Kaleb is currently attending UW Green Bay pursuing an English degree. His lifelong goal is to one day work for ESPN. You can follow him on twitter at @kaleb_baumgart.