The production from Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith was a welcome surprise in 2019.
Smith was one of the major offseason Brian Gutekunst signings that some people may have scratched their heads at. But he produced the following season with 56 tackles and 12 total sacks.
Preston fared well lining up opposite of Za’Darius Smith and rushing the quarterback that season.
However, Preston’s numbers (and playing time) dropped significantly in 2020. He looked noticeably slower and made much less of an impact – only posting four total sacks and 42 total tackles.
With major cap restructures needing to be done before the 2021 season, many thought it wouldn’t be a shock to let Smith go and free up more cap space. Instead, Preston took a team-friendly pay-cut to return to the Packers this fall.
The restructure provides hefty incentives for Preston to produce.
That – combined with Preston’s own admittance that he wasn’t as good last season – is why I think he’ll have a bounce-back season this year.
Reports out of training camp were that Preston was in much better physical shape this season. Apparently, it paid off in training camp production. He made more of an impact in this year’s camp than last.
Obviously Rashan Gary should get more reps to rush the passer this season, which could take away from Preston’s production. But I wouldn’t be shocked if new defensive coordinator Joe Barry figures out a way to get the Smith’s and Gary on the field at the same time.
With Za’Darius Smith’s early-season injury, Preston will see an increased role to start the season most-likely. If he plays well, it would be hard to take him off the field the rest of the year.
Plus, Preston has got this weird thing where he posts better statistics in odd-numbered years? Don’t just take my word for it, go look for yourself.
All of this makes me lean toward the opinion that Preston Smith will bounce-back this season.
Fingers-crossed, at least.——————
Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.