The questions started and then the chorus got even louder.
In 2020, Preston Smith had his worst statistical season since 2018 and many fans started to wonder how much longer he would be in Green Bay.
Of course, those people aren’t saying those things anymore. He had nine sacks and 46 quarterback hurries in 2021 and two months ago, the Packers extended Smith through 2026.
Washington never got the most out of Smith, who averaged 6.125 sacks in four seasons in the nation’s capital.
In Green Bay, the 29-year-old Smith has become unleashed. As a Packer, he has only missed one game — a Week 7 home game vs. Washington last year.
My uncle used to say that two-thirds of life is just showing up. But Smith didn’t just show up. He played an important role in harassing opposing quarterbacks and meshing with up-and-comer Rashan Gary to form a dynamic duo at rushing the passer.
Smith oftentimes played second fiddle to Za’Darius Smith, who tallied 26 sacks in three seasons in Green Bay. But as we all know, Za’Darius Smith only played in one game last year and only tallied 18 defensive snaps. The Packers could’ve used the defensive help, but a mysterious injury kept him sidelined.
And of all places, Za’Darius Smith ended up in Minnesota.
“I can’t wait to get a chance to face (the Packers) in the first game and see that look on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he sees me on the other side of the ball,” said Za’Darius Smith.
Don’t fret about which Smith the Packers got. The Packers know they have the Smith that is dedicated to his craft and more importantly, invested in his teammates’ success.
Smith is a perfect example of the stats that you cannot judge. You cannot see someone’s heart and you cannot judge someone’s desire. Those things are innate and Smith has both. Za’Darius Smith may get more sacks than Smith in 2022, but that doesn’t mean that his team or defense will be better.
Smith brings something else. Something not too many of us saw coming after the 2020 season. But with a younger defensive unit, he’s the perfect veteran example to show what it means to be a pro — both on and off the field.
And that’s what we’re really talking about here. Leadership. The Packers don’t want stat fillers — they want leaders.
And that’s exactly what Smith is.
Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on “Clubhouse Live” and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn