Cory's Corner: All Rise For Smith & Smith

How fun are the Smiths?

Watching them play is like chugging a Red Bull with a chaser shot of 5-hour Energy.

Preston and Za'Darius Smith have injected so much energy into this team, it is unreal how far the defensive side of the football has come. Last year, the Packers defense was pointing fingers and trying to figure out why it was a step slow.

Then March 14, 2019 happened. That was the day that the Packers brought Preston and Za'Darius into the fold and started a new legacy at outside linebacker in Green Bay. There were a lot of folks that were unhappy with the front office, because it said that there was no money for Clay Matthews. But I think we can all agree that the reset button needed to be pushed.

I give general manager Brian Gutekunst all the credit in the world. All he did was transform a defense just by bringing in two guys. Was it risky? Heck yes it was. Preston averaged 26 hurries in four years at Washington and Za'Darius averaged 22 hurries in four seasons at Baltimore. Preston has nine this year and Za'Darius has 13. According to Pro Football Focus, that puts Za'Darius tied for third among all edge rushers with Preston tied for 14th.

The Packers have been desperately looking for answers on their defense for years. How many years? Ever since 2010. They needed that spark that gets the rest of the defense coveting more turnovers, sacks and third down stops. Basically, this defense needed energy. Remember, this team had the pairing of Matthews and Nick Perry, but it didn't amount to much. Matthews averaged 29 hurries in 10 seasons in Green Bay and Perry averaged just 17 in seven.

So enter the Smith Bros. Nationally, the reception was lukewarm about the signings. Many thought it was OK, but not the knockout punch that the defense had been pining for quite some time. Turns out, those two have been exactly the right recipe. Whether it's Preston forcing an intercpetion as he bears down on a quarterback or Za'Darius footing the bill as he takes teammates out to dinner, they've been fantastic for this team.

And what's even better is that they both embrace each other. I find it so amazing that they interview-bomb each other in the locker room. I know we always hear the cliche that football teams are one big happy family, but those two really act like brothers. (As if the last name isn't a dead giveaway!)

The Packers are allowing 11.7 points a game, good for second in the league as of Monday. I thought the Packers defense would've been a lot better, but not this good. This team hired an offensive mind for its head coach and now its leaning on its defense to win ballgames. That doesn't happen folks. 

And the reason the Packers are now in the equation to win the NFC after a realistic shot to go unbeaten in September after a tricky Thursday matchup with Philly is all due to the law firm of Smith & Smith. If you don't know them yet, they will find you. 

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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

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Comments (42)

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 24, 2019 at 06:56 am

The Smiths have been probably the best FA signings since Woodson. They are a huge reason why this defense is playing as well as they are right now!

This defense is just different this year. We are not used to seeing the defense simply win games for us. While the offense is trying to find themselves the defense absolutely knows who they are. And what they are, is very, very good!

With The Smiths we also have Clark, Gary, Martinez, Alexander, King, Amos, Savage who are all playing a high level.

If Goodson gets comfortable and Burks comes back they could add more to the defense.
There are some young CB's that could make an impact as well. Josh Jackson is a guy to keep an eye on as the season goes on. He was hurt early but is a known ball hawk.

This defense is much improved and like you said Cory all thanks goes to Gutey! I gave him a game ball yesterday. He has earned it!

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 24, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Most Packer fans are giddy on here but you know a very maligned player has been King has been playing well and has been healthy. King makes a big difference on the back-end. I know it has only been 3 games but kudo's to Kevin King.

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CoachJV's picture

September 24, 2019 at 05:56 pm

I'll second that motion... I have been calling very loudly for this team to unload King. I thought he was a waste of a roster spot because of health issues... but I also just didn't see him make any real plays that were WOW factored.

But so far this season, the kid has made me - quite happily - eat my words. The talent is definitely there. He seems to be holding up physically for now... If he stays on the field, he and Jaire will be a dominant CB duo in this league.

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MarkinMadison's picture

September 24, 2019 at 06:58 am

The Smiths have added a lot but so has the law firm of Amos, Savage & Alexander. Savage has had a few rough plays but you can already see the game changing potential. Alexander is going to be an All-Pro within the next two years barring injury (knock on wood). Amos is second on the team in tackles, which is less than ideal, but he is second on the team in tackles and has a PD, INT and 1.5 TFLs to boot. It has taken two years but Gute and Pettine have completely revamped this defense. We now have a LOT to talk about besides Kenny Clark. And no disrespect to Kenny Clark (pay that man his money) but you don't WANT to be talking about your NT all of the time.

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Cubbygold's picture

September 24, 2019 at 07:56 am

This is exactly right. Smiths aren't nearly as effective without the elite play of these DBs. And they aren't celebrating wins and feeling good without crucial interceptions by king and amos.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 24, 2019 at 01:16 pm

Two year's is downright amazing in the NFL. Let's be clear here, this is Gute going to Vegas and cleaning out the entire strip and walking away clean. Rebuilds take three, four years to show the results we are seeing now. But we all know that this defense is one or two injuries away from collapse, not enough depth yet. Well, teams play with what they have, and IAM and his front office team have been outstanding. We'll see how the rest of this season plays out.

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Mojo's picture

September 24, 2019 at 02:15 pm

None of the six sacks Sunday (Six Sacks Sunday sound like a name for a band), were the result of a jail-break or badly beaten o-lineman.

Sure, the sackologists deserved their pelts, but they were able to apply their trade because of the excellent coverage from the secondary. Looking at a loop of the sacks, I noticed they were caused by Flacco not getting the ball out quickly. Their coach agrees - https://broncoswire.usatoday.com/2019/09/24/denver-broncos-joe-flacco-ne...

And much of this is caused by tight coverage. It's amazing when you have a good secondary and a good d-line how they feed off each other.

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Packer_Fan's picture

September 24, 2019 at 07:16 am

All hail Gute! All hail Gute! I consider hurrys just as good as sacks. Because so many times the pass is incomplete or the QB misses seeing an open receiver or the QB checks off and no first down. I also like that Gary is playing more, so the Smith's can rest. We will need that for a long season. This season's FA's might become the best ever.

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Guam's picture

September 24, 2019 at 07:25 am

Refreshing change to see a Packers defense shut down opposing teams. I complained for years about watching opposing WRs run free through the Packer secondary while seeing no pressure on the QB. All that changed with the arrival of draft choices and free agents during Gute's tenure. He deserves high praise for fixing a perennial problem. Go Pack Go!

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Cubbygold's picture

September 24, 2019 at 07:53 am

Smiths have been better than advertised, very impressive.

Can we nominate Pettine as coach of the year even though hes only a DC? Defense has won all three games, but especially weeks 1 and 2. Imagine if GB had lost to the bears and vikings, they'd be 1-2, looking up at three undefeted teams in the division.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 24, 2019 at 01:19 pm

Yeah, that is not an understatement on Pettine. He has been THAT good...

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Tundraboy's picture

September 24, 2019 at 08:35 pm

I think even he has been reinvigorated being on the sidelines.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 24, 2019 at 08:22 am

The Smiths have been a revelation. It’s pretty amazing what an improved rush and outside containment does for a D. We have had a talent infusion and there is physical and emotional synergy going on that is hugely fun to watch. Seeing the defense having so much fun has got to be a bit of a bummer for the offense, so MLF may need to watch that. If the O gets hot and can match the emotion of the D, this team could explode.

As many of you may have perceived, I am an optimistic glass-half-full fan, but the really high highs scare me a little. If/when there are losses or bad performances, how will this team respond? Like new love the current run is a total blast, but at some point I think the emotion may he unsustainable. Then we will need to evolve into a bunch of business-like assassins (to thoroughly mix metaphors).

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PatrickGB's picture

September 24, 2019 at 08:28 am

The “Green Machine” chews offense up!

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:11 am

The “Green New Deal” promotes global swarming.

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CoachJV's picture

September 24, 2019 at 06:00 pm

These guys are just "Downright Thugs"...

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stockholder's picture

September 24, 2019 at 08:45 am

The Smiths were needed. I love the energy and excitement. Just incredible. CM3 needed help. He never got it. He moved around for the better of the team. I felt the packers could have been more creative by keeping him. Regardless, the accomplishments of the Smiths justify the changes. Bringing heat is so valuable to a secondary. Creating a great defense takes time. The Smiths have cut the time in half. But it needs more. It needs Clark. And another defensive Linemen that can't be stopped. That ILB! Right now the Smiths are making up for those missing pieces. How sweet it is.

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Since'61's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:08 am

This defense finally has the players and the attitude to be successful. For the players I give credit to Gute, for the attitude and sense of urgency I credit Pettine and for the results I credit the players. This defense plays with a sense of urgency and nasty that has been missing since 2010. Most importantly they make stops, either via turnover or on 3rd downs late in the game when they are most needed.

They do need to clean up some of their tackling technique as we noted against the Broncos. Otherwise they have been solid.

Thursday evening they will face the best offensive team they have seen so far this season. I’m a bit concerned about fatigue becoming a factor against the Eagles if our offense cannot stay on the field again. Another fast start ala the Vikings game would go a long way to helping out the defense. I also expect to see more of Gary on Thursday evening as he brings fresh legs off the short week following the Broncos game.

Maybe we should re- sign James Jones and Jordy Nelson for the rest of this season, trade Allison and MVS for Cobb and go from there. We couldn’t possibly be any worse off then we are now at #2 and 3 WRs with those guys. Rodgers and our offense need a shot in the arm and hopefully we get it Thursday evening from a strong ground game. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Freezn's picture

September 24, 2019 at 11:17 am

our offence will come around and when it does the NFL will be on notice as Greenbay will have both offense and defense firing on all cylinders

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Since'61's picture

September 24, 2019 at 03:02 pm

Hopefully you’re correct and the sooner the better.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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Handsback's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:27 am

I knew that Zman would be special after watching him play with the Ravens, but I had no idea that Preston would be that effective in the pass rush.
Realize just for a second that neither of those guys were rated as high as either CMIII or Perry coming out of college. Their development and performance has been great this year. I think Gutsey made a bold choice in picking up both of these guys in FA.
Let's hope that the offense can spell some relief for these guys and put points on the board to win the division. We can talk play-offs later in the season.

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Freezn's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:06 am

The really good part of our hungry fast defense is they all like playing for and with each other and it is making this defense better every week. I would be very concerned as an Eagle coming to the home of the packers without a full compliment of players. Our defense should have a great evening feeding on an Eagles Quarterback

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Freezn's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:06 am

The really good part of our hungry fast defense is they all like playing for and with each other and it is making this defense better every week. I would be very concerned as an Eagle coming to the home of the packers without a full compliment of players. Our defense should have a great evening feeding on an Eagles Quarterback

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sam1's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:28 am

Even Graham made the Stat sheet this week, albeit a penalty! Afraid that guy needs to go!

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DukeDivine's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:36 am

Get em out!! Slow on routes, can't block my grandma! Hold and after hold followed by OPI. Get em out! One caught jump ball doesn't not justify the $5+mill and all the other mistakes....Cut em!

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DukeDivine's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:32 am

They're no Frank Zombo....

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ShooterMcGee's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:57 am

I recall when we were all so upset missing out on the Khalil Mack trade. Imagine having to give up 2 #1 picks and a #2 in addition to paying his huge contract. 1 year later we have 2 OLBs at a cheaper price than Mack. Plus we retained our draft picks and so far have selected Rashan Gary and Elton Jenkins, with a #1 pick next year. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:16 am

Well said Shooter.
And I was a guy who was 100% all-in on the Mack Train. Had we gotten him, we'd probably still have Matthews but neither Smith Bro or Gary. So we'd be a lot older.
And we wouldn't have the rock-solid Adrian Amos or the superstar Darnell Savage!

In Gutey we trust.

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Spock's picture

September 24, 2019 at 11:47 am

ShooterMcGee, I was most definitely NOT one of the "we were all so upset" crowd for Khalil Mack. I thought the contract+draft picks equation was just too high. I was happy that Gute looked at the trade but more than happy he dropped out of that one (Granted I didn't know much about Mack, lol). I'm excited that we've got the nucleus for a possibly great defense for years to come. I'm not going to get too excited about FA additions next year as Gute pretty much had to use up most of the cap to get the Smiths this year but so far It's been more than worth it. :)

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Brandip's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:07 am

I am glad that that other players are getting involved in the defense. The Smiths cannot possibly play 90% of the downs for the rest of the year. At this rate, they will get all the accolades for their dominating performances, but injuries are always a concern. Do you think this team can win without one Smith or both? I do not. All I am saying is, the Packers need to think about winning games now and wildcard weekend. I hope Pettine comes up with a way to mitigate fatigue and injuries while maintaining the defensive posture. Go Pack-

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 24, 2019 at 07:12 pm

Gary looks on track to assist there.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:13 am

"Draft & Develop" .... oh wait....

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:20 am

Philly is struggling but they're still very talented.
With what we have just seen Lindsay & Freeman & Dalvin Cook do running through our D, however, we need to get Martinez some help at ILB. Miles Sanders & Ezekiel Elliott are coming up the next 2 games. Those 2 are way better than Lindsay & Royce.

Dallas has the best O-line in the running game. I will be at that game & am terrified Zeke will rush for 200....plus Dak can keep one when we're forced to sell-out after Zeke.
Then there's Amari Cooper now. And Randall Cobb too. That's the most balanced team in the NFC.....

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nostradanus's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:39 am

Now if they can just get Rogers to buy into being a high end game manager it would be a perfect marriage. At this stage of his career he needs to keep his uniform clean and just get the ball out of his hands and let his play makers make plays.

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Lphill's picture

September 24, 2019 at 10:49 am

The Ravens and Redskins have no pass rush, I wonder why?

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Dafra's picture

September 24, 2019 at 11:36 am

They lock the defense, unlock the opponent' safe, get the hand on the money and go away with it. What else ask for. They are real LockSmiths.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 24, 2019 at 12:59 pm

"This team hired an offensive mind for its head coach and now its leaning on its defense to win ballgames. That doesn't happen folks."

-Just happened in Chicago with Matt Nagy.

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Bohj's picture

September 24, 2019 at 01:02 pm

I want to point something out on D. One of the reasons we were run on so much is because we haven’t had to load the box. Though they racked up yards, they also ate up clock. Usually a defense stops the bleeding runs by bringing in the safeties or nickel corner help. Pettine didn’t panic And load the box and they didn’t get too many chunk run plays. We got the W because they couldn’t pass. Now.....in the future....like for Dallas....we can probably load the box a bit more. I feel like we can rely on our excellent corners to play some man.....and it doesn’t scare me if we need to load the box. I trust Jaire to handle Cooper. And King to handle Cobb. The Eagles will falter because the they’re banged up. And Wentz will see pressure like he hasn’t seen yet. I mean...they barely beat a hodge podge Redskin team led by Keenum....a washed up AP.....and past his prime Vernon Davis. And then they lost to the Falcons who let the Vikings destroy them with only ten pass attempts. Lions I’m unsure about. Our stud corners and rushers give us flexibility now.

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ottscay's picture

September 24, 2019 at 01:23 pm

For sure the Smiths are getting night and day different production from CM3 and Perry last year, but I think the shoring up of the back end (two new safeties, a healthy King...so far, and of course Alexander) are making the difference even more stark - the Smiths are better, but they are also getting more time to get to the QB.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 24, 2019 at 02:47 pm

Ottscay,
In addition to the Smiths I believe the Pack has better/stronger CB's and Safety's. Specifically, besides having 2nd and 3rd year players in King and Jaire, the whole backfield has better talent and depth this year throughout and it shows.

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Demon's picture

September 24, 2019 at 09:18 pm

Besides the pass rush, what i love about the D is every pass completion is contested. Gone are the days of DB's standing there watching a receiver catch a ball then make a half hearted attempt at a tackle.

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alforno54's picture

September 25, 2019 at 03:21 pm

Obvious improvement from all new guys. Just makes all those wasted years more sickening. Can't blame it all on Ted, but lots of wasted draft picks on lots of forgettable people

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