Cory's Corner: Expect Big Things From Preston Smith

The veteran pass rusher will have a bounceback season. 

Preston Smith fell off a cliff last year. 

He registered only 14 hurries, the worst of his six-year career. It was even more glaring when you juxtaposed it against 2019 when he tallied 32. 

It’s time to brace for a bounceback season from Smith. First of all, it’s about the money. Smith, 28, agreed to come back to Green Bay for $4 million less than he was expected to earn in 2021 and he will be handsomely rewarded for his production. For six sacks, he gets a $500,000 bonus, for eight sacks he gets an additional $750,000 and tack on another three-quarters of a million for getting 10 sacks. The number leaps to $1.2 million if he reaches 12 sacks and another $1.2 million by getting a career-best 14 sacks. 

Now I’m not saying that Smith is going to set the world on fire with career numbers but he is going to make people forget about tying a career-low with four sacks. 

“We can’t wait to get him back, and ‘P’ is a guy to keep everybody going in the meeting rooms,” said Za’Darius Smith. “When people are down, he’s the guy that’s keeping us laughing, keeping us encouraged on and off the field. So it’ll be good to get ‘P’ back when we come for training camp. Can’t wait to get him back, man — the Smith Bros.”

Second of all, Rashan Gary is why Preston Smith bounces back. Now, you may say that doesn’t make sense because how will all three guys be able to get significant snaps? That’s obviously new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s problem, but he won’t be shy about getting all three guys on the field. 

And with Gary being busy with a breakout season, Preston Smith will have ample space and time to have a bounceback season. In Preston Smith’s third season as a Packer, he’s going to solidify the pass rush. Many weren’t totally sure what the Packers were thinking when Green Bay decided to bring Preston Smith back. 

However, all those thoughts will melt away when Preston Smith comes screaming around the edge and sacks Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. He isn’t going to sack just one guy, he will sack two different guys in the season opener just to prove he’s not messing around in 2021. 

The Smith Bros. will be back this season. It’s OK to expect big things from Preston Smith. 

 

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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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8 points

Comments (39)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
alex's picture

June 22, 2021 at 08:12 am

II agree with this take.

3 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 22, 2021 at 08:45 am

The fact Preston came to camp so out of shape last year is a huge concern. He was out of shape all last year. While in better shape this year I still dont think he is in fantastic shape from photos. You just dont do extremes like that at 27 and 28 as a professional football player. Yes, I hope he has a great season, but give me Z or Gary who consistently work out. I dont see him back next year personally and will see OLB a need.

1 points
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Archaism's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:23 am

I was not under the impression that he came into camp as out of shape. He came into camp bigger, as this has been a staple of OLB in a Packers system.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 22, 2021 at 08:48 am

Let’s hope so. Let’s also hope that retaining him signals both that Barry intends to aggressively go after QBs and that he has a viable plan to get Gary plenty of snaps alongside the Smiths without making us porous against the run. If he does, I think the D will be a great deal better, just not sure how he will achieve that.

6 points
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jont's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:26 am

Perhaps the aggressive go-after-the-QB play aims to contain an unexpected run by maintaining lane discipline. That is, the LBs follow a path into the pocket rather than driving ahead via any course they see... for the most part anyway.
Good run defense is this way; the defensive front stays in position so there is nowhere for the back to go so he's trapped for little or no gain (as happened when Capers eventually figured out how to slow Peterson).
In a passs rush with Gary, Z, and Preston they don't get spread out too much as they collapse the pocket as a unit.

3 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:05 pm

4/2 4/3 looks help. See if this guy, Barry, is innovative or a cheerleader.

0 points
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Stroh's picture

June 23, 2021 at 09:27 am

That's not really the case. Either 3 or 4 man fronts can be equally effective. Its just about being gap conscious. A 3 man front actually provides the DC more variability. But it always comes back to the players being responsible for the gaps they are assigned.

If this is based on the Rams D, it will essentially be a 5 man front w/ 3 DL and the 2 OLB all on the LOS.

1 points
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CoachDino's picture

June 23, 2021 at 07:09 pm

Define 4

4 DL, 3DL and an OLB with his hand in the dirt. 4 Guys with their hands in the dirt of any combination. They kinda do that now. I for one don't want to see 4DL as in Lowery, Keke,Clarke and lancaster all on the field at once.

1 points
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greengold's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:11 am

I think this will signal more of all three of Z, P & Gary being on the field at the same time, with Z playing a lot of 3-tech. Seems to make the most sense here with what little we've learned of the new scheme.

Having Preston Smith returning to 2021 in shape, with some HUGE monetary incentives attached to his success seems like a quality plan, after taking the pay cut. This could be really good, and I agree with Cory's take in this article.

Another player I believe will be helping to provide quality depth here is Delontae Scott, the DE from SMU. Man, he is one big dude, long, and should help out a lot in both pass rush and run stop.

7 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:07 pm

They put a draft pick on Garvin, see how he shows.

1 points
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CoachDino's picture

June 23, 2021 at 07:16 pm

Agreed but I'd use gary more at the 3 Tech and let Z roam (when designed...lol). just did a quick PFF snap position review and it has both Z and Gary taking almost no snaps on the DL inside the tackle. that doesn't seem right. Also I didn't realize Z was so big. They have him and gary both at 277. I thought Z was closer to 265 and Gary now around 280. Both run 4.7ish. that's cazy

2 points
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greengold's picture

June 23, 2021 at 10:02 pm

It’s nuts, and explains a bit more why we didn’t pound DL more in the draft, really. Both Z and Gary are super fast, and huge, lean, mean tackling machines.

Sorry. That one got away from me.

I’m convinced Delontae Scott, Willington Previlon & Randy Ramsey will all factor in as well this season. We’ve added AND developed some serious players who will be perfect for this system.

If you wanted Gutekunst to draft DE Osa Odighizuwa this last draft, we already had a 2” taller version with that same 84” wingspan in DE Willington Previlon out of Rutgers, signed UDFA last year. 6-5 295 when he signed, and really just needed bulk & strength, like Keke.

DE Delontae Scott’s wingspan is 83” at 6-5 245. He’s the speed rushing EDGE, again, developed with the Packers for a full year. Both of their wingspans are insane.

Tipa, Garvin & Kemp hanging around too.

2 points
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dobber's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:15 am

Preston Smith is auditioning for his next team. He knows it. The whole league knows it.

The Packers likely can't afford to carry his contract into 2022. There's a significant dead hit on his deal, but the $12.5M in cap savings will be too important for the Packers to ignore. This is his last best chance to net a big contract with significant bonus money...so he'll be playing full tilt in 2021. P. will be playing somewhere else in 2022, and hopefully he'll make himself look good enough that some GM will pony up a player/pick in return, because a cut nets the Packers nothing but cap relief.

https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/green-bay-packers/preston-smith-16762/

13 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:09 pm

He will be on the trade ledger as the Deadline approaches, depending on the course of the early season results.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 23, 2021 at 02:24 am

Agreed that he is probably a cap casualty.

In order for the Packers to nab some kind of draft pick, Preston needs to play really well because he has a $3M roster bonus due March 20th. His cap number to an acquiring team would still be $12.5M, so his play has to look attractive enough to pay $12.5M and also send a draft pick for him.

GB moved that $3M from base to the roster bonus and made it payable early in the new league year as part of the overall restructure. Clearly, Preston was looking ahead to force an early decision by GB.

That's a fairly tall order when teams just have to wait three days to get him as a UFA.

3 points
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dobber's picture

June 23, 2021 at 05:16 am

I think a team acquiring him by trade would likely re-do his deal, anyway, so as long as he's dealt prior to the start of the 2022 league year, the roster bonus could be averted.

1 points
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BJP's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:21 am

Joe Barry should follow LaFleur’s guideline of putting the best 11 out there. You can’t double-team everyone. Between Z, P, Gary and Clark, someone’s gonna get to the quarterback.

13 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

June 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm

And from the STAR position...Barry like to pressure there too...more than Pettine did.

1 points
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stockholder's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:41 am

Think you nailed this Cory. P.Smith still has a lot left in the tank.

8 points
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scullyitsme's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:49 am

Let’s hope so, because he looked awful last year. Even more concerning is pettine didn’t give Gary more snaps because of it. Lots should be cleared up this year with both players.

7 points
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Razer's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:13 am

Thank God that Pettine is helping the Bears out this year :o)

6 points
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Razer's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:08 am

Not sure what to expect if a guy shows up to a physical job out-of-shape. I think that I would have saved the money and given others the chance to show-up.

Overall, I would like to see the Packers play the run better. The Smith Bros and company did a good job of pressuring the opposing QB but overall we were suspect on setting the edge and keeping run yards down. I am not sure if we can have both with these guys but Joe Barry is going to find out that getting to the QB is not the weakness of this D.

2 points
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porupack's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:25 am

<<<<< think that I would have saved the money and given others the chance to show-up.>>>>> While i agree with this generally as a rule, there are times when one tries another tool in the management arsenal, and seems they did. A cut, with incentives is a pretty significant wake up call, as well as a statement of faith. I like it a lot. And the advantage to hang in a little longer with this investment is tantalizing....in that it gives the D a lot of flexibility, perhaps a little redundancy, but we gotta mention that 'what if injury' contingency so that the whole D doesn't crack over a few game stretch. It was a prudent plan, to hold that unit together one more year as cohesive as possible to "go all in" as many wish for (myself included).

6 points
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Razer's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:33 am

I do like the keep the unit together and make another run at the top approach. The defense could be the strength of this team by the time we get to November. I expect to see a big change in this team after next year.

3 points
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nostradanus's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:14 am

I think we can give Preston a bit of a break for coming in a bit heavy.
No one knew if there was going to be a season last year with COVID.
I believe he’ll come back motivated this year after he was embarrassed a bit last season and wants to prove he’s still got it and of course earn a new contract (probably somewhere else)
Looking forward to the return of the Smith Bros.!
Go Pack!

6 points
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dblbogey's picture

June 22, 2021 at 03:20 pm

If someone were paying me millions of dollars, I would earn it. Preston didn't put in the work and that's inexcusable for a Professional athlete.

2 points
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porupack's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:34 am

Tthere are times when a manager tries various approaches to tweek and enhance one's investment rather than cut bait just soon as production drops. A good manager digs in the management arsenal, works with scheme, and perhaps an offseason program of physical re-conditioning, etc. Seems they believe they can salvage a key investment, instead of risk a premature cut. They clearly cast a lot of Defensive shortcomings on Pettine, so with a new DC, they isolated the change needed at DC as well as perhaps conditioning. If they are wrong, then you still have to admire their precision and clarity.

A pay cut, with incentives is a pretty significant wake up call, as well as a statement of faith. I like it a lot. And the advantage to hang in a little longer with this investment is tantalizing....in that it gives the D a lot of flexibility, perhaps a little redundancy, but we gotta mention that 'what if injury' contingency so that the whole D doesn't crack over a few game stretch. It was a prudent plan, to hold that unit together one more year as cohesive as possible to "go all in" as many wish for (myself included).

5 points
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Packer_Fan's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:32 am

You might have added that the Packers felt he played heavier and not in the best shape last year

4 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:53 am

We suit up 21 defenders for games. About 11 of those are DL/LBs/Edge types.

Clark. Lowry. Keke. Lancaster. Slaton.. Five big dudes on the DL.

Smith. Smith. Gary. That’s our edge pressure.

Barnes. Campbell. Martin. That’s the rest of the defense, minus the secondary.

I like this group. We can compete with this group. I think it’s unlikely we’ll add a FA to this bunch before the season starts. We might get a guy through trade who could help us, but by and large, this is it.

We need about 700+ healthy snaps from all of our OLBs, including Smith, and he’s delivered the last two seasons. I think that evaluating him based solely on sacks and pressures is kind of a shallow and inaccurate way of assessment. We’ve lost SIX games since he arrived, and weak defense has only been a significant factor in about one or two of those.

The defense has played together for a while and there’s some leadership on the field. We added some guys…Stokes, Slaton, Campbell. Young players are ascending. I’m excited about what we could see this year.

11 points
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greengold's picture

June 22, 2021 at 11:51 am

I totally agree with you, Leatherhead. I'm excited to see what this defense can do this year too. A lot of new players could make this team, really good UDFA adds... plus our draft picks. Some special stuff.

1 points
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splitpea1's picture

June 22, 2021 at 11:47 am

Curiously enough, Preston plays better in odd-numbered years. 2015, '17, '19: 28 sacks, 54 QB hits, and 27 tackles for losses; 2016, '18, '20: 12.5 sacks, 39 QB hits, and 20 tackles for losses. So after he recedes, he always bounces back the following season.

3 points
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greengold's picture

June 22, 2021 at 11:53 am

Yeah, I saw that too, splitpea1!

I think Preston Smith is going to have an epic season. Then, as dobber mentioned, we will not be able to afford him even more than we can't next year...

1 points
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MajWhiplash's picture

June 22, 2021 at 02:19 pm

and hes going to be better why? Looks lilke Gary may have put a lot of weight on and thats not good for a linebacker/pass rusher. He wasnt all that speedy to begn with. No I think this d is equal to last year but not super bowl quality.

-8 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 22, 2021 at 05:53 pm

Last I heard Gary was getting compliments for being in superb shape.

5 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

June 22, 2021 at 10:17 pm

He's a guy that can and will go with his hand on the ground and two-point. He should watch film of Bruce Smith's technique, burst and low hips. He is similar in size and has the speed to pull it off. Let him rip it.

1 points
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greengold's picture

June 22, 2021 at 09:25 pm

“With the obvious caveat that these practices aren’t held in pads and are noncontact, the best player on the field the past three days was third-year outside linebacker Rashan Gary.” - Reported by Bill Huber, of Sports Illustrated

Hmmm. Did you listen to Rashan Gary’s interview post Minicamp? No, you didn’t.

2 points
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Crankbait's picture

June 23, 2021 at 08:09 am

Preston Smith means nothing if the Packers don't get serious about the middle of the field.
LINEBACKERS NEEDED

-1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

June 23, 2021 at 11:23 am

1 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

June 23, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Part of the reason for P's fall off was how Pettine used him. He had him take Fackrell's 2019 role in pass pro....Fackrell was good at it, Preston was not. Opposing QBs targeted him a lot with success...and that also reduced his pash rush stats.

I am hoping Barry does what Pettine said he would do, but did not....play the D scheme that best fits the STRENGTHS of your starting 11.

Z, Preston and Gary can all be effective pressuring from the 3 tech. I can see many snaps where all three are on the field.

1 points
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