Matt LaFleur Praises Za'Darius Smith's Leadership at Combine

Matt LaFleur hailed Za'Darius Smith as a key leader of the Packers while speaking to reporters at the NFL combine.

When the Packers signed Za'Darius Smith nearly a year ago to inject some energy into the Packers' faltering pass rush (alongside his "brother" Preston Smith coming from Washington), they paid him like a playmaker in hopes he would live up to the potential he showed in Baltimore.

In his first year, he surpassed just about all expectations that could reasonably be placed on him, becoming a force at a position that was a major area of need. The Packers had minimal production at edge rusher out of Nick Perry and Clay Matthews in 2018, and Za'Darius played a major role in revitalizing that part of the field this past season.

Head coach Matt LaFleur was asked about Smith while at the NFL Combine, and had glowing words for him.

"He was obviously extremely disruptive, very productive. But I also think it's juts the leadership qualities that he brought to our defense and to our football team. He did a great job of getting our guys together. I felt like we were a very well-connected team, and I think those are the teams that ultimately have the most success. He was a big part of that."

Obviously, the Packers had needed more production out of their pass rush, but LaFleur touches on something important here--the Packers were in major need of a culture change. The energy that both Smiths, particularly Za'Darius, brought to the team this last year was extremely refreshing. Not only did they both play excellent football, but their presence and leadership inspired others as well.

It's going to be fun to watch the Packers defense continue to grow around the Smiths over the next year. And after Za'Darius was snubbed from multiple honors this season, you have to think he's going to come into the 2020 season ready to wreck things even more.

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (7)

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

February 27, 2020 at 12:23 pm

If the secondary can catch more of those Interceptable balls, we'll be improved. ILB and another 5 tech who can clog running lanes are vital though.

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PatrickGB's picture

February 27, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Z was a leader at the combine?

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kfowler35's picture

February 28, 2020 at 08:29 am

I thought the same thing at first.

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albert999's picture

February 27, 2020 at 02:10 pm

He wasn’t a leader in the NFC championship game and admitted he wasn’t ready/prepared
Unacceptable

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albert999's picture

February 27, 2020 at 02:10 pm

He wasn’t a leader in the NFC championship game and admitted he wasn’t ready/prepared
Unacceptable

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albert999's picture

February 27, 2020 at 02:10 pm

Draft round 2 Alex Highsmith

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Stroh's picture

February 28, 2020 at 08:13 am

After the Packers signed the Smiths, I said that for them to live up to the contracts they were given they would need a combined 25 sacks. The Smiths did that and more w/ the amount of consistent pressure they applied. Its not often you get that out of a FA signing. They did that along w/ becoming true leaders for the team. Great Work Zadarius and Preston you earned it! Hope to see another 25 sacks in the '20 season, even if that might be tough to repeat.

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