Preston Smith Makes Noise Down in Houston

He didn't fill the stat sheet, but Preston Smith had his best game of the 2020 season against Houston. Let's hope he can build upon that performance moving forward.

This time a week ago, I was writing about how the Green Bay Packers' pass rush wasn't even close to being as productive as it was in 2019. After finishing fourth in pressure rate last season - a pressure is a sack, a quarterback hit, or a hurry - through five games in 2020, Green Bay ranked 31st in that same category. And the Packers' 53 total pressures at that point didn't even compare to the 128 that they had in their first five games just one year ago.
 
This, of course, had a negative trickle-down effect on other parts of the defense, including Green Bay's play in the red zone, where they haven't been nearly as effective, along with a lack of turnovers after finishing top-10 in that category in 2019. 
 
As I often say, in the game of football, there are always many reasons that contribute to an issue. But when it came to the Green Bay Packers' lack of consistent pressure, a big missing piece had been the play of Preston Smith. 
 
Along with Za'Darius Smith, the duo, known as 'The Smith Brothers,' formed quite the two-man wrecking crew last season, totaling 167 pressures along with 25.5 sacks. Behind Za'Darius' monster numbers, it was easy for Preston to fly under the radar, but he too was one of the better pass rushers in the NFL last season.
 
When it was all said and done, Smith's 12 sacks were the eighth-most in football, while his 62 total pressures tied for 15th. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, 2020 hasn't been as kind to Smith. In fact, through five weeks, he wasn't even sniffing last year's production.
 
Through five games, Smith had only seven pressures and just one sack. Which meant he was on pace for only 22 total pressures for the season and three sacks—certainly a far cry from 2019.
 
With Kyler Fackrell in New York, there was speculation early on that Smith was being asked to drop into coverage far more than what he had been previously asked to do.  This would obviously reduce his pass-rushing opportunities while also adding extra responsibilities to his plate. 
 
However, that just wasn't true. In the Packers' first five games this season, Smith had dropped into coverage 51 times. Do you know how many times he dropped into coverage through the first five games a season ago? That's right, 51. 
 
The truth was, Smith just wasn't playing at the same level that he was in 2019, and he wasn't winning those one-on-one matchups nearly as often; or hardly at all for that matter.
 
But if you're looking for some good news, Smith put together what was easily his best performance of the season down in Houston. 
 
Now, this wasn't a day where Smith filled the stat sheet by any means, finishing with three tackles, but he was still disruptive. In the run game, one of his tackles was for a loss, and he did a fine job of setting the edge throughout the game as well. And although he didn't come away with a sack, on two occasions, his presence in the backfield led to a pair of sacks, and he also made an excellent read and finish on this crucial fourth down play, taking down the elusive Deshaun Watson. 
While sacks are oftentimes used as the barometer for pass rush success, Green Bay Packers' OLB Coach Mike Smith says that he will take consistent pressure every time (via Packers Wire):
 
“I care about pressure, affecting the quarterback, that’s the No. 1 thing. I’ll take a guy that does his job play after play after play after play, being consistent and have zero sacks, but does his job and affects the quarterback,” Smith said. “If you got a room that believes the only way to get a pressure is to get a sack, you’re going to have a very disappointing room in the NFL. These (blockers) are good. I could care less about the sack stuff.”
 
And for the first time all season, we saw consistent pressure from Preston Smith on Sunday.
 
Naturally, having a fully healthy Kenny Clark back in the mix was a big boost for not only Smith but the rest of the Packers' pass rush. With that said, it's also not a coincidence that when Preston had his best game, the rest of the Green Bay pass rush thrived as well. 
 
Any defensive success is going to start in the trenches with getting after the quarterback, and for the Packers to reach their full potential this season, they'll need that lethal pass rush to return. Let's hope Sunday's performance in Houston will be what turns the tide on Preston Smith's 2020 season. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

4 points
 

Comments (23)

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

October 26, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Didn't see the game yesterday but I loved the outcome. Did the Texans put up a good game? I heard that our D-line logged a solid game and denied a Houston run game. And now, Preston Smith is being applauded for his new-found form. Is this defense jelling or is the Texan offense and O-line a good punching bag?

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Coldworld's picture

October 26, 2020 at 07:04 pm

The Texans are as bad as billed on D. Adams could have caught all day. Their RB is slow now, but we contained their QB effectively and really never looked threatened despite injuries to Greene and Barnes that caused some distinction for a while.

I think Gary was only used because of Zs niggle. He was effective when rushed: had a sack cancelled by a penalty. He does set the edge well, but I wonder if PSmiths role changed as a result to more like last season. Either way he did well, with his head as well as physically.

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Lphill's picture

October 26, 2020 at 01:14 pm

I am glad we have the Smiths , but I watched TJ Watt and Devin White on the highlights , 2 guys we could have had , just imagine.

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Guam's picture

October 26, 2020 at 01:46 pm

I believe Devin White was long gone when we drafted Gary.

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splitpea1's picture

October 26, 2020 at 03:28 pm

Would the Packers have spent that high of a pick on an ILB, anyway? According to Gil and dobber, they haven't spent a first round pick on an ILB and started him there (Hawk started outside) since 1980.

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Thegravedigger's picture

October 26, 2020 at 09:57 pm

Devin white and devin bush. Both long gone.

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13TimeChamps's picture

October 26, 2020 at 02:53 pm

Devin White was drafted 5th overall. So no, we couldn't have "had" him.

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Thegravedigger's picture

October 26, 2020 at 10:08 pm

That dude who posted that isnt interested in facts. Just wants to bitch. He thinks the bucs are competetive cus they have middle linebackers. Hes a nice piece. That was drafted 7 picks before rashan gary. So who gives a shit? Imagine we had nick bosa. Why didnt that asshole gute pick nick bosa? What an idiot.

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murf7777's picture

October 26, 2020 at 01:41 pm

What we really need is a game changer on D and that is JJ Watt. Yes, he will be expensive but think of a line with Clark, JJ and the two Smiths with Gary and others switching in.

I believe the game is won in the trenches and if we want to get another championship with Arod it’s not a WR we need but a defensive stud who can stop the run and rush the passer at a high level. With him I’m confident this D would be top 10 and maybe top 5 and with Arod and Mlf offense that’s a recipe for a championship or two.

Not sure how that would affect SC, etc.... but if I’m Gutey I’m making a call.

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Guam's picture

October 26, 2020 at 01:52 pm

Don't know what JJ's cap figure is, but I suspect it is very large. We can't afford our current free agents much less pile another massive contract onto the SC. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see JJ in a Packer uniform (I am a Wisconsin alumni and avid Badger fan), but I just don't see how Gute could make it happen.

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Coldworld's picture

October 26, 2020 at 02:29 pm

Per Sports Illustrated, Watt currently has two years left on his deal worth 33 million dollars with cap hits worth $15.5 million in 2020 and $17.5 million in 2021.

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Guam's picture

October 26, 2020 at 03:27 pm

Appreciate the details CW, thanks! Certainly makes a trade for JJ out of the question. And how does this factual post get a down vote?????

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13TimeChamps's picture

October 26, 2020 at 03:00 pm

I love JJ Watt as well, but with age and injuries, his best years are well behind him. No way it would make sense Cap wise.

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murf7777's picture

October 26, 2020 at 05:24 pm

I guess I’m dreaming a bit:) Reggie and Charles were similar in age and both helped us if not THE key pickup to get us a championship. As you stated thou he has had an injury history and probably too much risk. You could manage the SC by not signing other players we have coming up on FA.

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Guam's picture

October 26, 2020 at 10:12 pm

If I am recalling a recent article by TGR correctly, the Packers might have to convert Rodgers salary next year to a bonus and pro rate it over the next three years just to get the team barely under the cap and that is WITHOUT signing any of their current free agents. How do you find the room to fit another $17.5 million under that SC?

Not trying to kill your dream Murf as I would personally love to see JJ in a Packers uniform, but I just don't see any way to make that possible without cutting some seriously talented current players (think both Smiths).

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Guam's picture

October 26, 2020 at 01:49 pm

I wonder how much of P. Smith's improvement is due to better D-line play? The author mentioned the return of Clark, but Keke and M. Adams also played more and played better (and Lowery played less). Would be nice if the D-line and ILBs got better so the OLBs could be turned loose.

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Handsback's picture

October 26, 2020 at 03:33 pm

How did Martin look as the ILB? Sounds like the D still needs that bad guy in the middle.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 27, 2020 at 04:32 am

Martin has some pop when he hits a guy. He looked good for a rookie playing his first snaps of the season especially without benefit any preseason game snaps.

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TarynsEyes's picture

October 26, 2020 at 04:31 pm

My intention is not to take away from the offensive/defensive play of GB yesterday vs Houston, but such victories need a reminder and this one comes from me dated OCT 23, on the offense being better with or without Adams etc.

Here's my reminder two days before game play on Sunday.

"A point to be aware of here is that Houston can make a defense look a 100 times better than they are and this could have GB, fans for sure thinking such, written all over it."

Obviously Adams was a Texan defense killer, but the rest were near invisible. I won't put too much stock in a defense that couldn't stop one WR when the others seemed to need no coverage at all. It's a win and I had GB to do such, but still be warned about the face punches still to come, by real defenses.

As to Houston's offense, they will suffer the losses while paying a QB $40 million a year who isn't worth half that, and his rare awesome play will never be enough to erase all that comes with such a blunder. The level of QB that will make Watson the star he's perceived to be, high dollar for very inconsistent play, is that which resides in the bottom 12 rankings. Any QB above that is a challenge he could possibly survive, but not worth putting money on especially the amount Houston invested.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

October 27, 2020 at 07:04 am

Please don't break your arm patting yourself on the back.

What does your supposed post regarding the offense/Adams have to do with Houston making a defense look better? In addition, your quoted "reminder" makes no logical or grammatical sense. Years of trolling seem to have detiorated your commenting ability, which was extremely low to begin with.

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TarynsEyes's picture

October 27, 2020 at 09:26 am

I quoted myself from an article at CHTV on Friday and the quote speaks to the Houston offense making any defense look great.

It really isn't that complicated. Your bias against me is obvious and your ignorance to the fact that my quote was a part of an overall comment that encompassed more, but this quote was more direct to this article.

As to my grammatical use, it's correct.

I get it though, you simply cannot handle criticism of any kind about the Packers. It's a shame, because accepting such with an open mind makes for a better reality fan than one of fantasy and blind optimism.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

October 27, 2020 at 11:04 am

Your quote: "A point to be aware of here is that Houston can make a defense look a 100 times better than they are and this could have GB, fans for sure thinking such, written all over it."

The "they" should be "it". The "GB, fans for sure thinking such, written all over it" is simply unintelligible gibberish.

I get it though, you're a deplorable who lacks the intellect and knowledge to intelligently communicate.

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NickPerry's picture

October 26, 2020 at 09:01 pm

I thought Smith played an excellent game yesterday. If you look at the career of Preston Smith you'll notice the sacks come every other year, at least that's what happened his first 4 seasons in Washington. Having Clark out really effected Smiths stats. He made a few plays yesterday that were big but don't show in the stat line. Smith's sacks, pressures, and hits will come. Just not like last season.

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