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Preston Smith ready to put 2020 behind him

Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith practices on Monday at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay.
Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith practices on Monday at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay.(WBAY-TV)
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 8:51 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WSAW) -In 2019, the Smith brothers, Za’Darius and Preston, were the NFL’s most productive pass rush duo, combining for 25.5 sacks.

Za’Darius followed up 13 that season with 12.5 last year. Preston on the other hand, went from 12.5 to just 4.

His goal for 2021 is simple.

“Not to have that season again,” he says bluntly. “That’s a personal goal, to be better than I was last year.

“That’s always a goal, just to improve on a lot of areas that I didn’t execute that well last year on.”

Smith also points to the departure of Kyler Fackrell after 2019 forcing him to drop into coverage more last season, as opposed to strictly rushing the passer. He believes that’s part of his downturn in numbers.

“You know I’m a team first guy,” Smith says. “I just did what was asked of me, sometimes being a team guy doesn’t always yield the personal stats that you want.”

That was under former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Now, with Barry scheming up the defense, Smith thinks a bounce back is in order.

“In Joe’s (Barry’s) defense, it’s pretty catered for everybody to be able to be great at what they’re great at,” Smith explains. “You know, I feel like there’s a lot of opportunities for me to be great this season.”

The coaching staff still has faith in him, but it’s also time for Smith to prove the 2019 version of himself is what the Packers can expect moving forward.

“I think he understands, he knows what’s in front of him,” said head coach Matt LaFleur. “He’s a pro, and he’s been doing this a long time.

“So, I think you know he’s put the work in, and now he’s got to go out there and just do it.”

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