GREEN BAY, Wis (WFRV) – 2019 was a great year for Preston and Za’Darius Smith, affectionately known as the Smith Brothers to the Packers faithful. Preston had 12 sacks while Z had 13 and a half. In year two, it was a different story for Preston.
While Za’Darius continued on his dominant way, with 12 sacks in 2020, Preston was seeing a different role, dropping more in coverage and only recording 4 sacks. So what’s the goal for 2021?
“Not to have that season again. That’s a personal goal. To be better than I was last year. That’s always a goal, to just make sure this season I improve on a lot of things I need to work on from this offseason and making sure that this year, I don’t have a repeat season like that,” Preston said quietly.
Matt LaFleur acknowledged Preston had a drop in production last season but says he’s a professional and knows what’s expected and is ahead of him.
“He’s a bona-fide pass rusher. He is versatile too. Because he does a lot of things in coverage for us as well. We’re going to continue to push him to be his best because when he’s going, he’s somebody you better account for from an offensive standpoint,” LaFleur said.
This year he’s also got a new defensive coordinator in Joe Barry, which, according to most of the defensive players on the Packers, is injecting new life into the defensive group.
For Preston, having a coordinator like Barry, someone who is as excited about the game as he is, has him raring to go for the upcoming season.
“In Joe’s defense, it’s pretty catered for everybody to be great at what they’re great at. I feel like there’s a lot of opportunities for me to be great this season and return to the form from 2019,” he said with a soft smile. “To go out there and have high productivity, and make sure I’m doing my part for the team as well and I feel like a lot of guys are going to shine in Joe’s system. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to put his playmakers in positions to make plays, and that’s why I love him so much.”
Another motivating factor for Preston Smith seems to be the theme with all of the Packers this season: the unfinished business of losing back to back NFC Championship games.
“I had no doubt in my mind that I would be back here this year,” Preston said. “The NFC Championship game is the farthest I’ve been in my career and I’ve been there twice.” He went on to add he truly believes this team has a chance to get to The Big Dance and is proud that his taking a pay cut allowed other key parts of the team, like Aaron Jones, to stay so the Packers could make another run at a title.