Cory's Corner: Don't Underestimate Leadership

The Packers have the correct Smith because his worth isn't measured just by boxscores. 

The questions started and then the chorus got even louder. 

In 2020, Preston Smith had his worst statistical season since 2018 and many fans started to wonder how much longer he would be in Green Bay. 

Of course, those people aren’t saying those things anymore. He had nine sacks and 46 quarterback hurries in 2021 and two months ago, the Packers extended Smith through 2026. 

Washington never got the most out of Smith, who averaged 6.125 sacks in four seasons in the nation’s capital. 

In Green Bay, the 29-year-old Smith has become unleashed. As a Packer, he has only missed one game — a Week 7 home game vs. Washington last year.

My uncle used to say that two-thirds of life is just showing up. But Smith didn’t just show up. He played an important role in harassing opposing quarterbacks and meshing with up-and-comer Rashan Gary to form a dynamic duo at rushing the passer. 

Smith oftentimes played second fiddle to Za’Darius Smith, who tallied 26 sacks in three seasons in Green Bay. But as we all know, Za’Darius Smith only played in one game last year and only tallied 18 defensive snaps. The Packers could’ve used the defensive help, but a mysterious injury kept him sidelined.

And of all places, Za’Darius Smith ended up in Minnesota.

“I can’t wait to get a chance to face (the Packers) in the first game and see that look on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he sees me on the other side of the ball,” said Za’Darius Smith.

Don’t fret about which Smith the Packers got. The Packers know they have the Smith that is dedicated to his craft and more importantly, invested in his teammates’ success.

Smith is a perfect example of the stats that you cannot judge. You cannot see someone’s heart and you cannot judge someone’s desire. Those things are innate and Smith has both. Za’Darius Smith may get more sacks than Smith in 2022, but that doesn’t mean that his team or defense will be better.

Smith brings something else. Something not too many of us saw coming after the 2020 season. But with a younger defensive unit, he’s the perfect veteran example to show what it means to be a pro — both on and off the field. 

And that’s what we’re really talking about here. Leadership. The Packers don’t want stat fillers — they want leaders. 

And that’s exactly what Smith is. 
 

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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 (38)

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

May 24, 2022 at 06:40 am

I'm a fan of PSmith and appreciated his work and team attitude, and willingness to take pay cut when his performance was down, and as you say, Cory...work on the craft. Thanks for this feature on PSmith. I agree. Having said that, I think its a little exaggerated to say he is 'unleashed', and that he and Gary are a dynamic duo. There has been a bit too much hype on Gary by many CHTV and fan comments in general, so at least you kept it in the right perspective: 'up and coming' which I believe is accurate for Gary. PSmith and RGary are solid, better than average duo. Not fearsome, but very solid and will have solid if not great numbers because of scheme and a strong complement at ILB and a 're-beefed' line, and strong backfield CBs. So...everyone's stats should look good.

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Guam's picture

May 24, 2022 at 07:38 am

I like your description of the Packer defense porupack! I think solid to very solid at every position is better than superstars at a couple of spots and weak links at other spots. Given the reinforcements at DL and ILB, the Packers just patched all their weak links and should be solid at every position (barring injury) this year. I am excited about this year's defense!

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murf7777's picture

May 24, 2022 at 07:44 am

We’ll rated by PFF Gary was number 1 and Smith number 13th in pressures, sacks..etc…, so I’d say they are fearsome. They are the only duo in the NFL rated so highly. PFF is only one source, but it does show they are to be feared.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 24, 2022 at 08:17 am

Huh? Gary has become an absolute gamewrecker. The kind of player opposing offenses build gameplans around stopping him. He's the first guy an opposing qb accounts for when theyre lining up to run a play. If anything, he's being undersold around here. He's THAT good. He's definitely not getting anywhere near the credit he deserves nationally.

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PeteK's picture

May 24, 2022 at 02:24 pm

Perhaps his greatest talent is the ability to play the pass and run equally well.

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stockholder's picture

May 24, 2022 at 06:56 am

Absolutely. The Packers need Leadership. While I love P. Smiths heart and Desire. Barrys defense gave him the best chance to succeed. Not to mention Campbell having his back. One guy can't do it all. And as Long as he's healthy. We can expect good things from him. He's contagious. The opportunity to make plays are unlimited. A quality Lb who doesn't quit. Thats how you lead. Not by mouth. But by Results.

6 points
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NickPerry's picture

May 24, 2022 at 07:47 am

I really like P Smith, have since his days in Washington. In 2020 he had a down year, just like he has had his ENTIRE career in even years (Look for your self).

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/S/SmitPr00.htm

But unlike Rodgers I think Smith IS a leader. Last season he took a pay cut when he didn't perform up to the contract he was being paid the previous year and was fantastic last season. He didn't make excuses, he showed up in shape and performed. IMO that's what leaders do, at least part of what they do. I also think that streak in even years will be OVER.

"I can’t wait to get a chance to face (the Packers) in the first game and see that look on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he sees me on the other side of the ball,” said Za’Darius Smith.

HA..... I can't wait to see Kurt Cousins face when he lines up in in week one and see's Clark, Wyatt, Campbell, Walker, Gary, Reed, and Smith on any given play. Look like Kurt will be throwing a shit ton of his famous 2 yard passes for a one yard gain!!

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HawkPacker's picture

May 24, 2022 at 08:00 am

'But unlike Rodgers I think Smith IS a leader. '

I have to admit when I first saw the title of this article, I thought of Rodgers.

You lead by example and that is what P Smith does. I like Rodgers but he does not lead as well as he should. We as fans see it, the FO sees it (and pretty much ignores it) and the players see it as well.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

May 24, 2022 at 11:41 am

I don't see how you determine Rodgers ISN'T a leader based on some kind of weird comparison. Smith had a down year and took a pay cut to try to improve with the same squad he'd been with, likely in hopes of getting that money back via production. Meanwhile Rodgers went out and won the league MVP two years in a row. That's not when you take a pay cut. That's when you've earned the biggest contract given out. There is no doubt in my mind that the entire offense (and probably the defense as well) see Rodgers as a leader. He does things the right way. He is prepared, he works very hard, has very high standards for himself and his teammates. He's grown and changed and learned over the years about how to take care of his body for the long haul. He's tough and has played injured many, many times in his career. He has a good rapport with the offensive line and with his skill position guys. What in the heck are you basing a lack of leadership on? Because he didn't show up for voluntary offensive installs? After 17 years in the league, and several years in this offense?

Rodgers has owned his mistakes many many times over the years. I don't see Rodgers making excuses. You can be really angry that the whole offense (not to mention ST) didn't play well in the playoff loss, but this ridiculous nonsense about Rodgers not being a leader doesn't seem to have any basis in fact.

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dobber's picture

May 24, 2022 at 12:31 pm

"Smith had a down year and took a pay cut to try to improve with the same squad he'd been with, likely in hopes of getting that money back via production. "

He played the best card he had--getting cut and thrown onto a market where virtually no one had cash to spend due to the covid cap constriction would have been a really dicey play. So he bet on himself, took the pay cut, played well, and it paid off.

Not a lot of guaranteed money on his extension, and I think the Packers will redo his 2023 roster bonus to create some cap next year, which they can do and still keep his future cap hits from exploding. Essentially a 3-year deal, but if he stays healthy and productive, he has a chance to play this out.

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PeteK's picture

May 25, 2022 at 07:58 am

Yes, he is the leader of the offense ,but, let's be honest his antics during preseason were not becoming a veteran leader. Then having tunnel vision on one WR after demanding another did not help matters.

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Since'61's picture

May 24, 2022 at 04:35 pm

Excellent post WestCoastPackerBacker. There are numerous forms of leadership and various types of leaders.

Rodgers sets a very high bar for himself and he expects high standards of play from his team mates. Similar to a certain Packers coach who once told the team, "We can never reach the level of perfection, but is striving for perfection we just might attain excellence", Vince Lombardi. Rodgers has been an excellent QB for the Packers during his career and he just may be the best player the Packers have ever had. And I have posted here forever, if the other 52 players on the roster played their positions as well as Rodgers plays his position the Packers would be undefeated SB Champions. However that will not happen and Rodgers takes the hits for it without complaint.

His off field antics are just that, antics. On the field he plays brilliantly. that doesn't mean he never makes mistakes but he rarely hurts the team and he has cost the team less than a handful of games over his career.

He'll be missed when he's gone and it will be difficult, if not impossible, for whoever follows to fills his shoes.

Thanks, Since '61

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mnbadger's picture

May 24, 2022 at 12:42 pm

NP, I was thinking virtually the same thing about ZSmith's comments.
a. I'm guessing AR is going to be just as happy to have an out of control player that he can scheme around with runs and short passes.
B. not only second(rate)-cousins, but every other quarterback & Off.Coord. combination with less than five years of experience will be concerned when our new defense takes the field!
GPG!

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 24, 2022 at 03:34 pm

The every other year thing for Smith is a bit of a misnomer. His sacks have fluctuated in an every other year cycle but his pressures have stayed pretty steady except for 2020. I think he read the tea leaves wrong in '20 and thought the season would be cancelled. He looked heavier and played like he was out of shape, especially early in the season. It was ugly at time, getting blocked 15 yards down field by TEs a couple of times and basically giving up vs the run on a few more. His sacks may be down this year but as long as the pressures stay fairly consistent he'll earn his money.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 25, 2022 at 02:46 am

You got a consistent friend, judging by the downvote.

Coaches said Preston came into camp out of shape. I have a hard time squaring that with leadership. As to the pay cut, see dobber's comment.

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NickPerry's picture

May 25, 2022 at 05:10 am

Yes he was out of shape, and I alluded to that (sort of) when I mentioned he came into camp the following year in shape.

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Guam's picture

May 24, 2022 at 07:47 am

I agree that leadership is a key role for P. Smith this year and it is reported he will be at the Packer OTA which will give him a good chance to get to know the new guys. A big part of leadership is simply being available to answer questions and provide help when needed to young guys learning the ropes of the NFL. I am certain the young guys know Preston Smith by reputation and as a leader of the Packer defense, but by showing up for the OTA and making himself available as a resource, he will begin to establish the connection and chemistry needed to be a real leader when the games start.

Too bad our starting QB doesn't have the same leadership skills...........

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dobber's picture

May 24, 2022 at 08:18 am

I think P loves football, too. It's more than just a paycheck for him.

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PeteK's picture

May 24, 2022 at 03:13 pm

Ego is a tricky human trait, not enough and it's hard to be a star, too much or not controlled and it becomes malignant.

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pack1487's picture

May 24, 2022 at 07:59 am

From all accounts, Z. Smith was a great teammate and leader as this sites own writers pointed out countless times and one example is below.

It's one thing to praise Preston for what he did last year and has done since joining the Packers but you don't have to tear down Z. Smith while you're at it

https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/matt-lafleur-praises-zadarius-smiths-leade...

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HawkPacker's picture

May 24, 2022 at 08:05 am

Yes, Z. Smith was a great teammate. Too bad his situation did not work out better for the Pack.

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dobber's picture

May 24, 2022 at 08:22 am

The question with him will always be whether his back is sound. Big men with back problems usually don't last long.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 24, 2022 at 09:47 am

I have back problems. Surgery was suggested. However, the doc warned me that fixing one vertebrae often lead to problems with the ones around it that now have to take on more stress. On the other hand it has worked for many who have no other problems with the surrounding vertebrae. Given the conservative nature of the Packers medical staff, I can see why they did not want to take the risk.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 24, 2022 at 10:03 am

Thanks for sharing your insight PatrickGB (and also, thanks for your service... appreciated!!!). I saw this in another thread.

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dobber's picture

May 24, 2022 at 12:35 pm

People overlook the change in the locker room that was needed with the end of the McCarthy regime. The whole thing felt stale and toxic.

Bringing in LaFleur and his staff was obviously important, but both Smiths and Amos helped change that locker room dynamic and provide energy and leadership on that side of the ball. I think you're right in that the accounts I've read state that Z was the more vocal and influential guy. Those players helped changed a stale culture, and I thank Z for the role he played in that change.

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mrtundra's picture

May 24, 2022 at 08:13 am

Really loved Preston's play last season and really hated to see Z leave. Cap issue casualty, for sure. What I really hate is to see Z in minnesota. His career, there, will be squandered and I hope he can stay injury free on that turf they have. Preston will continue to be a stud and a leader here, in GB, and will be even more effective this year, IMO, due to the addition of Walker, Wyatt and Enagbare taking the heat from opposing OL men trying to stop our pass rush. Throw in any combination of Gary, Lowry , Slaton, Reed, Clark, Ford, Byers and maybe Heflin and our DL suddenly looks pretty solid. Cannot wait for the season to begin! GO PACK GO!!!

7 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 24, 2022 at 09:34 am

Yesss, the Defense! I am going into this season with tempered expectations of the Packer D. But, I am excited as all get out behind my Poker Face (honey, wanna dance to that lil ditty by Lady Gaga?...come on, big sexy wants to dance...pleaseee)

P.S., I love you and the rest of the D!

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PatrickGB's picture

May 24, 2022 at 09:41 am

At the end of the season I wondered if we kept the right Smith. Z seemed more dynamic. But I think that his back problems probably predated last year. I remember seeing him on the ground composing himself after some plays. Some people thought that he was just stalling between downs. However, it could have been that his back was in spasms. He has been working around it and probably why the Ravens nixed the deal this year. On the other hand Preston has been available more often. As noted in the article he is also a leader in the true sense of the word. He may not lead in sacks but is a force to be reckoned with and smart. Now, we just need the second stringers to step up.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 24, 2022 at 09:46 am

True Patrick GB. I used to not buy into this statement but now I do; " the best ability, is availability"...or something like that?

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croatpackfan's picture

May 24, 2022 at 09:44 am

Cory, nice player to chose to heat the another discussion on Leaders and leaders at Packers team.

I will say this - for me true Leader is the one who rise above all bad circumstances he/her and his/her team or group or followers faces when it matters the most. It is easy to be leader when circumstances favour you and your team. True Leader will rise above all expectations to help team and will put his possible benefits to help everybody to overcome obstacles.

There is few of those Leaders at Packers, to name few. Like Preston, I would add Kenny, Jaire, Campbell, AJ, somewhat Adrian & Allen.

So, you can get the best contract for the position world wide (like Jaire) but that does not mean you are Leader. You are just leader at the salary level and you'll never be true Leader.

-2 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 24, 2022 at 09:49 am

The real question is; what will Z-Smith's shirt say under his jersey IF he gets a sack against the Pack?

Oh boyyyy, let's get the popcorn ready and the Leinies on ice....go, go, gooo

3 points
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marpag1's picture

May 24, 2022 at 01:24 pm

What??

Za'Darius Smith entered the league in 2015. Prior to last season, he had missed 6 games in 6 years. When he signed with GB he played 16 games in 2019 and 16 in 2020. And now we're supposed to believe that last year's injury shows that Z is not "dedicated to his craft?" Or that he is not "invested in his teammates’ success"? What a load of shit.

It just sucks that Jordy Nelson wasn't a leader either, seeing as he missed the entire 2015 season due to an injury. I wish he would have been more dedicated to his craft and more invested in his teammates. In fact, I also remember how that loser Charles Woodson bailed on his team in 2012. Claimed he had a broken collarbone, or some BS like that. And don't get me started on Chad Clifton. "Separated pelvis," my ass.

And what does the fact that Za'Darius signed with Minnesota have to do with anything? In case some people aren't aware, THE PACKERS CUT HIM. That whole argument is nothing but lame homerism. In 2019, if Za'Darius Smith had said he wanted to stick it to the Ravens after the Pack signed him away from Baltimore, do you think Packer fans would have written dumb articles about his lack of leadership?

Very few things in this article actually make sense. Par for the course.

3 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

May 24, 2022 at 11:46 am

Nice call on this. The offseason articles are always lacking, but taking potshots at a fan-favorite who produced in big ways on the field is a step in the wrong direction. Z outplayed P the entire time he was here, except for when he was injured. You cannot, you simply cannot blame injuries on the injured player. It is imminently unfair, unless they really do not take care of their body. That's not the case here. A player got hurt at an extremely violent sport. Mysterious or not, Z would have been out there if he could have played. Unless you know something we don't know and he sat for the year b/c he didn't get the raise he wanted. I don't think that's the case. He just got injured early in the season and we never got to enjoy the 3 headed monster of Smith/Gary/Smith.

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

May 24, 2022 at 12:45 pm

I just don't understand the need to denigrate current and past Packers, with a few exceptions, like maybe Darren Sharpei.

Several years ago, lots of people beat the "Nick Perry is always injured" drum, but if you can play 2/3 of the games, that's pretty good for that position. Remember, these OLBs are 260 lb guys going against 320 lb guys......they get beat up. That's why you want a rotation of at least three so that you can rest injured guys.

5 points
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mnbadger's picture

May 24, 2022 at 12:48 pm

MP1 may be a little harsh, but not inaccurate at all. Cory clearly sees and writes through his Green/Gold glasses, which is fun if we don't take it too seriously. GPG!

2 points
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blondy45's picture

May 24, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Right on marpag1. When both Smiths were on the field when both were healthy, Z. Smith was by far the more disruptive. Z. Smith was cut due to the salary cap and he was an injury risk going forward. Both Smiths were lead by example players. Z. Smith was more vocal. I feel no remorse that Z. is playing for the Vikings, a great FA signing by the Vikes. Once a player is cut, it is out of that team's hands as to where he goes to.

I have to disagree with Cory (again). Preston Smith is IMO an above average Edge rusher. He is by no means "Dynamic" and takes a third-row seat in the Van behind R. Gary in the "Duo" voting. Preston is a Pro who does love football, taking a pay cut to stay with the team to prolong his career in Green Bay. I admire this. As for your closing statement, "The Packers don't want Stat fillers, they want leaders".

Leaders lead by example on & off the NFL field. Rodgers does an inferior job of that. He could not even show up for his Brother's wedding in May (off season)! Maybe he was working on his golf game? He did not give the Packers any hometown respect when he signed his last contract. He demanded the most he could get & still wanted more (make Front Office decisions). He has a lack of team loyalty by staying away from training camp. Rodgers is not a leader in my book, he is a stat filler. At least Preston Smith wants to be in Green Bay. He is part of the TEAM that makes the Pack great as a group. Sign me up for all the Preston Smiths the Pack can find.

I have read an article recently that basically stated other teams (75%) really did not want to trade for Rodgers, they disliked him as a person. It must be hard to be a Packer when your supposed leader is not a leader. I wonder why Davante Adams, MVS, St. Brown, Lucas Patrick, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, & QB coach (would have been the Offensive coordinator) Luke Getsy, all left? Money Yes, comfortable fit??????

2 points
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oldpointer's picture

May 24, 2022 at 11:44 am

I'll bet Z's back is a chronic issue and one reason (along with $$$) why he wasn't considered a viable candidate to resign long term. He was fun to watch and highly productive in Green Bay. I wish him well when they aren't playing the Packers.

3 points
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dobber's picture

May 24, 2022 at 12:36 pm

You'll notice the Vikings gave him three years, but virtually no guaranteed money. They didn't handcuff themselves. It's essentially a series of one-year contracts and if he can't stay healthy, it's not painful to cut him.

3 points
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