The Super Smith Bros - That’s What Cheese Said

It's a special edition of That's What Cheese Said, breaking down the Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith interviews. 

As if the global pandemic hadn’t changed the NFL landscape enough, it had to also take joint Smith Bros interviews from us, too. Any media availability last season, it was all but a sure thing Za’Darius and Preston would address the scrum together. Now, the duo meets with the media separately through a one-way Zoom call. The good news is that here at That’s What Cheese Said, this week’s piece is all about the Smith Bros, that way we can pretend they did their interview together for old times’ sake.

Za’Darius started his media availability with some fake tears over Zoom, expressing his sadness that he’s no longer able to give interviews alongside Preston.

“I miss it, man,” He said. “I told Preston that we was going to do it anyway. I was gonna bust in here when he just did his interview, but they stopped me.”

Kudos to whoever was in charge of stopping Za’Darius from getting into the media room. You should probably be on an NFL roster because most offensive linemen couldn’t do that last season. 

It’s no secret that Za’Darius, by nature, has the more extroverted personality of the duo, but he said not to sleep on Preston, either. Not only is he a vocal leader in the locker room, but he “could be a comedian after football.”

Both players were quick to praise one another’s leadership abilities and how they were brought in to help change the culture in Green Bay’s locker room. 

“They welcomed us with open arms,” said Preston, pointing out the common goals shared by the defense as a whole. 

Za’Darius added that one of he and Preston’s goals coming to Green Bay as free agents was to bring energy and help change the culture of the team, whether it was through their leadership with Za’Darius being named a team captain, or through their joint interviews as locker neighbors. 

One area the duo hopes to improve on in 2020 is forced fumbles. While the pair combined for over 25 sacks, they didn’t take the ball away as much as they would’ve liked to. Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith called forced fumbles a point of emphasis for the defense this season, with Za’Darius saying Smith “speaks it into existence” during practice. 

Preston and Za’Darius also mentioned working on setting the edge better to avoid a repeat of the NFC Championship Game where the 49ers were able to break contain and rush outside the tackles. 

Perhaps one of the biggest perks in Mike Pettine’s defense is the versatility players have to line up anywhere and generate pressure. 

“Guys like me and Z are allowed to be ourselves,” Preston said on how he fits the scheme, acknowledging that they can line up in a variety of ways and keep the offense guessing.

“When you’ve got two great edge rushers, when he makes a big play, I want to go make a big play,” said Za’Darius. “So I think that’s the number one thing that kept us going as a duo.”

Preston also heaped plenty of praise onto second-year edge rusher Rashan Gary who’s now third in the rotation after Kyler Fackrell’s departure. 

“He has a lot of athletic ability and he can always be plugged in anywhere,” Preston said on what Gary brings to the defense, pointing out his versatility. He added that Gary learned a lot sitting behind the Smith Bros for a year learning the scheme. 

Another player to keep an eye on this season is Tim Williams, who Preston mentioned specifically behind Gary as a player who will be asked to step into a bigger role on defense. 

Ideally, Gary, Williams, and the rest of the outside linebackers unit whether it’s Jonathan Garvin or an undrafted player, will be able to step up and take some snaps off the shoulders of Preston and Za’Darius. But even if the pair is asked to play almost 900 snaps again in 2020, they’ll be ready. 

“I’m built Ford tough. I can tell you that much,” Za’Darius said. “I just want people to keep underestimating me because I’m gonna keep bringing that thunder each and every week.”

“If me and Z get higher production we’re breaking records together,” Preston added.

Beyond the productivity from the edge unit, Preston also included new inside linebacker Christian Kirksey as a key role player for the defense. “He’s a sideline to sideline guy,” Preston said. “He’s a smart player.”

The familiarity a number of players have with one another already will only help the team continue to develop chemistry going into such a unique season, despite the restrictions in place that make it so players can’t gather in groups larger than 10-15 people like they did last season for team outings and dinners. 

While things look different this year, the end goal remains the same. “We want to be safe. We want to have a safe environment so we can keep football going on this year and for years to come because we don’t know how long this pandemic’s going to last,” Preston said. 

One of the safety measures in place this season is to not have fans in the stands.

“My first four years in the league, there wasn’t that many fans in the stadium anyway,” Preston joked. “When I got here, just that electrifying atmosphere. Every home game’s going to be different. It was definitely an advantage for our defense, the D Train.”

With or without fans in the stands, Za’Darius and Preston plan to bring the same energy they’ve been bringing since the start, with both players remaining locker room leaders and on-field leaders for Green Bay.

“As you can see, I’ve been bringing it since day one and I’m going to continue to do it until I retire here,” finished Za’Darius, smiling. 

Retire here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I just have something in my eye, like a twig or a branch.

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (1)

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PaulRosik's picture

August 11, 2020 at 10:32 pm

Remember when the Smith Bros was Gute's big gamble? They went so quickly from new additions to team leaders. As good as they played in 2019 I still feel their arrow points up in the future.

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