Former Kentucky outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is making sure everyone in the country knows he’s well-worth the four-year, $66 million contract the Green Bay Packers invested in him back in March.
After a dominant week one to open up the NFL’s 100th season, you could make an argument that the 26-year old is actually underpaid.
Against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, Smith was one of the several defensive stars to highlight a 10-3 Packers victory. With under 90 seconds left in the game and Chicago trying to make one final effort to tie up the game, Smith came up with one of the biggest plays of the night. Blowing past his man, Smith powered straight through the middle of the line to force Trubisky into a rushed incomplete pass on 3rd-and-8. The Bears would fail to convert on fourth down, sealing the win for Green Bay.
Recording seven pressures, three tackles for loss, and a sack on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, Smith was a constant presence (and nuisance) to the Bears offensive line.
Za'Darius Smith generated 5 of his 7 pressures aligned as a interior DL, despite aligning as an edge defender on the majority of his pass rushes.
As a member of Ravens last season, Smith was more effective generating pressure from the interior (12.3%) than the edge (9.5%). https://t.co/esfsfcBYSG
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 6, 2019
Trubisky threw for only 228 yards on 45 attempts with no touchdowns and an interception while the Bears running game was limited to a mere 46 yards on 15 carries. Trubisky was also sacked five times throughout the game.
In the locker room after the game, while talking to the media, Smith was joined by another Smith and his counterpart on defense, Preston Smith.
“I keep harping on it, man,” Za’Darius Smith said, alongside his fellow outside linebacker, Preston. “If we all do our job and come together as one, we’re going to be dominant.”
In 2018, Smith recorded his best overall season during his fourth year with the Baltimore Ravens. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6 after sacking the quarterback three times in one game. For the season, he registered career-highs in combined tackles (44) and sacks (8.5) while starting half of the games for the Ravens.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming from Smith. I’m sure Kentucky football fans aren’t particularly surprised by the former Wildcats early-season impact. It was only a matter of time before the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder came to life on the field. He didn’t earn that hefty contract by accident.
Bold prediction: Za'Darius Smith has a better game than Khalil Mack tonight.
— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) September 5, 2019
Now, who would have thought that this take would have been ended up being correct?