The Green Bay Packers will be without their best pass-rusher in Za’Darius Smith for at least three weeks, as they’re placing him on the short-term injured reserve list.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur announced the news of Smith’s impending absence on Friday, as a back injury limited the two-time Pro Bowler to 18 snaps in Week 1, per NFL Network’s Stacey Dales:
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It was already a discouraging season opener for Green Bay on defense, as New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston threw five touchdowns in a 38-3 blowout. Obviously, the transition to a new system under defensive coordinator Joe Barry is still a massive work in progress.
Barry is going to need to get schematically creative to hide the obvious deficiencies his unit showed to kick off the 2021 campaign. Reigning MVP QB Aaron Rodgers had a dud first start of the year in his own right, but he should bounce back. The defense is far less certain to rebound with Smith missing extended time.
With no viable cornerbacks outside of Jaire Alexander, it’s not like playing more coverage is the answer for Green Bay. It’s probably going to require Barry to bring simulated pressure, or get much greater contributions from other Packers across the front seven.
In his two previous seasons with the Cheeseheads, Smith has amassed a total of 25 sacks. That type of production is going to be sorely missed.
The only silver lining right now is that the Packers face the lowly Detroit Lions on Monday night. Rodgers should have an absolute field day against Detroit’s hapless defense. Plus, Green Bay has an extra day to prepare defensively, and it can gain confidence by facing the likes of Lions QB Jared Goff and Co.