Za’Darius Smith vs. Brian O’Neill
As the Packers headed into a busy offseason, their biggest priority was to get better on defense. They kept defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as a holdover from Mike McCarthy’s staff and General Manager Brian Gutekunst decided to go on a defensive shopping spree, where they cut ties with aging Clay Matthews and underachieving Nick Perry and replaced them with Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith.
While both have the same last name, it was Za’Darius who had a massive impact in his Packer debut. Going up against Bobbie Massie for a majority of the night, Smith toyed with the Bears’ right-tackle, racking up a league-high 10 pressures according to Pro Football Focus, which tied Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter for the most among edge defenders in Week 1.
This is why the Packers decided to get Smith after a career year where he notched 8 1/2 sacks for the Baltimore Ravens. While most free-agent castoffs from the Ravens don’t usually see success, Smith is off to a great start and may have a prime matchup against Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neill.
O’Neill missed just about all of training camp with an arm injury, but was able to make his season debut against the Falcons last week. The results were solid as O’Neill didn’t allow a sack or pressure, but with the Vikings only attempting 10 passes the entire game, it was a small sample size as the second-year tackle played just 14 pass-blocking snaps.
This week will be more of a true test to see where O’Neill is at in his recovery and if he’s 100 percent, it should allow Kirk Cousins to have a more fruitful afternoon.