“We’re working hard toward that, but that’s kind of a wait-and-see type deal,” LaFleur told reporters after practice on October 14. “We’ll see where he’s at at the end of the week and whether or not he’s ready to go.”
The Packers only just signed Smith to their active roster on October 7 and ruled him a healthy inactive during Week 5’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals to give him additional time to get up to speed with their defense. On a positive note, though, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported that Smith was practicing in Thursday’s session, which looks good for his availability on Sunday in Chicago.
Smith was an every-game starter for the Dallas Cowboys over the past three seasons, playing on more than 3,000 defensive snaps and tallying 417 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine sacks, 18 pass deflections, four forced fumbles and two interceptions in that span. The trick for the Packers will be finding the best way to pair his playmaking presence with starter De’Vondre Campbell, who has been a bright spot for their defense in the first five games as their leading tackler (49) and defensive signal-caller.
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Smith Should Offer Upgrade Over Other Pieces
While Campbell has been a godsend for the middle of the Packers defense this year, the rest of the inside linebacker unit has been a little underwhelming. Krys Barnes struggled in the season opener against New Orleans and has since seen his snap count decrease, sliding into a second-man role with Oren Burks. A more limited role has not completely diminished Barnes’ impact, but he hasn’t been the same playmaker he was in 2020.
That said, Barnes can still be expected to compete with Smith for playing time. The former Dallas linebacker has more experience and a stronger record of bringing impact plays to a defense, but Barnes is a familiar face who — aside from a few off performances — has done his part in earning the Packers’ trust. In all likelihood, the decision to use one over the other could solely come down to matchup and which package defensive coordinator Joe Barry plans on using in a particular week.
Nevertheless, the Packers signed Smith for a reason, so it will be interesting to see the manner in which he is used once he makes his debut in green and gold.
Packers Still Missing King at Practice
The Packers took another step in the right direction with a few of their injured contributors on Thursday. Rookie center Josh Myers was a full participant in practice for a second straight day after missing Week 5’s game with a finger injury, while Elgton Jenkins also continued to string together multiple practices, looking to return to action this week for the first time since September 19’s win over the Detroit Lions.
Unfortunately, the Packers also still had a few absences on Thursday. Cornerback Kevin King missed his second consecutive practice with a shoulder injury that knocked him out of Week 5’s win over the Bengals in the fourth quarter. While King hasn’t always been a favorite among Packers fans, his veteran presence would be missed with Jaire Alexander already on injured reserve. Offensive tackle Dennis Kelly (back) was also sidelined for a second practice in a row and remains uncertain to play in Week 6.