When Bill Callahan was asked on Thursday if he's noticed any major differences between Preston Smith the Redskin and Preston Smith the Packer, the interim coach responded that Smith looks "pretty similar" these days.
His stats, however, suggest otherwise.
The 27-year-old already has 10.5 sacks through Green Bay's 12 games. His career high in four campaigns with Washington was eight. So he's surpassed his best sack production already and still has a quarter of the way to go, and is also on pace to easily set new bests in tackles, solo tackles, tackles for loss and QB hits.
That leap in production has caused many to wonder if Smith was properly used or coached while he was with the Burgundy and Gold. Callahan didn't necessarily dismiss that idea entirely, though he also made sure to note that perhaps Smith has developed on his own.
"Everybody matures, gets older, stronger, has new experiences, new position coaches, system and with that I think players evolve," Callahan said. "You just don't know what can make a spark in a player's career, whether it's a position coach, a coordinator, a system, new place, whatever it may be."
It's certainly possible Smith has "matured" personally. However, it's not like there's such thing in the NFL as "the fifth-year leap." While guys certainly learn and make tweaks to their game every offseason, the massively improved play from Smith indicates he's on a defense now that uses him in a much more effective way.
Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur wouldn't comment on why Smith has thrived more with the Packers than he did with the Redskins, opting instead to simply point out that Smith's impact has been "tremendous." Callahan, meanwhile, explained that Smith is rushing from both sides more, and he also seems to have more "freedom to take the inside rush if it's there."
This Sunday, Dwayne Haskins and his offense will get to see Smith in person at Lambeau Field. Unfortunately, 2019 hasn't been fun for the Redskins when it comes to facing well-known ex-Redskins.
In Week 1, DeSean Jackson completely changed the flow of the opener for the Eagles and scored twice. In Week 3, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked off two passes and returned one for six as a Bear. And in Week 11, Jamison Crowder caught eight passes and found the end zone when the Jets visited FedEx Field.
Now, the point of this isn't to claim that the organization blew it by not re-signing Smith in March. He was paid quite a bit of cash by the Packers, and after four years of solid but not superb results, Washington was content not to match the contract Smith eventually got. They felt like he had reached his ceiling in D.C. and they were fine with moving on.
So, when the Redskins watch Smith in Week 14, they shouldn't feel remorse for that. But they should look at him and then look at themselves, wondering if they're employing the right people and running the right systems to get the most out of their players.
The franchise can claim all they want that Smith is "pretty similar" to what he was as a Redskin. The reality is that he's better. A lot better. He's surely evolved some, yet the more prominent thing here is that the Redskins often refuse to.
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