Breakout Performers: DJ Smith

Being a bit undersized at 5’11 hasn’t stopped linebacker D.J. Smith from developing into a tackling machine. His second season in the league will likely make him a fan favorite after a stellar rookie year in which Smith was thrust into the starting lineup after an injury to AJ Hawk. Smith made his share of rookie mistakes; however, he also made several turnover producing plays that Packer fans had hoped they would see more often from Hawk.

Smith is an effective run stopper and has shown a knack for getting to the quarterback when blitzing. What really makes Smith stand out is how efficiently he tackles. His 18.0 ratio (measured by how many tackles made per tackle missed) would have ranked in the top 10 of all inside linebackers if he had played more snaps.

While Smith has proved to be stout against the run and adept at rushing the passer, he still has a ways to go before becoming reliable in coverage. Like the rest of the Packers’ defense, Smith found himself lost in coverage too many times last year and was responsible for giving up several big plays. If Smith is going to breakout and become an every-down player for the Packers, he is going to need to improve his coverage skills dramatically. Don’t be surprised if Smith starts the season as a reserve and finishes as a starter.

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