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Cheese Curds, 9/20: Za’Darius Smith brings missing leadership to the Packers defense

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The Packers’ big signing is making a big impact with his teammates.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

While the Green Bay Packers have been known for offensive prowess since 1992, each “golden era” of the team has been anchored by the signing of a legendary defensive player. Ron Wolf signed Reggie White in 1993. The move put Green Bay on the map as a destination for free agents and along with the rise of quarterback Brett Favre catapulted the Packers into the upper echelon of NFL franchises.

Thirteen years later, Ted Thompson signed Charles Woodson. Nobody really wanted Woodson anymore as he had developed a reputation as a malcontent. After a bit of a rough start with coach Mike McCarthy, Woodson evolved into the heartbeat of a team and was the soul of the Super Bowl XLV winning team in 2010.

Now, with Packers again at a crossroads, Brian Gutekunst signed Za’Darius Smith this past spring and while it’s foolish to make an immediate comparison to Woodson and White, the early returns are promising. Coaches and players are waxing poetic over Smith’s leadership in the locker room. He’s been a force on the field after two games and his presence has elevated the Green Bay defense to level it hasn’t been at in a decade.

Plus who doesn’t love the fact that Za’Darius always speaks to the media with Preston Smith (no relation) by his side? That infectious energy has put an aura around the team that fans haven’t felt in a long time and it’s a wonderful thing to witness.

A lot can happen over the course of a sixteen game season but the good vibes and energy built over the team’s 2-0 starts led by Za’Darius Smith and a ferocious defense could be enough to beat back any adversity the team faces later in the year. The dawning of the age of Za’Darius has been a fun one to watch so far and if history repeats itself, the number 55 could find itself in the annals of a legendary franchise right along with numbers 92 and 21.

Now onto today’s curds.

Za’Darius Smith has earned ‘instant respect’—Packers.com
Smith was elected a captain despite being in his first year with the team. If that doesn’t speak volumes about his leadership, I don’t know what does.

Packers promote tight end Evan Baylis; new faces in return game—PackersNews.com
With Trevor Davis now in Oakland, the Packers have made some adjustments to a special teams unit that finally looks competent after some rough years under Ron Zook. Coordinator Shawn Mennenga looks to see his group take the next step starting Sunday.

Emergence of Dean Lowry a microcosm of Packers’ improving infrastructure—Packers Wire
The foundations of the Green Bay defense are suddenly strong and the emergence of guys like Dean Lowry are a big reason why.

Aaron Jones offers Packers more than one way to cure offensive blahs—ESPN
It’s not just Aaron Jones the runner that can elevate the Green Bay offense. It’s also Aaron Jones the receiver and he knows after the game against the Vikings he can be a much more versatile weapon.

Also to wrap up today, Happy 27th Anniversary Brett Favre! It was 27 years ago today he took over for an injured Don Majkowski and the Packers changed forever.