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Cheese Curds, 10/20: Where, oh where has the Packers’ pass rush gone?

The Smiths look like anything but the powerful duo that they were a year ago.

NFL: JAN 19 NFC Championship - Packers at 49ers Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 2019, the Green Bay Packers’ defense averaged three sacks per game through the first five games of the season. For the year overall, the team averaged about 20 quarterback pressures per game, affecting the quarterback consistently even if the group did not always bring him down.

2020 has been a very different story, however. The defense does have 12 sacks, a dip in that number but not a huge one. But the pressure numbers are way down across the board by anyone’s measurement, which is far more concerning — particularly if you, like outside linebackers coach Mike Smith — evaluate a pass-rusher based on pressure rate.

Why is this happening? From the outside, it’s a bit of a mystery. Kenny Clark’s absence certainly factors into the equation, but it doesn’t explain why Preston Smith’s pressure numbers have dropped like a rock. And even Za’Darius Smith has struggled to replicate his results from last year, at least outside of a dominant game against Atlanta in week four.

For a defense looking to create splash plays and turnovers, getting pressure on the QB is essential. That must change moving forward if this unit wants to turn around its recent poor performance.

Worried about the Packers after Sunday’s debacle? You should and shouldn’t be – The Athletic (subscription)
Fans should be worried about Preston Smith -- more on him in a moment -- and now questions about the offensive line. But the toughest part of the 2020 schedule (the next three weeks) now looks much easier and they still have Aaron Rodgers and a pair of young, ascending cornerbacks, so those are areas to feel optimistic about.

Packers’ pass-rush is defense’s biggest problem | Packers Wire
The Packers' pressure rate is about half of what it was a year ago, with both Smiths -- but Preston in particular -- taking a notable step back.

Walking the Bucs' plank could spark growth for Rodgers, Packers | Packer Report
Rodgers said that the Packers were "a little lethargic" on Sunday, even on the two scoring drives in the first quarter. Now that the team has some real adversity under their belt, it's time to explore how to handle it.

Back to the drawing board for Matt LaFleur | Packersnews.com (subscription)
One way to handle it is to break down the film and figure out how to break some tendencies. The book is out now on this improved iteration of the offense, so LaFleur needs to adjust to the defenses' adjustments to keep things fresh and unpredictable.

Packers hopeful David Bakhtiari avoided significant injury | Packers.com
Perhaps the biggest concern coming out of Sunday wasn't the loss itself, but the injury to the Packers' star left tackle. However, LaFleur said that he thinks Bakhtiari isn't seriously injured, though we will need to wait until later in the week to learn more.

Green Bay Packers will press NFL regarding hard hit on Aaron Rodgers | Packersnews.com
Aaron Rodgers took a hard hit to his midsection from Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. on a dive into the end zone in the first quarter. How can the referees rule him down short of the goal line for "giving himself up" but then not throw a flag for a late hit a few seconds later? The team will ask for an explanation.

Florida wildlife investigators bust million-dollar flying squirrel trafficking ring | FOX13 News
After seeing the mugshots of the men involved, I'd hate to see what Bullwinkle looks like when he's brought in for questioning.