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Cheese Curds, 12/6: Preston Smith’s role, 3rd-and-short success, and Lambeau Field changes

Coming out of the bye week, it’s a grab bag of news that includes Mark Murphy’s monthly Q&A.

Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Whether it’s because it’s an odd-numbered year or because it is effectively a contract year, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith has made a marked improvement in his play in 2021. Smith’s pressure rate is way up and he is making much more impactful plays on a consistent basis, an encouraging sign for a player whom many (this writer included) thought should have been let go in the offseason.

But one other possible reason for Smith’s jump in play is his usage under a new defensive coordinator. Gone are the games in which he might play double-digit snaps in coverage in a single game, as he is instead focusing on his run support and pass rushing almost exclusively.

Meanwhile, the Packers’ offense has seen a similar jump in one specific area that is helping them sustain drives. The Packers are the best team in the NFL at converting third downs of a specific distance, thanks in part to a bruising running back who is almost never stopped at the line of scrimmage.

Finally, Mark Murphy takes questions as he does each month after looking back at the Packers’ journey to the bye week, among them being the possibility of certain changes at Lambeau Field. In short, though, don’t expect any massive, sweeping changes in the seating bowl at the stadium any time soon.

Check out that and much more here as we begin to look ahead to the Packers’ date with the Chicago Bears next Sunday night.

MT5: Packers head into bye on high note | Packers.com
Mark Murphy's monthly Q&A addresses questions about sports gambling, replacing the bench seats at Lambeau Field with individual chair-style seats (not happening), and selling naming rights to Lambeau (also not happening).

Short-Yardage Dominance and More Packers Bye-Week Stats - Sports Illustrated
The Packers have converted 3rd-and-1 opportunities at over a 90 percent clip this season, going 14-of-15 to be the best in the NFL. That is a huge improvement over the last two years, and AJ Dillon is likely one of the reasons for the jump.

Joe Barry has Packers OLB Preston Smith doing what he does best | Packers Wire
Smith is playing coverage far less this season than he did under Mike Pettine; through 11 games, he only has 28 listed coverage snaps in 2021 compared to 78 the year before. With those added pass rushing opportunities, he has already exceeded his sack total from last year.

Aaron Donald fined $10,300 for unnecessary roughness - ProFootballTalk
Donald will have to pay up a bit for choking out Lucas Patrick last Sunday, though the fine will be pretty minor in comparison to the roughly $20 million he's making this season.

Bomb squad called to hospital after man gets WWII mortar stuck in his rectum | MyStateline.com
The man supposedly slipped and fell on the 57mm mortar shell, which was used in anti-tank weapons. It's a really good thing it wasn't a live round.