Friday's NFL: Packers OLB Za'Darius Smith placed on IR ahead of MNF clash vs. Lions

Steve Megargee
Associated Press

The back issue that bothered Green Bay outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith throughout the preseason will now force the Packers to play without their Pro Bowl pass rusher for the next few weeks.

Green Bay placed Smith on injured reserve Friday, which means he will miss at least the next three games. The Packers host the Detroit Lions on Monday night.

Smith, who has 26 sacks for the Packers over the last two seasons, practiced just one day during training camp. He played only 18 snaps in the Packers’ 38-3 season-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Za'Darius Smith

“It’s a matter of just, do you keep him in a limited role?” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Or do you shut him down for a while, try to get him healthy and then get him up to the snap count that we’d like him to be, just like he’s been in the past, because he’s such an impact player? So, that’s just the route that we thought was best long term.”

Green Bay filled Smith's spot on the roster by signing outside linebacker La'Darius Hamilton off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad. Hamilton, who had 17 sacks during his college career at North Texas, spent the 2020 season on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad.

The loss of Smith is a major blow for a defense that’s trying to bounce back from a dismal performance. The Packers allowed the Saints to score five touchdowns and one field goal in their first seven possessions.

Smith, 29, had 13 ½ sacks for Green Bay in 2019 after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He followed that by making 12 ½ sacks last season.

“He’s a game wrecker,” LaFleur said.

The Packers still have a couple of productive outside linebackers in Preston Smith and 2019 first-round draft pick Rashan Gary. Preston Smith, who isn’t related to Za’Darius Smith, had 12 sacks in 2019 but just four last year.

Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith both joined the Packers before the 2020 season. They're good friends who refer to themselves as the “Smith Bros.”

“It’s going to be hurtful not to play with him,” Preston Smith said. "Of course, he’s like a brother to me, more than just the Smith Bro name, and just going out there without him is going to be kind of different. Again, it’s going to be something I’ve got to adjust to, but it’s going to be definitely different.”

The Packers' lack of depth at outside linebacker beyond Gary and Preston Smith is a major concern.

Green Bay’s next two outside linebackers are 2020 seventh-round draft pick Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey Rivers, who signed with the Packers this summer after playing one game for the Baltimore Ravens as a rookie last year. Garvin played 27 snaps and Rivers played 11 snaps against New Orleans.

“As far as Rivers and Garvin, yeah, they’re going to have to contribute,” LaFleur said. “They’re going to have to contribute in a big way.”

Raiders RB Josh Jacobs out vs Steelers with injury

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will miss this week's game at Pittsburgh with injuries to his toe and ankle.

Jacobs didn't practice all week for the Raiders after rushing for 34 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening 33-27 win in overtime against Baltimore on Monday night. Coach Jon Gruden said Friday that Jacobs won't play Sunday against the Steelers.

The Raiders gave free agent Kenyan Drake an $11 million, two-year contract this offseason to give the team another option out of the backfield with Jacobs, but Gruden said Friday that Peyton Barber also will take a big load.

“We really like Barber,” he said. "We think he’s a heck of a back. ... I like the way he runs and catches and picks up blitzes. Kenyan will continue to play a role in our system no matter who the other back is, and we’re excited about this opportunity to see what we have.”

Whoever runs the ball will be doing it behind a makeshift line after starting right guard Denzelle Good went on injured reserve this week with a season-ending knee injury and starting left guard Richie Incognito is sidelined for a second straight week with a calf injury.

Jermaine Eluemunor, who started 11 games for Baltimore and New England the past four seasons, will play right guard with second-year player John Simpson set to make his fourth career start at left guard.

Rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood has started one game and center Andre James will be making his third career start, leaving left tackle Kolton Miller as the only experienced member of the line heading into a game against the Steelers and their challenging pass rush.

“We know it’s going to be loud,” Gruden said. "Hopefully we’re ready for it. We practiced in the noise all week. I know this, we got to eliminate the false starts and pre-snap penalties. I don’t care if we play at home or away, that was ridiculous last week. We got to play better.”

The Raiders got some encouraging injury news with edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue expected to play despite being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Defensive end Carl Nassib (pectoral, toe) and defensive tackle Darius Philon (knee) are also questionable.

Las Vegas also ruled out linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (concussion), backup quarterback Marcus Mariota (quadriceps) and safety Roderic Teamer (ankle).