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Preston Smith wants Packers defense to 'step up,' help Jordan Love show what he's 'really made of'

The offseason focus in Green Bay sits squarely on the transition from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love and how that baton handoff makes the Packers a rebuilding club.

Love's play will obviously dictate the ultimate ceiling in Green Bay, but there remains talent, particularly on defense, to provide optimism the Packers won't simply fall off a cliff in the NFC North.

Edge rusher Preston Smith joined NFL Network's NFL Total Access on Monday night and said it's on the defense to help carry the club.

"Well, personally, we feel like last year was one of our best seasons as a defense," Smith said, entering his fifth year with Green Bay. "With so much talent on our defense, we know we have to step it up a lot, and knowing we have a young quarterback, we have to be tremendous this year. We have to make sure we step up and do our part to help (Love) to get comfortable out there on the field. Help him get the ball in great situations and get stops to let him get comfortable back there and make sure we put him in great situations. It's not just about him putting us in great situations, but helping us be comfortable to put him in great situations with the ball in great field position and getting stops. So he can go down the field and get us touchdowns and do his thing and gain his confidence throughout the season."

The Packers' defense has a lot of talent on paper that, if healthy, could be among the best units in the NFL. Smith and Rashan Gary, coming off a season-ending injury, bring edge pressure. Green Bay used a first-round pick on pass rusher Lukas Van Ness. Kenny Clark remains a stud up front. Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker could see Year 2 leaps after up-and-down rookie campaigns. And on the back end, Jaire Alexander is one of the best one-on-one cover men in the league.

Starting one game in his first three seasons, Love is a great unknown, but having seen him in practice a lot, Smith believes the transition won't be so rocky.

"Most people didn't get a chance to really see Jordan and what he had to do (last year)," Smith said. "Us seeing him in practice going against the scout team last year and when he got the chance. Jordan has a lot of ability, and we have a lot of confidence in him. He has a lot of things that could help this team and we feel like he has a lot of confidence. I feel like this is going to be a year for people to see what Jordan is really made of."

Green Bay has enjoyed 30 consecutive years of Hall of Fame quarterback play, going from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. Smith believes Love has the makeup to extend that streak of extraordinary QB play.

"Aaron has been here for 18 years, right? 18 seasons and when you hear about the Packers, it's Aaron Rodgers and the Packers," Smith said. "Now, there's a new face at quarterback and now there's more attention that needs to be brought to the quarterback position because before Aaron it was Brett. Then it was from Brett to Aaron, to now it's Jordan, and if he's going to live up to the legendary status and fall in line of the legends that came before him.

"I believe he has a lot of potential, athletic ability, throwing ability and, overall, he has a lot of great quarterback attributes. I feel like he'll be great. You just have to let him get in there and get comfortable and get the floor. I have seen him make some great athletic throws. I've seen him do a lot of things in practice where I was like, 'Aye, that kid is almost ready' in the past. I feel like, now, the Packers believe in him, the team believes in him, a lot of guys believe in him. We believe he's ready to lead this team on offense."

If Love is ready for the spotlight, the demise some are predicting for the 2023 Packers will be greatly exaggerated.

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