How Many Awards Does Za’Darius Smith Win?

How Many Awards Does Za'Darius Smith Win?
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings saw Za’Darius Smith win the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award following a three-sack performance against the Arizona Cardinals. The former Green Bay Packers edge rusher is having an amazing season, but thinking he’ll stop racking up accolades any time soon seems crazy.

First and foremost, there has never been a period in the career of Za’Darius Smith when he hasn’t been good. Certainly, he’s been unhealthy, but even that is primarily relegated to a single season. The Packers moved on despite lackluster options, and they’re now watching the pass rusher dominate with one of their chief rivals.

A season ago, Smith played in just a single game for Green Bay and generated only one tackle. After working through the injury and getting healthy, Smith is now back to being one of the best pass rushers in the league, and he’s doing it in a Vikings jersey.

Last week against the Cardinals, Smith was able to line up in different positions and bring down an elusive quarterback in Kyler Murray three times. Now with 8.5 sacks on the season, he’s tied for the lead in the NFL, and there’s plenty of opportunity for him to keep pushing the tally upward. Smith will knock on the door of his 13.5 sack career best in 2019 within a few games.

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Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebackers Danielle Hunter (99) and Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

So, assuming this production level continues, how much recognition will he get?

Two awards stand out: Defensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year. It’d be hard to overlook a guy who leads the league in sacks for Defensive Player of the Year and coming off a season in which he basically didn’t play. There’s not much more comeback than that.

Online bookmaker Bovada seems to still have the Vikings edge rusher undervalued. Maybe that’s worth a futures bet, but either way, it’s hard to count Smith out when it comes to making noise in both categories. As Ed Donatell’s secondary continues to struggle, it would behoove the Vikings to pursue the passer constantly.

This shouldn’t really be seen as something unexpected. After all, the question has never been about ability for Smith. He’s finally healthy, and it’s clear he’s motivated by a team that cast him off when they could’ve instead used his services.

Keep counting him out, but enjoy the sacks Smith racks up along the way.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.