The Green Bay Packers made the conscious effort to bring Rashan Gary along slowly during his rookie season. But in 2020 it’s time for him to see more of the field.
One of the more polarizing players on this Green Bay Packers team in 2019 was the rookie and 12th overall pick, Rashan Gary. Gary came out of Michigan touted for his athleticism and extremely high-ceiling, but many were concerned about his lack of production in college and the refinement that his game needed at the NFL level.
However there were two things were clear last season, the Packers loved Gary, especially OLB Coach Mike Smith, and they had a clear plan for his development which was built around bringing him along slowly. As Mike Pettine put it last summer, they knew when they drafted Gary that he was “a little bit of a work in progress.”
So while it is easy to compare Gary’s two sacks and three quarterback hits in 2019 to that of Brian Burns, who was selected a few spots after Gary and tallied 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Burns had played over 600 snaps for Carolina last season while in the regular season, Gary totaled just 277 which averages out to just over 17 per game.
The Green Bay Packers specifically used Gary in obvious passing situations where he could let his natural ability take over by rushing the quarterback. And of course, ahead of him on the depth chart was Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith whose presence helped give Green Bay the luxury of bringing Gary along slowly in 2019. With those two on the roster, Gary didn’t have to step in and be “the guy” from Day 1, and that is something not many top-15 picks are afforded.
As expected his season started slowly but Gary started to fill the stat sheet a bit at the end of the year as he had a three week stretch against New York, Washington, and Chicago where he recorded a sack, seven solo tackles, two tackles for loss, along with a quarterback hit. And he did all of that in just 45 total snaps.
Admittedly, over three games those numbers aren’t eye-popping by any means but that is solid production, especially considering his snap count. And of course, in a perfect world the 12th overall pick would step on the field and be force from Day 1, but as I mentioned above, that wasn’t a part of Green Bay’s plan with Gary.
Now having said all of that, Gary’s rookie year is over and in 2020 it is time for him to see an increase in snaps. Which hopefully means more production and noticeable progress in his development as well.
Although he made strides as a pass-rusher throughout the course of the season, he still struggled to shed blockers once engaged, he still lacks a second pass-rush move, and when it comes to playing OLB at the NFL level, Gary still has a ways to go in learning all of the responsibilities that come with that job.
If Green Bay’s patience with him pays off, in the long run we will hopefully see Gary develop into a player that can be on the field for all three downs and someone who can kick inside in addition to rushing the passer from the outside.
But before we get to that point, we need to see Gary make that Year 2 leap that so many successful NFL players make. And after he has another offseason and training camp under his belt, in 2020 it’s time for the Green Bay Packers to let him run wild a little bit to see what he can really do. I mean after all, he is the 12th overall pick.