Now in his third NFL season, expectations for Rashan Gary were relatively high entering the new year, especially after he was able to find some success in 2020. Add in the fact that the Green Bay Packers have been without Za’Darius Smith for all but one week, and Gary has quickly become one of the more important members of this defense.
If you were to look at his raw sack totals, depending on where you look, you would see that he has been credited with just 1.5 sacks or maybe two if you’re utilizing PFF ($$) where they don’t count half sacks. However, that doesn’t mean that Gary hasn’t been effective–in fact, it’s been the opposite of that.
Sacks are great, but as OLB coach Mike Smith has pointed out in the past, that is not the only measure of success for a pass rusher. While sacks get all of the attention, it’s quarterback pressures that show consistency.
“I care about pressure, affecting the quarterback, that’s the No. 1 thing. I’ll take a guy that does his job play after play after play after play, being consistent and have zero sacks, but does his job and affects the quarterback,” Smith said via Packers Wire. “If you got a room that believes the only way to get a pressure is to get a sack, you’re going to have a very disappointing room in the NFL. These (blockers) are good. I could care less about the sack stuff.”
From a pressure standpoint, Gary has been one of the most effective pass-rushers in the game this season. According to PFF, Gary has 25 pressures logged through the first six games; that is tied for the ninth-most among edge rushers.
Of those 25 pressures, eight of them are quarterback hits, which is tied for the second-most, and while not a sack, it showcases that he is very close to the quarterback and affecting the play.
Gary also ranks 22nd in solo tackles with 11, he’s tied for eighth in assisted tackles with six, and he ranks 27th out of 169 eligible edge rushers in stops, which are plays that result in a “loss” for the offense, according to PFF.
As Matt LaFleur says, “stats are for losers,” but the numbers above help illustrate just how impactful Gary has been despite the lack of gaudy sack totals–and he has been particularly dominant over these last three games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Chicago.
“Whatever the team expects or needs for me, I’m here,” Gary said via Packers News. “I’m a hardhat worker. I come to work and I’m just trying to be the best I can day by day so, whatever the team needs me to do, I’m able to do it.”
But it’s not only against the pass that Gary has left his mark; he, along with Preston Smith, has been very good against the run this season as well for this Green Bay Packers defense.
Gary has been very active in the run game and has done a terrific job of setting the edge, helping to contain the opposing running backs. Through six games, the Green Bay Packers are yet to give up 100 rushing yards to any running back.
Gary’s run defense grade from PFF, which ranks 18th among edge rushers, again helps illustrate his level of play this season.
In Za’Darius Smith’s absence, Gary has not only helped fill that void with his play on the field, but he’s taken over a similar role as well, being moved around the defensive front and rushing from multiple alignments, including over the A-gap.
Unless it’s a sack, pressuring the quarterback isn’t necessarily going to draw much attention, and neither is holding the edge so the running back has nowhere to go, allowing another Packer defender to make the tackle.
But both aspects are incredibly important to a team’s success and Gary has been providing that this season with his teammates benefitting from it as well.