Rashan Gary improving makes Green Bay Packers’ pass rush scary

Rashan Gary making a year two leap would boost the Green Bay Packers defense.

There’s a lot of pressure on second-year outside linebacker Rashan Gary in 2020. As a rookie first-rounder in 2019, many expected more from the 12th overall selection in his inaugural NFL season. For the Green Bay Packers, Gary holds the key to an improved pass-rushing unit this coming season.

It’s not like the Packers’ pass-rush was abysmal last season, though. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Green Bay touted two Pro Bowl-caliber edge rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Quickly dubbed the ‘Smith Bros’, the two veterans had an immediate impact in their first season with the Packers.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Za’Darius logged a league-high 93 quarterback pressures, while his counter-part Preston finished with 55 pressures (22nd). Together, the Smith Brothers combined for 25.5 sacks.

Because of the Smiths’ success, much of the attention was taken away from the performance (or lack thereof) of Rashan Gary.

Scouts, analysts and fans alike were mesmerized by Gary’s performance at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine leading up to the draft. At 277 pounds, Gary ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, a blazing fast time for a human his size. Gary’s athleticism was tantalizing throughout the draft process, but his lack of on-field production at Michigan was concerning.

That concern carried over into his first season as a pro. As a rookie in 2019, Gary played just 244 defensive snaps (24 percent) and 33 special teams snaps (eight percent). He played in all 16 games, but tallied just 21 tackles (13 solo), two sacks and three quarterback hits.

“We’re looking forward to Rashan making a big jump,” said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last Friday on a conference call. “He needs to make a big jump. I do see Rashan taking a significantly increased role,” Pettine later stated.

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For where he was drafted, the Packers were probably disappointed with Gary’s progress in his first season. A step forward from Gary this coming season could take Green Bay’s pass-rushing unit to the next level.

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