The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 last season, won the NFC North and reached the NFC Championship Game for a second straight year. The Packers lost to Tampa Bay, though, 31-26, in the conference title game and the offseason has been packed with drama.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, but the Packers have insisted they won’t move him. Stay tuned for more theatrics in the days ahead.
With or without Rodgers, Green Bay will start training camp practices on July 28. Throughout the rest of the month, I will count down the ‘30 Most Important Packers’ heading into the 2021 campaign.
At No. 14 is outside linebacker Rashan Gary. The other players that have been revealed in the top-30 are listed at the bottom of the story.
OLB Rashan Gary
Last season: Gary’s playing time rose from 23.5% in 2019 to 44.4% in 2020. Gary also ranked second on the team with 6.5 sacks and second in pressures with 30, despite the fact he played less than half the snaps.
Gary had a quiet first half of the season when he dealt with an ankle injury. As he became healthier, his role and productivity increased — highlighted by a 1 ½-sack game against the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional playoffs.
Career to date: Gary, taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft, was one of the NFL’s more disappointing rookies that season.
Gary finished the 2019 campaign with 21 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, and three quarterback hits. Gary was Green Bay’s fourth outside linebacker all year and played just 23.46% of the snaps.
Gary played a season-high 26 snaps in Week 3. By the end of the year, though, his stock had dropped so dramatically that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine gave him just three snaps in the NFC Championship Game.
Gary (6-4 ½, 276) has sensational measurables and was once the No. 1 rated high school player in the country. But Gary had three so-so seasons at Michigan before declaring early for the NFL Draft.
Gary wowed scouts at the 2019 NFL Combine, though, leading all defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash (4.63), vertical jump (38 inches) and broad jump (10-0).
Outlook: Is this the year Gary overtakes Preston Smith as Green Bay’s No. 2 outside linebacker? It’s quite possible.
Gary was a player on the rise by the end of 2020. His productivity skyrocketed and his effort level wowed many in the building.
On the other hand, Smith struggled through a disappointing year. Smith’s sacks fell from 12.0 in 2019 to just 4.0 a year ago. His pressures also plummeted from 45.5 to 19.0.
It seems the time is now for Gary, who appears poised for a breakout in Year 3.
“I can tell you one thing: from the day Rashan has gotten here, you talk about a guy that puts everything into whatever it is he’s doing. He’s going to bring tremendous energy and tremendous effort on every play, and it’s shown. I really think probably as much as everybody in two years on the defensive side of the ball, you see it paying off for him. He’s going to be a big-time player for us and I think he’s going to be a big-time player in this league for a really long time, and it all starts with that work ethic and the detail. Rashan’s working hard to develop multiple moves coming off the edge, but one thing that definitely jumps, we see it every practice and every game, is just the effort he plays with.” — Packers coach Matt LaFleur on Gary
“I expect a big jump from Year 3. That’s our plan and you gotta stick with that plan. I have 100% confidence in Rashan because he’s always gonna work. He came in in ridiculous shape again. Saw him the other day. It’s nice to see that progression. We’re kind of starting things over and talking about our basics and all that stuff, but he’s already got a huge jump for being here for two years. I expect him to get even better and better and better and better every year.” — Packers outside linebackers coach Mike Smith on Gary
“I feel like a big year. We basically now all are playing backer, so we all have to know the same position, and just from being in the meeting rooms with him, I feel like he learns quick, man, and whatever he learns in the meeting room he takes to the field, you know what I’m saying. For a guy like that going into Year 3 to be able to do stuff like that, and he’s progressing every year, he’s going to be dominant for us this year, man, and I can’t wait.” — outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith on Gary
“I’m taking strides day by day. I’m trying to get better day by day. That’s my mindset. I’m feeling comfortable because basically just working on my moves and having that mindset and just keeping everything full throttle from last year, not trying to slow down – not one bit. I’ve still got a lot of chipping away to do before the season comes. I’m happy to get back in my lab, get back in the cave and work.” — Gary on his progress