There is Another Step for Rashan Gary To Take

Consistency is the key to becoming elite.

When he is hot, Rashan Gary can be a devastating pass rusher.  One of the best in the league.  The kind who can take over a game and dominate.   He’s also a humble guy who is never a locker room problem and displays a solid work ethic. 

The only thing keeping Gary from being elite is consistency.  He led the Packers with nine sacks last season, playing in all seventeen games.  But that sack total is a bit deceptive.  The former Michigan Wolverine gets his sacks in bunches in individual games.  In 2023 Gary had three sacks in a week three victory over the Saints, and then three more sacks in the Thanksgiving Day upset over the Lions.  He was an unstoppable force in those games.  He simply destroyed the opponent’s game plan.  It was a testament to what he is capable of. 

However, that means he had only a total of three sacks in the other fifteen regular season contests.  Following his awesome game at Detroit, he was credited with a half sack the next week against the Chiefs, and then went the final five games of the regular season, plus two more playoff games without a single takedown of the quarterback.  In those playoff games against the Cowboys and Niners, he had just one solo tackle.  Pro Football Reference has Gary with a total of 22 quarterback hits in the regular season, an average of just over one per game. He has never been voted to an all pro team or selected for a Pro Bowl. 

Last October the Packers signed the sixth year veteran to a four year extension worth an average annual salary of $24 million per season.  That makes him, as of this moment, the eighth highest paid edge rusher in the NFL.  That’s a higher annual average than players such as Maxx Crosby, who had 14.5 sacks last year, and 27 over the past two seasons.  A higher average than Trey Hendrickson, who had 17.5 sacks last year.  Higher than Khalil Mack, who had 17 sacks in 2023. 

In five years with Green Bay, Gary has never had double digit sacks in a season.  His highest total was 9.5 in 2021.  Yet he is easily the best pass rusher on the team.  At 6’5” and 277 pounds, he possesses a rare combination of strength and speed that makes defensive coordinators drool.  Still, combined with Preston Smith who had eight sacks last season, and promising young players like Lukas Van Ness and Kingsley Enagbare, Green Bay finished in the middle of the league in team sacks, ranking sixteenth. 

To be fair, Gary lost nearly half a season in 2022 after blowing out his knee, and may never have felt full speed despite playing in every game this past season.  And to his credit, Gary is determined to step up as a leader in the coming campaign.  He has been named a team captain and intends to take it seriously.  He says he plans to organize a gathering of team edge rushers during this “dead period” in either Dallas or California to work out together and be accountable to each other.  “We’ll work for about two weeks,” Gary said at the spring OTAs.  “I feel that’s important.  Making sure I’m starting with my group, making sure I’m a leader, making sure we’re doing what we gotta do so we can come back to our standards.” 

New coordinator Jeff Hafley promises a more aggressive strategy this fall and Gary says he loves it.  “Attack, attack, attack,” is how Gary describes the approach.  “Just be aggressive, and I’m loving it.  Pin your ears back and play.” 

If the Packers are going to make a serious run at the Super Bowl in 2024, it feels as though Rashan Gary is going to have to achieve the consistent, elite level he has approached, but not quite established, through his first five years.  He’s finally healthy, and he’s talking like he’s hungry and wants to lift a trophy.  That could be very good news for the green and gold. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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6 points
 

Comments (23)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Ya_tittle's picture

June 21, 2024 at 12:28 pm

Fair take on a guy who has amazing potential.

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ricky's picture

June 21, 2024 at 05:04 pm

After five years, you should know what you have in a player. Gary has shown he is an above average player, but not elite. Will he improve? He is saying the right things for the off-season, and we can hope, but the proof will be on the field.

2 points
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bossofallbosses's picture

June 21, 2024 at 10:17 pm

He had a PFF 90 in his third season that's an all pro caliber player. He played as an elite player in the first half but then faded in the second half but still ended with an 80 PFF. He'll most likely be back to a PFF 90 all pro level player as he's 1.5 years separated from the injury and in a more aggressive system

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Oppy's picture

June 22, 2024 at 01:07 pm

I'm just here to say whoever down-voted you isn't here to talk football, they're here to shit on Gary.

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splitpea1's picture

June 21, 2024 at 12:43 pm

I've always been on the fence regarding Gary; sometimes he's proven me wrong, sometimes he hasn't. To me, the contract is too rich for a player that's never recorded double-digit sacks or even been selected to a Pro Bowl. Also the team's rushing defense is slightly worse when he's on the field according to statistics. He finished 15th in overall pass rushing productivity. From another article a few months ago: "Yeah, he gets double-teamed and chipped. So does T.J. Watt (19 sacks), Trey Hendrickson (17.5), Maxx Crosby (14.5), and so many others."

Hopefully he has fully recovered from his injury and will be able to find that consistency. The monster games where he takes over are great, but he has to do more than just be a minimal factor the rest of the time. We'll see if Hafley and company can refine his skills and turn him into a more complete player.

4 points
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Cheezehead72's picture

June 21, 2024 at 12:52 pm

It will be interesting to see what he does this year with his hand in the dirt. I believe he might be more comfortable in a 4-3.

8 points
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NickPerry's picture

June 21, 2024 at 04:31 pm

I do too, and so will Van Ness...This is going to be fun.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 21, 2024 at 01:05 pm

I think Gary can be a consistent double digit sacks player with health but I don't think he has the agility to be a 15 sacks a year guy. Crosby and Watt both had three cones well under 7 while Hendrickson was right at 7. Gary had a 7.26. You're basically looking at 5 times out of 400+ pass rushing snaps that you didn't let the QB get away. That's a razor thin line but I think Gary is on the wrong side of it.

Van Ness had a 7.02 3-cone so maybe he develops into a top pass rusher.

4 points
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bossofallbosses's picture

June 21, 2024 at 10:19 pm

He had a PFF 90 in his third season that's an all pro caliber player. He played as an elite player in the first half but then faded in the second half but still ended with an 80 PFF. He'll most likely be back to a PFF 90 all pro level player as he's 1.5 years separated from the injury and in a more aggressive system

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 21, 2024 at 01:15 pm

Speaking of Gary he was on Rich Eisen's show yesterday.

https://youtu.be/bfG1APn5on0?si=PSmrSlkBSKQJU3a8

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13TimeChamps's picture

June 21, 2024 at 02:31 pm

Thanks for that. Very interesting. Seems like Mr. Gary has a great attitude and work ethic. Hope he lights it up this year.

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GregC's picture

June 21, 2024 at 01:19 pm

Not mentioned here is that Gary was on a snap count in each game for about the first half of last season. That's part of the reason his production was not so great. Also, he probably wore down at the end of the season, as he had to spend the previous off season rehabbing a severe knee injury instead of conditioning for the season.

Still, I agree that there's room for improvement. He's a very good player, but not a great one. Not yet anyway.

6 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 21, 2024 at 03:05 pm

Yes, in his interview on the Rich Eisen show this week, Gary talked about having to rehab all last offseason instead of train and study film to get better. I thought he had a pretty amazing bounce-bank season after a torn ACL. That really set him back just as he was getting really productive. I'm looking forward to see what having an off season of training and playing under an aggressive DC will do for Gary's career.

3 points
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TXCHEESE's picture

June 21, 2024 at 02:25 pm

Love the man's demeanor and motor. Now that he's healed and has the experience under his belt, I expect big things from Gary this year.

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MitchAnthony's picture

June 21, 2024 at 03:13 pm

Attack, attack, attack. Pins your ears back and go.

But quit overplaying the edge, getting washed out of the play and letting the runner get loose. Because like others have noticed, it happens.

I like the player and what he has developed into, but that's what needs to get cleaned up.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 21, 2024 at 03:33 pm

You gotta take into consideration snap counts. The guys you listed played 80% to 95% of the defensive snaps for their teams last season. Gary was still rehabbing and only played 53% of the defensive snaps, making his 9 sacks and 10 QB hurries not as low as the article would suggest. Hoping to see a healthy Gary for a full season be able to wreck more games, with Preston and Lucas doing their share as well.

4 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 21, 2024 at 06:39 pm

I thought he was the best pass rusher on the team. He led the team in sacks and pressures, and this was a Top10 team in sacks % and pressure %.

He closes. You don't duck him, or twist around him, or slither past him very often. Once Upon a Time, we had a really good edge rusher who sometimes left big holes for the opposing QB to escape through, and Gary doesn't do that. When you start to bolt the pocket, that's when he makes his move.

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Golferallen54's picture

June 22, 2024 at 12:05 am

I hardly ever comment, but read almost every post and comments. This is one of the best takes I’ve seen in quite awhile. Watching the other really good pass rusher go around the qb multiple times per game drove me insane!!

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bossofallbosses's picture

June 21, 2024 at 10:21 pm

Don't forget Gary had one sack that the NFL took away from him and gave it to Smith last year for no apparent reason. Also, he qas on pitch count early in the year so that limited his production. He had a PFF 90 in his third season that's an all pro caliber player. He played as an elite player in the first half but then faded in the second half but still ended with an 80 PFF. He'll most likely be back to a PFF 90 all pro level player as he's 1.5 years separated from the injury and in a more aggressive system

2 points
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TheTaxiSquad's picture

June 21, 2024 at 10:24 pm

Good article and I agree with the sentiment of thinking/hoping Gary explodes now that he’s healthy. I don’t agree that it’s all on his shoulders. And I do think they can win it all with a solid group effort and not just one guy having 15 sacks.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 23, 2024 at 01:29 am

Considering he played the entire season after his recovery, let's be grateful. And now with the huge shift in defensive philosophy it is certainly his time to shine. Just can't wait to see if it all comes together finally for him and the entire defense this year. We sure have waited long enough for a defense worthy of the Green Bay Packers we all know and Love. (Didn't plan on it coming out that way but here we are. Love is in the air I guess.)

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PackerBackerAZ's picture

June 23, 2024 at 12:44 pm

Consistency might not be the problem with Gary. He needs to show more aggression on the field. Hafley can preach all he wants about his aggressive scheme, but the players need to have an aggressive personality that can't be taught. They either have it or they don't. The vast majority of the Packers defensive players need to demonstrate that they can be aggressive and want to dominate their opponent on every play.

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AshleyFuentes's picture

July 11, 2024 at 10:04 am

It's great that Rashan Gary, the pass rusher for the Green Bay Packers, shows potential to be an elite player, despite some inconsistency. In 2023, he recorded 9 sacks, mostly in a few standout games. Gary signed a $24 million per year contract, although he has yet to reach double-digit sacks in a season. Despite a knee injury in 2022, Gary is determined to become a team leader and work on his consistency. The new aggressive strategy from coordinator Jeff Hafley could help the Packers in their quest for the Super Bowl in 2024.

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