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What to Expect from Rashan Gary in Year One

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What to Expect from Rashan Gary in Year One

When the Green Bay Packers selected Rashan Gary with the 12th pick in the 2019 NFL draft, they were swinging for the fences.

Gary, who was the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school in 2016, has as much potential as just about anyone in the draft. He's 6-foot-4, 280 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.56.

When he put on the No. 52 (sorry Clay) he instantly reminded me of Julius Peppers and it's likely there were others in the Packers organization that thought of Peppers when evaluating Gary.

Of course, there is a dramatic difference between Peppers and Gary coming out of college. Gary had 10 sacks at Michigan, while Peppers had 15 in his sophomore season at North Carolina.

Peppers went No. 2 overall to Carolina and he made an immediate impact on the NFL. Obviously, the Packers are hoping Gary can help them next season, the question is, how much?

One luxury the Packers have is not needing Gary to come in and be the team's top pass rusher. Green Bay spent lots of money on Preston Smith and Zadarius Smith to be that. 

Kyler Fackrell also had a double-digit sack year in 2018, showing the depth is solid and that doesn't even include Kenny Clark (6 sacks in 2018) or Mike Daniels at defensive tackle.

Clark is becoming a dude. Will Rashan Gary ever become one? To me, it all depends on how he's used but yes all the tools are there. 

There have been reports that the Packers are going to play him at outside linebacker and while I believe that makes the most sense, they can't stick him at just one spot.

He's too versatile and too talented. When he played at Michigan, he was essentially the strongside defensive end all of the time. Gary excelled in that role because he is a dominating run defender.

However, when it comes to rushing the passer, it made it tougher. He often faced double teams or chips and rarely got the chance to rush inside, where his size and speed, especially next to someone like Clark could be a nightmare. 

That's just one spot where I would like to see the Packers employ his services. He would also do great playing as a five-technique or defensive end in a four-man front. 

Yet, whether it's in an odd or even front, one of his best attributes will be setting the edge. Nick Perry and Clay Matthews both did that well for years and Gary will too. 

His run defense might be his biggest strength, but it's not something he gets a ton of credit for. He occupies blockers but is also disruptive. 

The thing about him playing outside, is he has never really done it. 

Michigan didn't ask him to stand up as a pass rusher much, so that will be an adjustment, but who knows, maybe it will help. 

There is no doubt Gary is an elite athlete. He has all the tools to be a force in the NFL, which is why Green Bay was justified in taking him. 

Simply put, if he realizes his potential, he could easily be a franchise cornerstone for the next decade and on the other side, he has a pretty high floor. 

For some reason, maybe because he skipped his team's bowl game and has an injury history, there is a perception that he's soft. Trust me, he's not.

At the point of attack, Gary is physical and even if he gets zero sacks next season, he will help against the run.

But if Mike Pettine gets creative and finds him some mismatches, Gary can thrive as a pass rusher too.

At Michigan, he was always the focal point up front and saw constant double teams. With Green Bay, he should be singled up plenty as a rookie and with three very solid edge rushers in front of him, when Gary is on the field, he should be fresh and that's an exciting prosect.

One of the best things about Gary's addition is the depth it adds, not only to outside linebacker, but to the front seven in general. He has the size of a defensive end in a three or four-man front and honestly, you could plug him in there right away and he would have no problem. 

Standing him up will work too and could allow him to take advantage of his athleticism even more. But with the two Smith's, Fackrell, Clark and Daniels, Green Bay has some dudes on the defensive front and that's exciting.

In terms of sack production, it's hard to see Gary getting more than a few sacks, if even that much. Yet, there is no doubt he will help the Packers in 2019, especially if they play to his strengths. 



Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Coldworld's picture

Great play against the run. Situational interchange with the Smiths and a less glamorous contribution to far more QB pressures and far fewer 6 yard runs. All that set against the mantra that he isn’t living up to expectations because he hasn’t racked up double digit sacks. Smiths and others get the glamor sacks along with Daniels and interceptions increase with opponents inability to run the ball as effectively combined with increased disruption of the pocket forcing errors.

Old School's picture

Expect 300 snaps and 5 sacks and be happy if he gets that.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I would be very happy with that.

CAG123's picture

Man you really like to aim low imagine if you were a coach. You have any other stat predictions? Tackles? TFL? QB hits? Pressures? Let’s see a full stat line

Old School's picture

OK, CAG, I'll humor you.

Last year, Vita Vea was taken at #12, Darron Payne was taken at #13. Both play DT. Marcus Davenport, a DE, was taken at #14. So let's look at their rookie seasons and see how they did. IF you want to project Gary as an OLB, then we'll have to take into account that he'll be splitting time with the Smiths and Fackrell. That'll mean generally fewer snaps. I project him as an interior pass rusher when we go to our two man defensive front, and I think that's where he'll get most of his snaps.

Payne played all 16 games; Vea and Davenport played in 13. So my assumption on Gary is that he'll play at least 13, but probably not 16.

Vea had 3 sacks, Davenport 4.5, and Payne had 5. So I think I was pretty generous projecting Gary for 5 sacks. They also had 4, 8, and 12 hits, so we'll average that out and say 8 hits for Gary.

Vea, Payne, and Davenport had 21, 35, and 12 tackles, respectively, on the season. So I'd project Gary has having less than two tackles per game. IF he's active for all 16 games, that'd be about 30; if he misses time, it'll be less.

I was a coach. And a big part of being a coach is being realistic. If a guy exceeds expectations, that's fantastic. I think my expectations for Gary are based on reality. What are yours based on?

greengold's picture

Old School, I believe you took a very realistic approach here. Gary has intangibles, but, I hope people watched a bunch of his tape. He definitely was double and triple teamed often, and plays generally went away from his side, even more so. That alone is going to make it difficult to pile up in the stat sheet.

What I've seen with Rashan Gary is that he needs better coaching and better scheming. Here is where Mike Pettine can really make a name for himself. If he can help Gary develop more counter moves, and if he can get his motor to run NON STOP, then I think we are onto something.

Gary certainly has ability, and I can see him succeeding in Pettine's D, and quite possibly eclipse the numbers you earnestly projected. It will all depend on Pettine's ability to coach him up and put him in the best possible positions for success. As things stand, this is a far superior collection of talent around Gary than what we've known for quite some time. Opponents cannot double team everybody. Being single teamed will certainly help him achieve success, but, so will helping him see his way to the ball carrier/passer more clearly.

I've noticed he has a tendency to attack the blocker directly in front of him as opposed to attacking the direct path to the ball. If Pettine can get Gary to see that, and play directly to the ball and not the blocker, LOOK OUT!

Turophile's picture

As I and others have said, his floor is Nick Perry. His ceiling is............very high.

Having said that, I think the guy needs work on secondary pass-rush moves, he needs a better plan, snap to snap. I think he will be solid in the run game right out of the box, but for pressuring the passer, he'll need some time.

I'm guessing that if his improvement arc goes as the Packers would like, he'll start to be a difference maker somewhere in the first six games of his second season.

It's just possible that being on that line Clark, Daniels, Z. Smith, P.Smith, and several other promising backups, he shines earlier, but I'm still betting on it being a year and a bit, before he really starts to shine when pass rushing.

Tundraboy's picture

I expect him to be the anti Perry.

dobber's picture

I predict that no matter how well Gary plays in 2019, it won't be enough for many people.

Samson's picture

Agree somewhat.
But I believe he'll start to be a difference maker somewhere between the 4th game & 10th game of his second season.
I'm being a bit factious. --- Hard to predict when Gary will be counted on as a difference maker (it could start earlier than some think). -- This is MLF, not MM.

Ezra's Hotdog's picture

Mike Pettine, not Dom Capers

Freezn's picture

we have the outside linebackers coach from Kansas city and he sure made the linebackers there studs

Freezn's picture

Gary is in good hands and the Smith boys can teach him some tricks as well

mamasboy's picture

Players he has coached have said that they owe a lot of their success to his coaching.

Freezn's picture

I believe we will have a really fast scary defense under Pettine

albert999's picture

Hopefully like a pack of wolves pun intended

Lare's picture

While they talk about using Gary as an OLB, his size is much better suited to a DE. With the addition of the Smith's I'll be curious to see if Pettine plans on playing more of a 4-3 defensive front instead of a 3-4.

Coldworld's picture

Because he runs like one and is initially with the OLB group to learn coverage per team

Bure9620's picture

He will play 4-3 under

Rossonero's picture

Potential is like popcorn. Doesn't mean much if it doesn't pop.

I'm confident that Mike Pettine 'n Co. will be able to tap into Rashan Gary's incredible potential. His versatility alone makes him exciting to create match-up problems.

However, have we ever seen a player like him with the athletic traits, but lack of production? I'm just trying to think of a comparable player from years or even decades earlier. compared him to Ezekiel Ansah, and it might be the closest comparison. Ansah, at 6'5" 275 lbs., ran a 4.56 40, put up 21 reps and had a 31.5" vertical.

He only had one year of so-so production as a Senior, which was 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He didn't register any sacks or TFLs in his other two seasons at BYU.

Let's obviously hope he turns out better than Ansah.

dobber's picture

Ansah had 48 sacks in 6 seasons with the Lions, and had only two seasons with fewer than 7.5 sacks (he was injured in those two). If Gary has 8, 7.5, and 14.5 sacks in his first 3 years, and has played all but two games during that span, I'll be pretty happy with that. It's the next three seasons where he needs to be better than Ansah.

scoonie_penn's picture

Andre Bruce and Vernon Gohlston

Tarynfor12's picture

He's the number one pick...I expect him to be a day one starter with impact and nothing less.

This draft was to get the last ounce of possible from Rodgers years left in GB for SB wins and not the past normal of waiting for development of players,especially the top pick.

Sounds as though some are willing to redo the Perry excuses again and if so...the Rodgers era ends with one SB win and one appearance and with that goes the legacy that was suppose to be and all his stats mean nothing but personal accolades and we fans get to kneel before the stat sheet and try to defend the why.

John30856's picture

have a bit of patience, write him off as another perry before he takes his first snap? Really?

Tarynfor12's picture

I didn't write him off as another Perry....I said some are already getting ready to treat him like one.
I listened to people hear scream how the Pack hasn't had a top rd selection and were always picking at the bottom. We had the 12 pick and they got the complaint squashed and now they want to save face by saying Gary may need if he was the 29th selection. I call bs as I have done many times before and loudly.
Gary needs to be worth the 12th pick and be what is expected and has been screamed as reason for prior poor showings not being a top 1st rd selection.
He was selected by the New Culture in a win now mindset...he has the burden placed on him by this new FO and HC. They chose him as the first top end of the draft in 10 years...excuses are not allowed....we've been hearing them for to many a first rd pick regardless of number selected in 1st rd.

Coldworld's picture

I think the team has said exactly the opposite from the get go and with the Smiths coming in the situation is not the norm. Added to that is the depth at DE and the need to get him used to dropping back.

He will play, but in packages is my take.

Turophile's picture

Day 1 impact starter Tarynfor12 ?? What are you smoking ? I'm sorry to say your expectations are unrealistic.

Everyone and their sister knows he was picked for his POTENTIAL (I put it in big letters just so you didn't miss it, you seemed to have missed a lot about this guy).

My guess is he starts to make impact plays more regularly (against the pass), somewhere in the first six games of his second season in Green Bay. He should be decent against the run straight away.

There is no "re-doing Perry excuses here", what there is, is a reasonable expectation for a rookie who we know isn't NFL ready yet, which is the case with many draftees, even high picks. Guys like Savage and Jenkins might get more play early in their career, compared to, say, Gary and Sternberger.

croatpackfan's picture

Yeah, I remember last draft when Sanits traded their 2019 1st round pick to take 1st day starter DE. His name is Marcus Davenport. I remember how many screamed at Brian Gutekunst why he did not pick Marcus, why he traded back. Because Marcus is 1st day starter! And Packers needed pass rush...

Can someone gave us numbers of the 1st season of Marcus Davenport? How many sacks, QB hits, hurries, tackles for loss or FF he produced?

14th pick of the first round!

dobber's picture

Handsback's picture

Gary will flash from time to time and expect him to stop or slow walk the run game against the Pack's opponents. He will need to learn the NFL and get bigger as in more muscle. I think Savage will do more because he's not playing that body slamming game.

Dzehren's picture

If GARY can cover tight ends, he will have more of an impact in year 1. Also see Gary helping close out games in the 4th quarter with revamped defense.

PatrickGB's picture

I see him as a 4-3 DE. He can rush the QB and hold up against double teams to effect the run game. Pettine does not limit his defense to any traditional formation. And as others have noted he can also stand up as a OLB. So let’s not expect him to fit any traditional formation. He is too good to pigeon hole his position.

Nick Perry's picture

"Pettine does not limit his defense to any traditional formation."

Exactly.. Pettine is known for scheme to free up pass rushers. I can't help but remind myself Pettine somehow was able to get 44 sacks as a team last seasons and 10.5 from Frackrell.

NOW... If Pettine can get those numbers from the group he had last season especially with Frackrell, the Smiths and Gary as the season progresses will put up over 50. The biggest difference will be the hits and hurries though and with that comes turnovers. This defense will be nasty and Gary will be more and more a part of it by the end of the year.

dobber's picture

If he can do it without committing extra rushers on a regular basis...THEN he'll have something.

PeteK's picture

Fresh bodies on the DL equates to fourth quarter dominance. Clark was on the field too much last season at the grueling NG position so Lancaster as the only other NG will see some action on running plays

Coldworld's picture

So was Daniels.

Gman1976's picture

Prediction: During year 3, there will be no doubts about this pick. Some will confess, they were wrong about how he would turn out. Others will just smile.

Since '61's picture

I believe that Gary will be worked into the defense slowly early in the season and then given increasing snaps as the season progresses. I hope that Pettine moves him around in the front 7 as well.

With his speed the OL will need to account for him and in doing so it should enable one of our other pass rushers to make a play or cause a bad throw for a pick by the secondary. We’ll see. Thanks, Since ‘61

zeroluv's picture

Gary is only 21 years old. He will take a year to develop game speed but the Packers have that luxury. They signed them smiths which give them time to develop Gary. I don’t expect him to start but I do expect him to play. He will be fine and he is a competitive person which with a high motor.

Samson's picture

Guess all you want........ It all depends on........

How effective the "D" is with Gary on the field (or off).
The old bug-a-boo, injuries.

This is a new regime. Some of you are still thinking in the "old MM mode".

PeteK's picture

34 comments and you're the only one still mentioning MM. The last two years were scary , but stop looking over your shoulder or you won't go forward.

jh9's picture

There's also an old adage: "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

AgrippaLII's picture

He's a #12 pick...I expect him to make a significant contribution on the field this year and get even better over the next three years !

draftnut59's picture

Petine wants big-bodied men in the front seven to stop the run and fast, quick playmakers on the back end. I think Gary’s just a piece of the puzzle with lots of upside for the future. The draft is always more about the future than it is about the present.

Expecting any rookie to set the NFL on fire their first season isn’t realistic. Mario Williams didn’t. Jadeveon Clowney didn’t either. J.J. Watt had 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks his rookie year. Give the kid a chance.

gary g's picture

That was right on the money draftnut.

dobber's picture

"J.J. Watt had 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks his rookie year. Give the kid a chance."

OK, but if that Watt kid doesn't finally step up and play well, I'm giving up on him.

Coldworld's picture

I admire your patience in waiting so long Dobber.

greengold's picture

The BIGGEST component to Green Bay latching onto Rashan Gary, aside from his pure athleticism, was that he can play virtually anywhere on Pettine's defensive front. That is a VERY important component when considering Gary's value to Pettine, LaFleur and Gutey.

He's a well rounded player, a rookie, certainly, one who will require time within the system to develop to their liking.

To me, I wasn't hot on the selection at first, quite the opposite. However, Gutekunst has earned my respect over these past two offseasons, and if Rashan Gary was their top target of the draft, after years of studying him, then I believe they might have found a real gem. With all of the pieces they've added to our D, I do think Gary can light up the stat column in Green Bay. Just have to give both he and our staff their just due in bringing the best out of him. It should be fun to see what happens.

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