Yes, the 2020 season ended in disappointing fashion.
If just one play or one call or one playcall would have been different, the Packers could have been in the Super Bowl. Based on the disarray the Chiefs were in from injuries and off-the-field issues, the Packers may very well have won.
But it didn’t happen.
There’s looming salary cap issues in 2021 and some key players surely won’t be back, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic for the 2021 season and we’ll be counting them throughout the offseason.
Today we look at Reason #5: Rashan Gary.
When Rashan Gary was drafted, a lot of people – including me – didn’t like the pick.
I didn’t label him an immediate bust, but I definitely had my doubts. I favored Brian Burns because I wanted a pass rushing specialist.
The Packers clearly didn’t want a pass rushing specialist.
It took me some time to see what they had in mind.
The Packers have built their front around guys like Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary – guys with hybrid flexibility to fill any front or sub package around Kenny Clark.
Gary took some time to adjust to the pro game, but this year, we really got to see what he was capable of.
In his first year, he saw mostly spot duty and his biggest highlights were from his bullrush. He trained hard in the offseason and added some more tools to his repertoire. He has a forklift move, he got better at shedding, he became more adept at stunts.
He’ll never have the elite bend of a guy like Brian Burns, which will make it harder for him to turn the corner, but this year, he was much better at his pursuit path and didn’t get washed out of plays by having tackles walk him high nearly as much as he did as a rookie. Throttling his upfield rush to cut down on that overpursuit has been huge for his productivity, leading to a pressure rate of 13.2% and helping him get sacks on 19.6% of his pressures.
He hasn’t had a signature game-breaking play to serve as his arrival moment, but he has taken his impact to the next level.
Last year, he showed that he can get better in the offseason. With another year of growth, he can come back as an even more complete player. As a hybrid box edge coming out of college (instead of a pas rush specialist), he already had good form against the run. Now that he’s improved his pass rush, he’s become a more complete player.
He went from 0 starts to 4. He went from 2 sacks to 5. Those numbers aren’t lighting the world on fire, but his impact goes beyond that and his growth is on a steep incline.
He finished the season on a tear, ranking number 1 in the league with an 18.7% pressure rate from week 10 on. Aaron Donald came in second.
He only played 23% of the snaps in his rookie year, and took it up to 44% of the snaps last year. Next year, he might get the 79% of snaps that Preston Smith played, giving him more opportunities to build on his growth.
With a larger role in 2021, we should expect even more from Rashan Gary.
Want to learn more!?
Want more insight into how winning teams build through the draft (and how losing teams fail)? We’ve got you covered!
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