Versatility drives Rashan Gary, Packers' pass rush

"I'm an athlete. I don't know how else to put it."

Rashan Gary provided the understatement of the year after Friday's practice. Gary, one of the Green Bay Packers' two first-round picks in April's draft, may have entered the league with "motor" concerns, but any reluctance about his athletic ability can be safely disregarded.

Gary tested in the 95.5 percentile with an elite SPARQ score, offering further validity to general manager Brian Gutekunst's quest of loading his roster up with high-profile athletes. But that isn't what makes him such a promising fit in the Packers' defense, nor is it what his rookie season will live and die by.

Through four training camp practices, Gary has impressed with his speed and quick twitch off the line. He's won a majority of his one-on-one battles and flashed as someone whose motor will help drive him past the point of proving his critics wrong.

Gary sported pads for the first time in his NFL career on Sunday, and head coach Matt LaFleur is loving what the Packers have in their No. 12 overall pick.

"It's early, so we'll see once we get to the game action, but he's done a lot of nice things," LaFleur said. "The one thing I've really liked that he's shown is the effort he plays with. The way we define that is if you see a change of speed, a burst then to max speed and then to the finish. He's had some good clips to show to the team."

Despite being projected as an outside linebacker in the Packers' defense, opportunity opened for Gary when the Packers released veteran defensive lineman Mike Daniels last week. One of Gary's premier traits at Michigan was his aptness in playing multiple positions -- something he could certainly end up doing for Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

It would only require a shift inside in order to maximize his pass-rushing potential, something that Gary wouldn't oppose.

"If coach wants me to play the [3-tech], I’m gonna go rush at the 3," Gary said. "If he wants me to stay outside and rush outside, that’s what I”m about to do. Day by day, I’m just working on perfecting my craft and becoming the best player I can for this team."

The Packers sculpted an entirely new group of pass-rushers this past offseason, discarding Clay Matthews and Nick Perry -- two primary starters for a majority of the last decade -- and brought in a pair of high-priced outside linebackers in Za'Darius and Preston Smith.

Thankfully for Gary, he was drafted into an ideal situation. Both Smiths have eight years worth of accrued NFL experience between them, something that Gary could weaponize as he seeks to improve his own arsenal as a pass rusher.

With his locker smacked right between the both of them, it'd be nearly impossible for Gary not to learn something new each and every day.

"They see my potential and they see my love for the game," Gary said. "Everyday I come and I’m ready to work and I’m ready to pick their brains. I know I just gotta improve and keep doing what I’m doing so when we get to the preseason and the season, we’re rolling."

Gary isn't the only versatile player projected to come off the edge for the Packers this season. [Za'Darius] Smith will also be getting a multitude of looks as an inside rusher, opening a spot on the edge for either one of Gary or Kyler Fackrell, who is coming off a double-digit sack season in his first campaign under Pettine.

Said [Preston] Smith: "We can be used in a lot of ways in coach Pettine’s scheme. We also complement each other. We all can switch up and they can mix and match us together. I feel like it’s easier when we all play comfortably together.

"I'm pretty sure it’ll make it difficult for any offense when they don’t know where we’re coming from, and they can’t get used to one player coming from one side or doing the same thing. They get a lot of different looks with us."

The myriad of options the Packers can present -- and the varied looks depending on Pettine's favorite flavor -- makes this group, Gary included, one of the strongest positions on the roster. A complete turnaround given where they were a season ago.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

7 points

Comments (36)

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

July 29, 2019 at 11:20 am

I'm glad he is flashing early on in practice

4 points
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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

July 29, 2019 at 11:28 am

I’m hoping for many Sundays where he leaves us in awe. I wish I could get to TC to watch his speed in person.

7 points
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Leatherhead's picture

July 29, 2019 at 11:43 am

It seems like he might be a good player for us and it makes me wonder...again....why so many were so down on him prior to the draft.

5 points
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holmesmd's picture

July 29, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Lazy fans who just look at sacks instead of double teams won and pressures. Gary was very disruptive and thought by many to be the best rusher in the draft. Hi metrics are insane, he’s versatile, and he really seems to love the game. I think the only reason he wasn’t a top 8 pick was the concern about his shoulder? Really glad he’s a Packer!

5 points
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Coldworld's picture

July 29, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Lazy analysts might be more accurate.

5 points
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flackcatcher's picture

July 29, 2019 at 06:30 pm

Lot these guys using stats instead of the eye test. Bugs the heck out of me. Gray routinely took on double and triple teams. Just seeing him become the focus of O line play and still blow up offensives is quite impressive.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

July 29, 2019 at 06:38 pm

The knock was production. His combine proved he had athleticism. He plays the run well. Getting after the Qb was the concern. The closing speed was a step slower at times. With the Smiths being signed, Gary wasn't a need. And with Daniels release. One still can questioned Gary's selection. But the kid can play. He is versatile. The more people like him, the better. He's WANTED. And That can bring smiles to a lot of people.

3 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

July 29, 2019 at 09:33 pm

Do they actually watch the games, or are they Gamed?

0 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 29, 2019 at 08:59 pm

One padded practice - a little early to assume the high ground.

0 points
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Bearmeat's picture

July 29, 2019 at 12:34 pm

I didn't want him at pick 12 before the draft, and I stand by that now until proven otherwise. I will say, the (very) early returns are promising. We'll see. I hope I eat a bunch of crow.

3 points
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NickPerry's picture

July 30, 2019 at 06:11 am

Me either BM, me either...on draft night. But after doing some homework on our #12 pick, I've done about as much of an about-face as I have on any Packers pick I can remember.

I'm there with you, I hope I eat a ton of crow. Hell, I'll eat every crow in the cornfields of Iowa if Gary pans out.

0 points
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Lphill's picture

July 29, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Gary was the number 1 high school prospect and projected number 1 pick in the NFL draft but after some injury talk and low sack numbers his value was lowered, some scouts said they were wrong, we may have our own Mack on the team .

7 points
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Branden Burke's picture

July 29, 2019 at 01:53 pm

I like his demeanor. He seems like a good kid. My only concern is if he has that internal drive and fire. We will see.

0 points
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murf7777's picture

July 29, 2019 at 01:42 pm

It's awesome to hear great things about Gary coming out of the first week. I can't wait to see him in the preseason games! Nobody knows what he will become in the NFL, but his potential is as high as any pick we've had since....? Maybe Rodgers?

1 points
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Tundraboy's picture

July 29, 2019 at 08:38 pm

Health ,and with it, the opportunity to grow over the course of the season, is all I ask for. Any minor injury or hiccup will bring on all the questions and doubts. Just looking for a high pick to pan out for a change ,and have a solid first year and increasingly expanding role. Another Mack? Why not and why not us?

6 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 29, 2019 at 06:15 pm

Exciting times!

When multiple sources saying Gary is consistently flashing already it bodes very well.

Even though Savage has missed practice so far everyone has glowed about him.

If these two excel anywhere close to all the positive comments they have been garnering along with Jaire, and let's hope Jackson this team is are going to be on a tear. What Gute has accomplished in the past 15 months could turn out to be incredibly special. Hoping!

3 points
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IceBowl's picture

July 29, 2019 at 04:16 pm

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou,

You know Gary cannot be worth his pads. That was all the talk after the draft. Our experts conversation was ... "we should have taken Tom, Dick or Harry" instead of Gary.

Quiet now. I will still wait till game time.

1 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 29, 2019 at 06:16 pm

:)

1 points
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Rak47's picture

July 29, 2019 at 06:47 pm

Gary is going to be an absolute beast and many naysayers will either be eating crow or trying to flip the script and pretend that they believed in Gary all along. On another note I watched an interview with Pettine today where he stated, " if I had to vote who is the most improved player on this defense is, I would have to say Montravious Adams. He is a guy we are going to depend on and has shown flashes of it already".
And there you have it straight from the horses mouth, Adams is Daniels replacement and his improvement surely played a role in releasing Daniels. I'm really looking forward to see if they were correct in their assessment of Adams.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

July 29, 2019 at 09:42 pm

Their commentary was and still is on the record. He was projected to Gettleman at the six pick, but he thought Jones was the future Giants' QB. Gary will only get better. There is zero comparison to Perry as far as speed and bend off the edge. Just turned 22. Pettine is not going to line up bowling pins and play Dom ball. These guys will be coming from every angle.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

July 29, 2019 at 10:56 pm

Rak, to your point on Adams, I thought that was very interesting, particularly as he conceded that he hadn’t thought much of him when he arrived. To get oneself back from that type of perception isn’t easy, which makes it all the more impressive.

1 points
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Rak47's picture

July 30, 2019 at 04:27 am

I thought the exact same thing Coldworld. He must've worked his butt off to impress Pettine enough to the point that he goes from unimpressed to very impressed. I'm sure Pettine's seen it all before so I don't take his comment lightly.

1 points
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Rak47's picture

July 29, 2019 at 06:46 pm

Deleted

2 points
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GatorJason's picture

July 29, 2019 at 07:28 pm

I was initially disappointed when the Packers lost out on the "Mack n Cheese" trade with the Raiders. Now I'm happy it didn't materialize. Cost was too much. Two firsts and a 3rd/4th for the trade plus another $23.5M/year to sign him was too high a price.

Instead the Packers got two 22 yr old rookies in Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage for $5.5M/yr plus were able to sign Zadarius Smith for $16.5M/yr with cost savings of not signing Mack.

Mack n Cheese sounds great, but on balance, the combination of Gary + Savage + Z Smith offers the Packers greater depth and flexibility. IMO, if all three play well, their combined impact will more than offset Khalil Mack's individual greatness.

IRT Gary's lack of numbers at Michigan, talk to Urban Meyer and ask who scared the hell out of him on Michigan defense. It sure wasn't Weakside DE Chase Winovich or MLB Devin Bush. First and foremost they made sure they knew where SDE Gary was at all times and designed around him. Other guys got the stats due to the attention the freak Rashan Gary received. Packers may get the same benefit once Gary lights up a QB. He's a 6'4" 275 lb freight train ready to make an express shipping delivery on any play.

6 points
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Tundraboy's picture

July 29, 2019 at 08:43 pm

I like trains.

3 points
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Tundraboy's picture

July 29, 2019 at 08:44 pm

Especially Express ones.

2 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 29, 2019 at 08:56 pm

Well stated Gator!

0 points
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Point-Packer's picture

July 29, 2019 at 08:54 pm

I smell Datone Jones 2.0 coming on.

-6 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

July 29, 2019 at 09:46 pm

Not even close.

0 points
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porupack's picture

July 29, 2019 at 10:34 pm

Don't worry too much about it. I doubt they bring Datone back.

1 points
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Point-Packer's picture

July 30, 2019 at 11:13 am

Rashan Gary (6-4, 277) Datone "Kung Fu" Jones (6-4, 283)
Arms: 34 Arms: 32 3/4

Bench: 26 Bench: 29
Vertical: 38 Vertical: 31.5
Broad: 120 Broad: 112
3 cone: 7.26 3 cone: 7.32
20 yard: 4.29 20 yard: 4.32

I didn't put down 40 time, cause unless Gary is planning on chasing Julia Jones down the field, its an irrelevant metric for his position. Interesting to me that Jones was essentially tied with Gary on both 3 cone/20 yard and had a slightly higher bench. Basically the same size, Gary has slightly larger arms.

I see lots of similarities between these two. "Athletic freeks". "Under-performed in college". yada yada. My bet: Rashan Gary is nothing more than Kung Fu Jones.

Mark my words.

-2 points
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murf7777's picture

July 30, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Your 40 time might be because he can explode out of the box. Between vertical and arm length is 8” which is Hugh difference and much longer broad jump. He could be a batting down the ball machine, much like Peppers. I just don’t see the comparison to Jones!

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

July 30, 2019 at 05:43 pm

40 is highly relevant chasing down scrambling QBs or runners bouncing outside.

P.S. this chain started me wondering how Pettine would have used Jones. I can’t help feeling that we kept drafting misfits when Capers wanted classic OLBs or a generational freak like Peppers (who wouldn’t). Jones/Neal/Perry in the scheme I think is evolving might have been made much better use of than they were I think. Coaching is a factor.

1 points
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scoonie_penn's picture

July 30, 2019 at 06:55 am

I like what I've read/heard so far with Gary. With that said, running around is shorts isn't a great indicator of a players abilities. Gary was knocked for his production in college. No matter what the reasons, a manchild with extraordinary size and speed who played almost every down for 4 years in college should have posted better numbers. He also has a very balky shoulder which GB knows will need to be fixed. The hope is he makes it thru his rookie season. Unfortunately he's playing in position(s) that will tax his shoulder on a weekly basis. I'll be extremely surprised if he makes it to week 10 without missing significant time and/or winding up on IR. The final verdict for Gary has yet to be seen, good or bad. BTW Brian Burns is getting major love in training camp as well. Fingers crossed that Gary blossoms and stays healthy

0 points
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PackfanNY's picture

July 30, 2019 at 09:18 am

Clearly Gary has NFL level athleticism. I think it’s always been more of a frustration issue (double teamed) and motor issues.

He seems like a decent guy and wants to be better. However, everyone is different. Some guys are self motivated and others need a kick in the pants once in awhile. He might be the latter. Coaches need to keep driving him to make sure he understands that their are no plays off in the NFL.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

July 30, 2019 at 05:50 pm

From all I’ve read the “motivation issue” as you phrase it is complete BS. It stems from people realizing his athleticism, looking at his stats and not his openly stated role and saying ‘where are the sacks, why is he not rushing the passer on that play, etc.: he must be low motor and takes plays off.’

It turns out that jumping to conclusions without research is the cause and that its the commenters that were lazy.

Does that make him great, no, but fortunately we get to see him on the field now, so let’s judge him by what he is doing and hope that he develops to be a factor this year.

0 points
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