GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jonathan Garvin, who won’t turn 21 until July 28, is the youngest player on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. A seventh-round pick out of Miami, the potential-packed pass rusher should only get better with time.
“His best football is certainly in front of him,” said Todd Stroud, the Hurricanes’ assistant head coach and defensive line coach. “I wish we could have had him another year. He’s going to be a good player for somebody.”
Garvin had a breakout sophomore season in 2018 with 5.5 sacks and 17 tackles for losses among his 60 stops. In 2019, he had five sacks and nine TFLs as he wound up playing second fiddle to Gregory Rousseau, the freshman who earned All-American honors with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 TFLs.
“I think the biggest thing is his ability to play the run,” Stroud said of where Garvin improved last season. “He got sturdier at the point of attack with the added body weight. From a fundamental standpoint, I think his hands improved over the course of the year. He became a leader, too – a little bit more of a vocal leader. One of the biggest things about him is just his body and what he did with his body in a year. Just from the time that he finished his last game to the time he was at the Combine, he probably put on about 12 really good pounds. Going into that Combine weighing 263 and his measureables were about where I thought they were going to be. He was very good at the Combine. I think those measureables will just continue to improve. With his age as he enters his 21st, 22nd, 23rd year, I think that his upside is going to be huge.”
At the Scouting Combine, Garvin ran his 40 in 4.82 seconds, which was below average, but his 36-inch vertical jump was tops among the defensive line. His 34-inch arms give him an edge in the hand-to-hand combat in the trenches. While Rousseau was deserving of the accolades, Pro Football Focus credited Garvin with 44 pressures – only one fewer than his teammate.
“He’s a little bit of everything” as a pass rusher, Stroud said. “I think you’ve got a guy with length, you’ve got a guy that can burst on the takeoff and also is a technician, as well. He’s willing to commit to a few things and get good at them. When he gets up there to the NFL game and those guys make a living rushing the passer, I think his arsenal will improve a little bit and he’ll take to coaching and he’ll adapt and overcome. He’s got great body awareness – almost like a wrestler. He’s a very reactive rusher. He takes what people give him. I think through repetition and being a young player, his upside is as big as anyone.”
The Packers are strong at outside linebacker with Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and last year’s first-round pick, Rashan Gary. However, Kyler Fackrell left in free agency. Fackrell’s jack-of-all-trades ability made him an asset. Of note, along with all the big-play production in 2018, Garvin also broke up five passes.
“He did (drop into coverage) a little bit in some packages,” Stroud said. “He showed that he was smart enough to lock on a running back or cover the No. 2 receiver or drop to the flat. He can spot drop, he can match. He’s athletic enough to do those things and he feels real comfortable. He’s a very instinctive guy as far as scheme and coverage and those type of things. We did use him in coverage. He probably had five to eight snaps per game when he had some type of coverage responsibility. He embraced it and did a real good job. He can certainly be a hybrid and do that, as well.”
Coming off a bit of a disappointing season, Garvin was a surprise entrant into this year’s draft. Stroud tried to talk him out of it but Garvin was eager to bet on himself, even if it meant being selected toward the end of the draft.
“I did, because I thought it would be in his best interest financially and from a maturity’s sake,” Stroud said. “He had a couple friends that had left early and did the same thing. I don’t think his draft status bothered him at all. Some guys, college just isn’t their deal. I think it was the every-day grind of the academics. One common theme about Jonathan is he loved football. He was a little bit tired of the college game and wanted to try it at the next level. There really wasn’t any talking him out of it. His parents, who are really good people, they didn’t care about the draft-status situation. They just wanted him to be happy and move on, and that’s what he did.”
Stroud came to Miami after spending seven seasons at Akron as associate head coach and defensive coordinator. Before that, he was at North Carolina State. In 2006, Mario Williams was the top overall pick of the draft and one of three Wolfpack linemen who were drafted. In other words, Stroud knows what NFL talent looks like.
“I think the Packers got a great value in the seventh round with this kid because I think he’s going to play a long time,” Stroud said. “His best football is ahead of him. His physical maturity is going to do nothing but improve over the next 36 months. He’s going to make a ton of gains physically and mentally.”
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