GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster ahead of July 28, the first practice of training camp. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 11: OLB Rashan Gary (6-5, 277; 23; second year; Michigan)
Gary has two favorite hashtags. One is “#PutCheeseOnEverything,” a sign of how the New Jersey native and former Michigan standout has embraced his new home. The other is “#BaneGary.”
Bane is an arch-nemesis of Batman, a mix of brawn and brains. That’s how Gary, the No. 12 pick of the 2019 draft, sees himself.
“You look at him, he’s always a step ahead of others, everybody that he’s trying to intimidate,” Gary said following an offseason practice. “And he’s just really decisive and mean. He don’t take nothing that he don’t want to take. He’s smart and he’s always one move ahead. I feel like I’m that type of guy on the field. Just his intensity. Smart, smooth guy. And also, he’s got a little dark side to him.”
Gary hasn’t quite reached super-villain status but he’s trending in the right direction. He went from two sacks in limited snaps as a rookie to five sacks (plus another 1.5 in the playoff win vs. the Rams) in 2020. Of the 110 edge defenders who rushed the passer at least 160 times. Gary ranked 21st in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-rush win rate and 15th in its pass-rush productivity, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. Gary ranked ninth among all defenders in Next Gen Stats’ “defensive disruptions.”
So, the only thing holding Gary back was opportunity. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith are back but Gary seems poised to pass Preston Smith on the depth chart.
With a strong work ethic and desire to be great, Gary isn’t ready to rest on his accomplishments. At the end of the offseason practices, he said he’d take a few days off and then get “right back into the lab.”
“Just keep working on my skills,” Gary said of the break leading to training camp. “We’re able to have this six weeks off, which I’m going to go back and train and just work on every aspect of my game. I’m not done. While I did make a lot of jumps, I’m still hungry and there’s still room to improve.”
Throughout Gary’s rookie season, even though the production was miniscule, position coach Mike Smith continually had Gary’s back and predicted greatness. Nonetheless, by season’s end, Gary was practically an afterthought with just 12 snaps in two playoff games. During training camp last season, Smith said Gary had been guilty of thinking too much as a rookie.
Looking back at his rookie season, Gary wasn’t happy with what he saw, either.
“This offseason, I went into the lab, watched a lot of film from last year and, to be honest, didn’t like the player that I was and what I was giving the Green Bay Packers,” Gary said during training camp last summer.
Now, Gary is ready for another jump. That’s the expectation.
“It happens a lot, not just in sports but probably in life in general, that you already make an assumption off a first year of a guy,” Smith said last month. “Maybe because of where Rashan got drafted early in the first round, ‘Well, he’s going to come in and be a starter and be an All-Pro.’ It don’t work like that, and you’ve got to have a plan for these guys. And I’ve been here long enough where if you force a guy to get in the game early enough in his career and force him to play when he’s not ready, you can do a lot of damage. I was blessed enough to have some good depth that first year where I can allow Rashan to have that progression, which you see that progression from the first year to the second year. I expect a big jump from Year 3. That’s our plan and you’ve got to stick with that plan.
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