The Scary Truth About Green Bay Packers Pass-Rusher Rashan Gary: ‘He’s a Monster. He’s Just Going to Keep Getting Better and Better’

There are very few positives to be taken away from the Green Bay Packers‘ playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. With that said, if there is any hope in the uncertain future for the Packers, much of it should be found in edge rusher Rashan Gary.

In a game in which Green Bay’s defense gave up only two field goals, Gary played as if a Hall of Fame induction was on the line.

The Green Bay Packers showed up on defense against San Francisco

Rashan Gary of the Green Bay Packers
Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after making a sack during the first half of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers | Quinn Harris/Getty Images

It’s a loss that Green Bay would like to forget, but it’s going to take a long time for the Packers to get the taste of this one out of their mouths. 

The Packers worked all season to get to No. 1 seed in the NFC, the first-round bye, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They threw it all away. They have a terrible showing on special teams to thank for that: that and an offense led by three-time MVP Aaron Rodgers that could only muster up 10 points.

On a night of significant no-shows, credit Green Bay’s defense.

The Packers did their job on that side of the football. Green Bay kept the 49ers out of the end zone (their only touchdown came on a blocked punt), and they essentially held a strong 49ers run game in check. San Francisco did rush for 106 yards as a team, but it was on 3.7 yards per carry. Rookie Elijah Mitchell was held to just 53 yards on 17 carries, and Deebo Samuel rushed 10 times for 39 yards.

The Packers also made life extremely tough for Jimmy Garoppolo.

He completed 11-of-19 passes for 131 yards, including a few big throws on the game’s final drive, but Green Bay had him on his heels all night. The Packers sacked Garoppolo four times.

Of those four, Gary came away with two sacks to go along with three quarterback hits, and three tackles for loss. One of those TFL’s was a huge run stuff on 4th-and-1 on the Green Bay 19 with 6:15 to go in the game.

Rashan Gary has developed into a star for Green Bay

Rashan Gary, LB, Green Bay Packers
Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after making a sack during the first quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Packers took Gary with the 12th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft knowing that he was going to be a project player. 

The University of Michigan used him as a run-stuffing defensive end with the sole responsibility of taking up blocks and funneling the ball to his linebackers. For that reason, Gary did not have impressive pass-rushing numbers at Michigan, and that’s especially true when you consider the fact that he was the number one overall recruit in his class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings

When Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst saw Gary play at Michigan, he envisioned a completely different player, though. He saw Gary using his speed and athleticism as a stand-up outside linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme. It took time for Gary to develop, and he required significant patience as he learned a new technique. With that said, he’s improved year over year for the Packers, and the 2021 season certainly qualified as his breakout campaign.

He led the team in sacks with 9.5 but also showed some of that run-stopping ability he was known for at Michigan. Gary notched 47 total tackles, including eight tackles for loss. 

His magnum opus for the Packers was the playoff game against the 49ers. He’s always had a terrific first step and great athleticism on the edges, but he shifted into a different gear against San Francisco and was nearly unblockable.

The sky is the limit for Gary 

There wasn’t much good to talk about after the loss for Green Bay, so it is notable that one of Gary’s teammates, safety Adrian Amos, was happy to be positive about the budding star. Amos was clear that he believes the epic playoff performance is just the beginning for Gary.

“He’s a monster,” Amos said, according to the team website. “He plays with relentless effort every snap. He comes out to practice and he’s passionate about what he does. The sky’s the limit for a guy like that because he has the measureables and everything else. When you add that motor to it, he’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Gary has worked through all the stages the Packers have set before him.

He’s gone from project player to developmental pass rusher. He then jumped from an up-and-comer to a fully formed star for Green Bay.

Looking ahead, the 9.5 regular season sacks showed what he can do as a top pass-rushing option, but it also provided him with a baseline for his production moving forward. There are few players in the league as explosive and athletic as he is, and he’s now proven that he can consistently produce at a high level. 

From here on out, 9.5 sacks has to be the floor for Gary.

Of course, it won’t be easy, but he’s proven to be one of the hardest workers on Green Bay’s roster. He’s also still extremely young at only 24-years-old. He’s not even at the prime of his career, and that has to be extremely scary for opposing quarterbacks.

The next step for Gary will be developing just one or two more pass-rush moves.

He has the speed and shoulder dip on the edge. He’s more than strong enough to bullrush, and he flashed a great inside rip against the 49ers. If he can add either a spin move or a swim move to his repertoire this offseason, Amos is right.

The sky really will be the limit for Gary in Green Bay.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. 

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