Packers: Rashan Gary can dominate in full-time role

Green Bay Packers, Rashan GaryApc Packvsrams 0116211015djp
Green Bay Packers, Rashan GaryApc Packvsrams 0116211015djp /

With Za’Darius Smith out a ‘while’, the Packers need Rashan Gary to step up.

Rashan Gary has shown plenty of potential in his first two seasons, particularly down the stretch in 2020. Now, the Green Bay Packers need him to become a focal point of the defense.

With Smith out at least three games on injured reserve, and potentially more, Gary needs to turn potential into production and lead the way for the Packers’ outside linebackers.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the team is signing Ladarius Hamilton from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad. He’ll provide some depth.

If fans are hoping for the Packers to make a big move, they might be waiting a while. Given the team’s salary cap situation along with a lack of free-agent options at edge rusher, Green Bay will need to promote from within.

However, they have the players on the roster to be productive.

Gary was the 12th-overall draft choice in 2019. Preston Smith was a big free agency addition the same year, and in his first season with the Packers, made 12 sacks and 23 quarterback hits. If Smith can get back to that form, it’ll be huge for this defense.

But of the two, Gary has the upside to become a star pass rusher. In a bigger role, he can take his game to new heights.

Gary can be a difference-maker for Packers defense

Gary has been a backup behind the Smiths in recent years, but he’s been productive even in a more part-time role.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Gary had a disruption rate of 15.1 percent last season, which ranked ninth in the league. He had a better sack rate than other players in the top 10 like Shaquil Barrett and Robert Quinn.

Gary had a strong second-half to the 2020 season and got better and better. His best performance was saved for the playoffs.

According to Pro Football Focus, Gary had seven pressures in the divisional-round win over the Los Angeles Rams last January, earning the Packers’ highest defensive grade of the game.

Gary had five sacks and 11 quarterback hits in a backup role last season. With Smith out, the former first-round pick will become a full-time part of Joe Barry’s defense.

The Packers need Gary now more than ever, and he has the talent to deliver.