Packers OLB Rashan Gary quietly producing an elite season as pass-rusher

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  • Green Bay Packers
    Green Bay Packers
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  • Rashan Gary
    Rashan Gary
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  • Myles Garrett
    Myles Garrett
    American football player

He’s not going to the Pro Bowl, and he might not receive any All-Pro votes, but Green Bay Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary is quietly producing an elite season as an edge rusher in 2021.

Gary, who leads the team with 9.5 sacks, added eight more pressures to his total on Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, per Pro Football Focus. In just 15 games, Gary has 76 total pressures, which ranks as the second-most among all edge rushers entering Week 18. His pass-rushing productivity sits at 10.2, the third-best mark, while his pass-rush win rate is 25.1, also the third-best mark among edge rushers.

In many ways, Gary’s season greatly resembles the one being produced by Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett. Gary just doesn’t have the crazy sack totals that often drive outside perception of a pass-rusher’s season. Garrett has 71 pressures, a pass-rushing productivity mark of 10.0 and a pass-rush win rate of 25.6.

Garrett is in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Gary was nothing more than an alternate for the Pro Bowl.

Gary’s development into an elite rusher has been the result of a perfectly executed plan by the Packers. Gary learned the ropes in his rookie year as a rotational player, broke out as an impact player in a rotational role in Year 2 and is now a legitimate difference-maker as a full-time player in Year 3. More and more, Gary’s path looks similar to that of Cameron Jordan, who took some time to develop but has become one of the best and most consistent pass-rushers in the NFL over the last 10 years.

Some reference points might help make the case. In 2019, Za’Darius Smith delivered an NFL-high 93 total pressures and had pass-rushing productivity of 10.6 and a pass-rush win rate of 21.2 over 16 games. It was a transcendent season. Gary probably won’t reach Smith’s levels of pressure, but he’ll come close, and he’s right in line or better in the efficiency measures.

In Jordan’s third NFL season, he produced 87 total pressures during a breakout year.

Gary, still only 24 years old, is going into Week 18 with the Packers’ best overall grade on defense at 87.2, and he has the eighth-best pass-rushing grade among all edge rushers.

A well-devised and thought-out plan by both the Packers personnel department and coaching staff has created a pass-rushing monster, even if Gary’s highly productive and disruptive 2021 season has gone a little unnoticed nationally.

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Packers PFF grades: Best, worst players from Week 17 vs. Vikings