Packers outside linebacker coach Mike Smith hasn’t been shy in the past about how he values quarterback pressures and hits just as much as he values sacks.
Last August, Smith went on a near-five minute rant about the difference between good rushers who only get sacks, vs. great rushers who get sacks and pressures.
“Sacks are important don’t get me wrong,” Smith said. “The players just can’t believe that that’s the only way to be successful, because you’re going to have a disappointed room.”
If Smith loves pressures, then he’s surely enjoyed Rashan Gary’s play this season.
In his third year in the league, (through seven games), Gary has recorded 15 quarterback hits, which is fourth in the NFL. Between his first two seasons, he only recorded 14 hits.
His numbers haven’t been as good in the sacks category, but maybe that’s starting to turn around.
Gary had his best game of the season against the Washington Football Team in Sunday’s 24-10 win. He recorded seven total tackles, two sacks, a career-high four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He was the third-highest graded defender according to PFF (82.0).
“He was an impact player on this game,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said on Sunday.
Gary trending in the right direction is music to Packers fans’, and the coaching staffs’, ears. We’ve been waiting to see the 2019 first round pick from Michigan really blossom, and it looks like it is finally happening.
Now, how much is that to do with Gary just being on the field a lot more early this season due to Za’Darius and Preston Smith’s absence? That probably factors into it a bit.
But it’s good to see Gary instill some confidence into the Packers’ brass who drafted him.
It’s also important to see him continue to play well, especially with so many contract questions coming up in the offseason. There’s a real chance that we could see Preston and/or Za’Darius walk to save cap space.
Which would mean an even larger role for Gary in the future.
For now, I’m just excited to keep seeing him play this season.——————
Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.