Rashan Gary has started to show signs of figuring it out, and Preston Smith expects a full-on breakout this year.
Much has been made of the Green Bay Packers’ draft strategy the last two years, as they avoided using a high draft pick in two deep wide receiver classes. Their 2019 first-round pick, Rashan Gary, has not totally avoided ire but negative headlines haven’t come in heavy droves either.
After being active for all 16 games as a rookie, but barely playing (24 percent of the defensive snaps), Gary started four of the 15 games he played last year while playing 456 defensive snaps (44 percent). He registered five sacks (3.5 from Week 10), 11 quarterback hits and 39 pressures as one of the most efficient per-snap rushers in the league.
There’s been plenty of positive buzz around Gary this offseason, as he carried last year’s late momentum into minicamp. Preston Smith has gotten a close view of the Michigan product’s growth, so he may be something of an authority on the topic.
Preston Smith expects big things from Rashan Gary this year
“I feel like he’s going to have a high production year this year. I’m calling it now,” Smith said last week. “He’s going to do a lot of great things this year for us and for himself. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.”
Smith called Gary a “freak athlete” and a “great player” who has “a lot of ability.” He further pointed to it all coming together entering 2021.
“He’s shown a lot of growth. He’s making big leaps. He’s not making steps, he’s making big leaps each year,” Smith said. “I’m impressed with him, how he’s improving each year. You don’t see younger guys improve that fast and in that way.”
At 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds with high-end athleticism, raw ability has never been a question for Gary going back to when he was the No. 1 recruit in the country. Good health after a rookie season shoulder injury, and a better understanding of the nuances of the pro game after playing more last year, have him lined up for a third-year breakout.