Green Bay, Wis. — Rashan Gary has always been more potential than production. A five-star recruit at the University of Michigan, the defensive lineman was always good, but rarely great.
He finished his college career with 9.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss in 34 games, earning All-Big Ten honors twice. That’s good. Really good. But not great.
After an outstanding showing at the scouting combine, the Green Bay Packers opted to roll the dice on that potential in the first round of the NFL draft, taking the former Wolverine No. 12 overall in 2019.
And after an OK rookie season, where he played sparingly as depth on the team’s defensive line rotation, Gary’s performance in a 42-21 victory over the Detroit Lions suggests he just might be ready to start reaching that lofty ceiling that’s always been there.
“My second year, just being more comfortable and knowing what my role in the defense (is) and knowing what I have to do,” Gary described as the difference. “I can’t not put my best foot forward because when I look to my left and look to my right, I have two brothers with me who are ready to go to war. That’s what I keep in my mind and keep my personal goals in the back of my head. That’s how I go and keep pushing.”
Coming off the bench against the Lions, Gary recorded four tackles, 1.5 sacks and blew past Lions running back Adrian Peterson, generating the pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford that turned into a pick-six for teammate Chandon Sullivan.
“That’s ‘Mr. Put Cheese on Everything’ as he would say,” Sullivan said “He’s just been working extremely hard all offseason. He promised our defense he’s going to be a difference-maker on defense and he was able to get pressure last week and pressure this week and he came to me on the sideline and was like, ‘I was definitely there. I had you.’ And I already knew. I already know what you can do, so happy for him.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur also raved about the effort Gary’s put into improving his game.
“I think it’s a byproduct of just his effort, his attitude, his approach on a daily basis,” LeFleur said. “With Rashan we know we’re going to get his best day in and day out and it’s so awesome to see when you see.
“Sometimes it takes certain positions longer than others in this league and by no means do I think he’s arrived,” LeFleur continued. “I think there’s a lot that he can still improve in his game, but I think he’s made a lot of progress and it’s really fun to see a guy put as much into it as he does and then reap the benefits of that.”