After rotating in on third downs as a rookie, the former first-round pick has had a more defined role in Year 2. One addition coordinator Mike Pettine made to his defense is the installation of a modified base package with two defensive tackles, two inside linebackers, plus Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, and Gary, all on the field together.
The Packers debuted the package in Minnesota and utilized it against the Lions on early downs with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark out with a groin injury.
There’s a two-for-one benefit with the package, as it allows Za’Darius Smith to move around the defensive front as a rover, while taking advantage of Gary’s prowess as a run defender.
“He might be the best one in the room setting the edge and playing the run. I mean, he’s a violent kid,” said outside linebackers coach Mike Smith last month. “That’s why I’ll always have faith in Rashan, because we all know he’s athletic. Period. There ain’t no doubt about that.
“He’s meaner than a rattlesnake, I’m telling you. Guys like that, they don’t fail.”
Training in Texas, Gary invested a lot of time and energy into taking a jump this offseason and that work has paid dividends since returning to Green Bay in July. Over the course of the Packers’ 15 training camp practices, Gary consistently was one of the team’s top performers on either side of the ball.