The week 11 matchup between the Packers and Colts has had the football world buzzing for the past few days. A lot of talk has been surrounding Aaron Rodgers, Mike Pettine, and Marquez Valdez-Scantling in this game, but I took something entirely different away from the Packers week 11 loss, and that was that Rashan Gary played a dang good game.
Gary was the Packers first draft selection in the 2019 NFL draft. Many fans seemed disgruntled with the pick (shocking, I know) but honestly, I was thrilled to see a player of Gary’s caliber coming to Mike Pettine’s defense.
Gary didn’t stand out during his rookie season. This could be because of how well both Preston and Za’Darius Smith played in 2019, but in 2020 we’re beginning to see Gary blossom in the Pettine 3-4.
Say what you want about Coach Pettine, but I love the way he got Rashan involved in the defense in week 11. Gary played in multiple positions across the front. I feel like I have been saying for weeks how Pettine should find a way to get Gary, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith on the field at the same time. All 3 players have the versatility to play all over the defensive front. Pettine may not feel the need to blitz if he can unleash three of his top pass rushers.
Playing the Run
One of the things I liked the most about Gary coming out of the draft was his ability to lock down the edge on the wide side of the field. This clip shows exactly why he does it so well.
There are a few things to keep in mind about how an edge player should play the zone block. First, he must remember to keep his outside shoulder free. If the back reads that block, he knows he wins the edge. Gary has to string this play as far as he can towards the boundary. Second, he knows he has to get hands on the tackle. I’ve always heard the saying “take the tackle where you want him to go.” And finally, win the point of attack.
The Colts come out here in a one-back set out of the gun, running a zone play to the wide side. Gary gets a great read on the tackle straight from the snap. Look at how wide of a first step the tackle takes. Rashan does a great job of extending the inside arm, creating separation between him and the tackle. The finish here was the icing on the cake, though I don’t care to see him dive inside to make the tackle.
Here’s another great example of Gary string the zone run out towards the boundary. The Colts line up in 11 personnel running and outside zone concept. The goal of the outside zone is for the running back to flow to the zone side, reading the blocks and seeing which zone will come open. The outside zone is especially good for hitting the cutback run. The back essentially has a three-way go: he can continue to the outside on the edge, plant his foot and cut up or hit the cutback run.
Gary knows that as an edge player that he has to string this play out to the sideline. The defense is wanting the back to cutback. The backside players should turn and take and angle directly towards the sideline and hopes to hit the ball carrier as soon as he looks to cut back. Because Gary did a good job setting the edge, a host of Packer players were able to rally to the running back.
Playing the Pass
Against the pass, Gary did a fine job applying pressure to Rivers all afternoon. While his efforts may not show up in the stat column, the film will tell a different story.
Watch here as the Colts line up in their empty set with Gary set in a wide 9 technique to the wide side of the formation. His best rush move is by far the bull rush technique. To perfect a good bull rush, Gary must take a good angle towards the quarterback, get both hands on the tackle and drive him into the face of the quarterback which will affect his throw. Because of Gary’s rush here, Rivers throws a poor pass which leads to a takeaway. Without the rush, this interception may not have occurred.
Here we see another great example of the bull rush by Gary, this time leading to a tipped pass. Gary again lines up to the wide side of the field in a wide 9 technique, slightly apexed in this time. Again, the first thing that caught my eye was his hand placement on the tackle. He gives a nice two-hand punch inside the tackle’s pads. As soon as he delivers the punch, Gary turns the hips towards the quarterbacks and puts the tackle on skates. This was a great finish by Rashan, as he was able to get a hand up and deflect the pass. If a rusher can’t get directly to the quarterback, the next best thing he can do is get a hand up to try and deflect the pass. Again I want to reiterate; a good pass rusher shouldn’t be measured by what shows up in the stat column. Gary proved that in week 11.
The future is bright in Green Bay for Rashan Gary. I think the Packers defense really has a big role for him if Mike Pettine will find more ways to get him on to the field. With Preston Smith’s play down this year, Pettine might act even quicker to ensure that Gary gets more snaps this season. I’m looking for him to do just that against the Bears in week 12.
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