In 2021, Rashan Gary was one of the NFL’s top edge rushers, recording one of the highest pressure rates in the league. According to PFF’s statistics, he produced 10 sacks, 15 QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles in the regular season. Down-to-down, he was arguably the most effective pass-rusher on the Green Bay defense.
In Weeks 1-18, Gary put together an elite 89.3 PFF score, including a 88.9 pass-rush grade. He performed at a similarly high level in Green Bay’s Divisional Round matchup against the 49ers, recording 2 sacks and getting an impressive TFL on a critical fourth down late in the game.
So far, Gary’s playstyle has been based on his dominant physical traits. Speed, impressive power, and relentless effort allowed him to win regularly against opposing tackles in 2021. His long-arm move is particularly nasty, as seen in multiple third-down sacks he had in the 2021 playoff game. Up to this point in his career, these tools have been more than sufficient to make him into a highly successful edge rusher.
However, recent clues seem to indicate that Gary could be taking the next step in his development.
Signs of A New Chapter?
A short while ago, one of the offseason trainers Rashan is working with – Coach Brandon Jordan, a pass rush guru – uploaded an impressive video to his Twitter account. The clip shows Gary running a number of drills, most centered around a certain pass-rush move or skill. The video provides some great examples of how quickly and violently Gary can move, despite his size. However, another aspect of the upload stuck out to me. A large number of the drills in the video seemed to be focused on a single move: the cross-chop.
As soon as I realized this, I became excited. As covered above, Gary’s rushing style has largely centered around using speed and power to beat blockers. If he can add an ability to attack and beat the hands of offensive lineman, then he could reach a new level of dominance. That’s not the only move I noticed in the clip. At one point, Gary flashes an intriguing “ghost” rush. The ghost rush is a direct counter to his long-arm move – he fakes the long-arm, then ducks under the imaginary punch to bend around the edge.
Going through some older clips posted by Gary and Jordan this offseason, the aforementioned cross-chop shows up multiple times.
I also noted several instances where Gary was drilling a spin move. This is often a good counter when blockers punch early to stop a bull-rush or long-arm. All three of these moves – the cross-chop, ghost move, and spin – are not ones that I have seen from him on any consistent basis in games. Although, as an outside observer, it is impossible to tell for certain, it appears that Rashan is hoping to significantly diversify his set of pass-rush moves in 2022.
The prospect of Gary gaining even more pass-rush tools is a scary proposition – for opposing offensive lineman, at least. If he is able to develop effective ways to attack the hands of blockers, a whole new world could be opened to him – swipes, chops, forklifts, and more. Based on the frequency with which the cross-chop shows up in clips, working on these types of moves seems to have been an offseason priority for him.
Moreover, the additional counters that he demonstrates in these clips provide him with additional ability to adjust and win in a multitude of situations. Paired with a secondary that now has a healthy Jaire Alexander and a front seven that has added Devont’e Wyatt, Jarran Reed, and Quay Walker, Rashan’s already impressive play could ascend into the far reaches of the stratosphere in 2022.
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