Green Bay Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary has been providing the team with outstanding pressure against opposing quarterbacks this season. This is even more impressive when you realize the former Michigan star is still on a play count as he returns from a season-ending knee injury he suffered in Week 9 last season that required surgery.

Rashan Gary Earned the Game Ball in the Packers Win Over the Saints

Gary played exceptionally well against the Saints in Week 3 and earned a game ball for his efforts. The former Michigan star recorded three sacks in the game and earned four quarterback hits on the official stat sheet. Despite playing only 20 plays, he also earned five quarterback pressures.

“The most important thing is being an impact to this team,” Gary told reporters after the game. “I’m happy I was able to do that today.”

Gary was a major reason the Packers did not allow a point in the second half of the game. In fact, in the second half, the Saints picked up only five first downs and 131 total yards with 47 of those coming on the final drive which was a two-minute drill.

Two of his three sacks came in the second half with the final one helping the defense turn the momentum around early in the fourth quarter.

“Days like this, you kind of get in the zone,” Gary said. “I couldn’t tell you I woke up this morning – of course, I woke up feeling like I was going to beat the man across from me – but I can’t tell you I woke up feeling like it was going to be that type of game. I like where I’m at, I like where I’m going, and I’ve just got to keep going. That’s it.”

Rashan Gary Earned Praise from His Coaches

Gary’s coaches appreciate what he’s done this season despite the limited plays. “Rashan is doing a great job and he’ll continue to get a little bit more and more [playing time] every week,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry told reporters after the win over the Saints. “Rashan wants to be out there every single play. He’s definitely taken advantage of his at-bats there’s no doubt and he’s doing a great job.”

Another thing Barry likes is that when Gary isn’t in the lineup, he has young players he can count on to get the job done. “When Rashan is on a snap count, you got guys like Preston Smith and now we got young guys. I still consider J.J. [Kingsley Enagbare] a young guy, you’ve got [Lukas] Van Ness, you’ve got Justin Hollins. So, it’s great when Rashan can’t be out there as much as we want him to, that you’ve got guys like 55, 90 and 47 that are stepping up and doing a great job.”

The Packers Defense Overcame Injuries

Gary and the Packers defense played well despite missing some of their best players. Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander couldn’t play because of a back injury. Then, early in the game, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell left the game with an ankle injury. Isaiah McDuffie stepped into the lineup and was in on six total tackles in the game.

The injuries just made Gary’s performance even more vital to the team’s success. The fact that the defense only allowed one touchdown all game and 10 points was impressive. After falling behind, they also didn’t allow the Saints to add to their lead which gave the offense a chance to stage their fourth quarter comeback.

Rashan Gary Is All About the Team

For Gary, being part of the team and contributing to their ultimate success matters most. “Like I told the team in the locker room, the main thing is I’m just happy to go out there and go to war with you guys,” Gary added. “That’s something that I truly missed over the 9 1/2 months or so that I was out. That’s something I truly missed. Me being able to be back, plus make an impact, that’s all I want and I’m just happy I was able to take the stepping-stone in the right direction that I want to go. The more steps I take in that direction, the better we are as a team and a defense.”

The injury Gary suffered often takes nine months to a year to return from and longer to get back to pre-injury form. If Rashan is playing this well this soon, imagine how good he can be when he’s fully recovered and not on a play count. The Packers can’t wait to see what else he can do.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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