Packers 4 Downs: Rashan Gary flashes immense potential in pivotal sequence
Four observations the day after the Packers' 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Packers’ pass rush for much of Sunday was only OK, but with the game on the line in the final two minutes, second-year pro Rashan Gary had maybe the best three-play sequence of his young career. With the Packers protecting a four-point lead, Gary got pressure on rookie quarterback Jake Luton on second, third and fourth downs. On second-and-10, Gary bull rushed right tackle Jawaan Taylor and sacked Luton. On third down he again pushed Taylor back into the quarterback just as Preston Smith was doing the same from the other side of the pocket. Smith ended up with the sack on that play. And on fourth down, after Za’Darius Smith chased Luton out of the pocket, Gary slipped off a double team and chased the quarterback around until he threw a desperation pass that landed out of bounds well short of a first down. “I just think it’s just a step in the right direction,” coach Matt LaFleur said of Gary. “He’s got to continue to progress and get better and better and better, and we’ve got to make sure that he gets those opportunities. Certainly, he had a big impact at the end of the game.”
Aaron Jones didn’t have a big game running the ball (nine carries for 46 yards) but was good in the passing game with five receptions for 49 yards and a couple of big blitz pickups. On the first play of the second quarter, Jones stoned safety Daniel Thomas on an outside blitz and gave Aaron Rodgers time to throw a deep ball that turned into a 78-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Then on a third-and-6 later in the second quarter, Jones picked up blitzing cornerback C.J. Henderson. That opened a huge lane for Rodgers to scramble to his right, where the quarterback eventually found Valdes-Scantling open for a 22-yard pass that moved the chains. The drive ended with Rodgers scoring a touchdown on a 5-yard scramble that put the Packers ahead 14-10.
In back-to-back home games now, the Packers have played with winds at more than 20 mph that have made it tough to throw the ball. Two weeks ago against Minnesota the wind officially was 25 mph from the northwest. Against Jacksonville it was 23 mph in the same direction, though on the field it had a swirling effect that seemed to push the ball in the opposite direction. Rodgers, for instance, missed tight end Robert Tonyan on a potential huge play up the seam on the game’s first series but ball was at least a yard too far inside (the opposite direction the wind was blowing flags atop the stadium). “Throws you really felt good about didn’t turn out great, throws that maybe you didn’t feel great about turned out good,” Rodgers said after the game. “A little bit of a guessing game at times. The first third down I felt — I got outside of the pocket there, Bobby turned his route up, felt pretty good about the throw and it went about seven yards left of where I was thinking it was going to end up. That’s the way it goes sometimes in Lambeau. The swirling effect was definitely there. You’re looking at the flags, they’re kind of coming from the north and the wind kinda seemed to be going all over the place.”
Receiver Juwann Winfree was activated from the practice squad for the first time this season and surprisingly played some on offense besides playing special teams. Winfree played seven snaps but didn’t have any targets. The Packers signed the second-year pro to their practice squad on Oct. 1.