Rashan Gary, the first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, looks set to be one of the beneficiaries of their decision to cut Mike Daniels.
Rashan Gary saw his hopes of significant playing time as a rookie for the Green Bay Packers boosted on Wednesday when they sprung a surprise by electing to cut defensive lineman Mike Daniels.
Eyebrows were raised when the Packers selected former Michigan pass rusher Gary with the 12th overall pick in the draft after a college career in which he struggled to produce despite elite athletic ability, and there was widespread initial bemusement when news of Daniels release emerged.
A Pro Bowler in 2017, Daniels has posted at least five sacks in three of his seven seasons as a pro, consistently displaying a knack for creating pressure from the interior. However, the free-agent addition of Z’Darius Smith and the decision to draft Gary likely played a role in Green Bay moving on from a player who has been integral to the Packers defense.
Smith has had plenty of success rushing from the interior as well as off the edge and, while it is still very much open for debate what Gary’s best position is, he has vast experience playing as both an inside and outside pass rusher.
That pair have versatility and athleticism Daniels simply does not and, with Kenny Clark emerging as a young force on the interior and 2016 fourth-rounder Dean Lowry recently signing an extension, it is not difficult to see the thinking behind his exit.
Though he will still have to prove himself in training camp and preseason, Gary appears poised to take on more snaps than perhaps anticipated with Daniels out of the picture. Whether fifth-rounder Kingsley Keke can expect the same with Clark, Lowry and Montravius Adams ahead of him in the pecking order remains to be seen.
Yet Keke’s final season at Texas A&M in which he had 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks will certainly have factored into the decision and, by cutting Daniels, the Packers have demonstrated great faith in their young players up front to fill the void.
That puts a large amount of pressure on a player in Gary whose draft status already placed him under significant scrutiny. After failing to deliver on his promise at Michigan, Gary must now do so for a Green Bay defense in need of a turnaround.