Aaron Rodgers Gushes About Packers Signing Whitney Mercilus

Rodgers on Mercilus

Getty Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on before the game against the Washington Football Team at Lambeau Field on October 24, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Aaron Rodgers didn’t need someone to ask him about Whitney Mercilus for him to give his stamp of approval for the Green Bay Packers’ latest signing.

Following Week 7’s win over the Washington Football Team, Rodgers twice went out of his way in the postgame to say how much he liked the team’s decision to sign Mercilus, a 31-year-old veteran pass rusher who racked up 57 sacks in 10 seasons with Houston. Rodgers’ mention of Mercilus also came unprompted as he was answering a question about Rashan Gary’s development for the pass rusher.

“I’m a big fan of the Mercilus signing for a number of different reasons,” Rodgers told reporters on October 24. “But the way that Preston (Smith) has played this year and his leadership and obviously the way that Rashan has played, and then bringing in a stud like Whitney who is motivated and can still play at a high level, I really like that signing.”

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Mercilus Plays Limited Role in Packers Debut

Nobody would have faulted the Packers if they had decided to wait a week to get Mercilus involved for their defense. He had only just joined the team three days before kickoff and had still been a member of the Texans a week ago. Instead of waiting as they did with inside linebacker Jaylon Smith, though, the Packers elected to get him involved due at least partially to Preston Smith being ruled inactive with an injury.

Mercilus ended up making his presence known in his first game for the green and gold, playing on 31 defensive snaps and recording four total pressures. On his best play of the afternoon, Mercilus came close to sacking Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke but forced him to throw the ball away.

“It was great to see Whitney get out there,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters in Week 7’s postgame. “I think he’ll continue to learn and develop and we’ll be able to use him more and more as we progress further into the season.”

Gary Showing Potential as Future No. 1

While Mercilus was the newest pass-rushing weapon in the Packers’ arsenal in Week 7, Gary was far and above their best one. He stepped up in the absence of both Smiths and recorded the first two-sack game of his young career, including a strip-sack that sent the ball flying into the hands of Packers defensive end Dean Lowry for a takeaway. He also finished with four quarterback hits and seven total tackles, both of which were career-high marks for the former first-round pick.

The performance made such an impression on the Packers that Gary was given the game ball in the aftermath of their sixth consecutive win.

“He cares about it so much, he really does,” Rodgers said in the postgame. “He just got a game ball in the locker room and he’s a good kid, man. He really loves football. He’s a grinder. He’s working at his craft and he’s relentless. I think as he continues to get experience, the pass-rush moves will continue to improve, but a lot of his production is just that he doesn’t give up on the play. He’s strong enough to bull rush, he’s quick enough to get around the edge. I just think he’s improving at all times.”

Gary has already recorded more sacks and tackles than he did throughout all 16 games of his rookie season. His 15 quarterback hits through the first seven games of the 2021 season are also a career-high mark, outdoing his 11 quarterback hits from last year.

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