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Upside still applies to Jonathan Garvin

Miami edge rusher and Packers’ seventh-round pick is young with plenty of room to grow

LB Jonathan Garvin
LB Jonathan Garvin

GREEN BAY – Looking back, it can be viewed as a three-game stretch that put a young, "super raw" prospect on a path to the NFL.

Midway through his true freshman season at the University of Miami in 2017, Jonathan Garvin blocked a punt at North Carolina. The following week against Virginia Tech, he recorded his first college sack, forcing and recovering a fumble on the play. The next week, he repeated the strip-sack feat against Notre Dame.

"I think that's when the world noticed because of a couple of high-profile plays," Miami head coach Manny Diaz said in a phone interview with Diaz was the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator for Garvin's first two seasons before ascending to the top job last year.

"He just started showing up. He was a guy showing a knack for making a play to help the team win."

The Packers are hoping to cultivate that knack after making Garvin a seventh-round draft choice last month, the last of Green Bay's nine selections at No. 242 overall.

The "super raw" description was Diaz's from the recruiting process. It's what he remembered most about the Lake Worth, Fla., native as he tried to keep Garvin in his home state.

It's still applicable to the 20-year-old (he'll turn 21 in late July) who decided to enter the NFL Draft a year early. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound edge rusher waited a long time to get selected, which suggests another year to refine and polish his game at the major college level would have proven beneficial.

"We thought he had a ton of upside, and that's still the word for him," Diaz said. "This kid is so young. He could have played another year of high school football. That's how young he was."

His early impact as a freshman for the Hurricanes led to a breakout sophomore campaign in which he started every game and finished second on the team with 17 tackles for loss, including 5½ sacks.

Diaz felt as Garvin gained more experience, he understood opponents and schemes better and his instincts really shined through. He could finish plays.

The production didn't continue on the same trajectory in his junior season of 2019, as his total tackles were nearly cut in half (60 to 37). Tackles for loss dropped similarly to nine, though he still had five sacks.

Growth and development aren't always in a straight line, and Garvin's game has plenty of maturation left to go. The decision to bypass his senior season makes him a great unknown as he enters the NFL and fights to make the Packers' roster.

With Kyler Fackrell leaving in free agency, Green Bay has no clear-cut candidate for the No. 4 spot in the edge-rushing rotation behind Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith and Rashan Gary.

Young holdovers Randy Ramsey (practice squad) and Greg Roberts (injured reserve) will be among those in the mix, along with Garvin. Special-teams abilities will factor into the competition as well.

Diaz characterizes Garvin as a smart player who will know where he needs to get better. He feels the environment in Green Bay can get the best out of him, which hasn't yet been seen.

"He does have a gift for rushing the passer," Diaz said. "I'm sure playing the run will be a bigger priority. I don't know how they'll use him. He might drop into coverage more than we dropped him here.

"I don't care what round you're picked in, I don't think any of these guys are finished products yet, and usually the ones that have the will to continue finding ways to improve are the ones the last."

Take a look at Packers LB Jonathan Garvin during his college career.

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