A look at who is trending up and down the past week in Wisconsin sports, including Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Rashan Gary, rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs and Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz.
Rashan Gary, Packers edge rusher (UP ⬆)
Three games. Three sacks. Four tackles for loss. Six pressures. Gary has made the jump that his believers anticipated and is performing like a top-5 edge in the NFL in his fourth year. The 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft is one of four players this season with at least one sack in each of their team’s first three games – the others are San Francisco’s Nick Bosa, Buffalo’s Greg Rousseau and New England’s Matthew Judon. We’ve seen comparable production from Gary. He had 9.5 sacks last season, his first as a full-time starter, and recorded the fifth-most quarterback hits (28). The consistency is what’s exciting. Gary had never tallied a sack three weeks in a row entering 2022 – technically, he had a sack in three consecutive games last season (vs. the Chiefs, Seahawks and Rams) but he was inactive for a game in between recording sacks against Seattle and Los Angeles. Here’s the lowdown on Gary: He played 88% of Green Bay’s defensive snaps, a career high, in Week 2. He’s winning 1-on-1 battles, defeating occasional double-teams and is regularly getting his number called on blitzes – he’s been brought on a blitz 10 times already (in 2021, he blitzed 62 times in 16 games). Teams better have “Bane Gary” on their radars.
Romeo Doubs, Packers wide receiver (UP ⬆)
The darling of Packers training camp quickly is becoming the go-to receiver on Green Bay’s roster. Doubs had the best game of his young career Sunday against the vaunted Buccaneers defense, grabbing all eight of his targets for 73 yards and his first career touchdown. No, he’s not Davante Adams. But Doubs did compile nearly twice as many receiving yards in Week 3 (insert smirk here). The fourth-rounder from Nevada ranks first among rookie wide receivers in catch percentage (87.5%), passer rating when targeted (123.2) and yards after the catch (87). His 14 receptions are the fourth most, as is his 137 yards. The three guys ranked ahead of Doubs in those last two categories are first-rounders Drake London, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Doubs currently has +800 odds to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Graham Mertz, Badgers quarterback (DOWN ⬇)
Last week, Mertz was on the up and up, riding the momentum of three straight 200+-yard games. That streak, and his 190.88 passer efficiency rating after Wisconsin’s first three games, was busted Saturday in the gross 52-21 Badgers defeat to Ohio State. Mertz completed 11 of 20 throws for just 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception – the result of a poorly located ball on a simple quick-game out route – against the Buckeyes. The embattled quarterback essentially took three steps back after finally taking a step toward the potential that’s eluded him since his memorable first career start vs. Illinois on Oct. 23, 2020 (Mertz passed for five touchdowns in that game and registered a 273.0 rating). Mertz’s disastrous showing to start Big Ten play this season dropped his PER from fifth in the country to outside the top 20.
Jaire Alexander, Packers cornerback (DOWN ⬇)
We’ll preface this blurb with positive news: Alexander isn’t expected to be out long. That said, it was discouraging to see the fiery leader of Green Bay’s secondary leave Sunday’s game vs. Tampa Bay with a groin injury after playing six defensive snaps. Alexander’s possible absence in Week 4 and beyond would be bad news – not devastating, the Packers proved last season they can manage without him, but bad – for a group that’s fared well vs. the pass through three games (Green Bay’s D has allowed 189.3 passing yards per contest, the seventh-lowest mark in the NFL). Performance-wise, Alexander has started his comeback tour strong – his coverage has generated a 46.9 passer rating when targeted, and teams haven’t dared test him deep as his average depth of target is 8.1 yards. Last year’s breakout star, Rasul Douglas, will be tasked with handling Alexander’s role if the latter misses any more action.
Milwaukee Brewers playoff chances (🤷♂️)
Eight games. That’s all the 2022 Brewers are guaranteed. Of course, the Crew hopes their season will continue past their Oct. 5 finale. But it’s no sure thing. Milwaukee, which has dropped its last two after a brief four-game win streak, sits 1.5 games behind Philadelphia for the final National League wild-card spot and must finish ahead of the Phillies because of head-to-head tiebreaker rules. FYI, San Diego holds a 2.5-game advantage over Philadelphia. We’re not sure what else to say … It's been a whirlwind of a season for the Brewers. Injuries have decimated their All-Star pitching staff at different stages. Home run numbers are way up but batting averages are way down. Perhaps the most glaring issue? They’re lacking the camaraderie, the spirit that made most games appointment viewing in 2021. But is hope lost? Nope. Milwaukee wraps its season series vs. NL Central champion St. Louis on Wednesday then plays its final seven games against teams in second-to-last place in their divisions, Miami (64-90) and Arizona (71-84). Earlier this week, we took a closer look at what’s left to be done for the Brewers in their playoff pursuit.