We all expect Green Bay to address their roster needs in the draft, but it is also important to keep in mind the players currently on the roster that could make a big impact on the team next year.
Every year it seems some Packer player makes a big jump from year one to year two, and I expect this year will be no different. This season I expect this player to be outside linebacker Nick Perry.
Many seem to be counting Nick Perry out when discussing the Packers’ need at outside linebacker. Consider these mock drafts from various NFL analysts—
Warner says when explaining the pick —
“An upgrade from rush linebacker Eric Walden is sorely needed.”
“Rewind the videotape of the Packers’ loss to San Francisco, and see why the Packers must find someone, anyone, for outside contain.”
“A tough combine might hurt his draft status, but the Packers are still seeking pressure opposite Clay Matthews.”
“Nonetheless, he can be the kind of outside pass rusher Green Bay is looking for.”
Notice a theme here? I have heard similar sentiment among many Packers fans. Where does Nick Perry, their first round pick from last season, factor in? These guys act like Green Bay is desperate to find anyone to fill the other outside linebacker position. They don’t even acknowledge Perry’s return from injury this season.
Yes, the Packers need to add depth to the position, but an immediate need? I don’t think so. I don’t have a problem with Green Bay taking another outside linebacker in the draft that will bring some additional pass rush, but I still see Perry as the solution at the position for the foreseeable future. Perry’s presence means the Packers don’t have to reach for an outside linebacker in the draft and select one in the early rounds.
Perry has all the physical tools to be an effective 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s 6-3, 265 pounds, and ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has the strength to hold up well against the run and the quickness and speed to be effective in both rushing the passer and dropping back in coverage. He has plenty of potential — he just needs to put it all together.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interviewed outside linebacker coach Kevin Greene about Perry’s potential — “He can be physical. He can rush the passer … He can do the whole spectrum of this position.”
Coach Greene also went on to say that Perry proved to him that he could rush the passer and cover receivers, citing an example of when Perry covered Colt’s receiver Reggie Wayne perfectly down the seam in week five last season. Coach Greene also reiterated that he likes Perry’s power and his ability to “knock tight ends two yards into the backfield.” Perry proved he can be effective at the position, and he has his coach’s confidence.
Perry was placed on injured reserve week six last season with a wrist injury, so there is very little to work off of when considering Perry’s performance at the position. However, he showed plenty of potential in the five games he started last season, and though there were some growing pains at the position, we need to remember that Perry was working on transitioning from a college defensive end to an NFL outside linebacker. A difficult task that takes time. Last season was Perry’s first year playing the position, and given another offseason to develop, he could prove to be effective rushing the quarterback standing up.
Last season, Perry had his moments. He recorded 18 tackles, two sacks, and eight quarterback hurries in five games. He had a rough game in the season opener against San Francisco, but rebounded strong against the Chicago Bears the following week. If you go back and watch the tape of that game, you’ll see that Perry was effective in pushing the pocket, which forced the Bears to shift their protection to his side. This freed up Clay Matthews to have a monster performance, recording 3.5 sacks and terrorizing Cutler all game. Perry also had a pretty impressive game in week five against the Indianapolis Colts, showcasing his power on his crushing hit on quarterback Andrew Luck, which was unfairly flagged.
Some overlook Perry because of his unimpressive numbers in those five games, but what they fail to see is that Perry got good push at the line and helped take some of the attention off of Matthews. In fact, Matthews had some of his best games last season with Perry lining up on the other side. Just compare the numbers.
With Perry in the lineup last season, Matthews recorded eight sacks, 21 tackles, and one forced fumble. After Perry was placed on injured reserve, Matthews only recorded five sacks, 22 tackles, and one forced fumble in his remaining seven games (I was not counting the four games Matthews missed with a hamstring injury). The change in those numbers is pretty significant.
Simply put, Matthews was better with Perry in the lineup, and that in itself should be enough evidence to believe Perry could be the answer at the other outside linebacker position.
Yes, Green Bay needs another viable pass rusher outside of Clay Matthews on the defense, but who’s to say that pass rusher isn’t currently on the Packers’ roster?
I say he is, but what do you think? Do the Packers bring in another guy to compete with Perry for the starting job or do they trust that last year’s first round pick will play to his potential?