We Should Remain Patient With Nick Perry


Russell Wilson pursued by Nick Perry. Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports photographed

When Clay Matthews left Sunday’s game at the beginning of the second half with a hamstring injury, the Green Bay Packers pass rush completely dropped off.

The Cincinnati Bengals offense got back in the game and Andy Dalton went 13 for 16 and threw two touchdowns.

Mike Neal and Nick Perry both failed to record a single pressure in Matthew’s absence, let alone a sack. In fact, neither Neal or Perry have recorded a single sack this season, and after three games and 82 snaps rushing the passer, Perry has only had four quarterback hurries.

This is a far cry from the production the Packers expected from both Neal and Perry when they let Erik Walden walk in free agency and cut Dezman Moses at the end of training camp.

Aug 9, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer looks to pass while under pressure from Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry (53) at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations have been high for Perry in Green Bay since he was taken out of USC in the first round in the 2012 draft. Perry was supposed to be the answer at outside linebacker opposite Matthews. A position that has been a revolving door in Green Bay since they switched to Caper’s 3-4 defense in 2009.

After sitting out most of his rookie season with a broken wrist, many believed Perry’s return this season would mean big things for the Packers defense. After all, we heard plenty of talk about how Green Bay missed the rookie linebacker’s athleticism in the embarrassing playoff loss to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.

However, Perry has been off to a less than stellar start this season. In the pass rush, he’s been a near non-factor.

Four quarterback hurries in three games is not anything opposing offenses have to account for or worry about. No one expects Perry to be a big-time game changer like his USC counterpart, but most of us expected a little more out of the former first round pick.

So what’s fair to expect from Perry this season?

In his defense, Perry has held up well against the run. He’s been head-and-shoulders above the Packers’ previous strongside linebackers in this department. Perry has also only played in eight full regular season games. He’s practically still a rookie and still working on making the transition from college defensive end to NFL linebacker.

Nick Perry. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Perry also performed admirably in containing Kaepernick from the left side in week one. This is something he does well. He can push the pocket with his bull-rush. He just hasn’t shown the ability to get beyond the blocker and put a hit on the quarterback. But in all honesty, the sample size to evaluate his performance on has been small.

In the three games the Packers have played this year, two were against scrambling quarterbacks. The Packers strategy against Kaepernick and RG III were containment, not necessarily pressure. It’s tough to be too hard on pass rushers when they’re asked to play conservative and contain the pocket.

So really our disappointment in the lack of pass rush from young players like Perry and Neal generate from their performance in one game. The loss to Cincinnati. A game Perry squared off against one of the better right tackles in the league in Andre Smith.

It’s clear Perry needs to bring more to the table. He’s a bit predictable relying solely on bull-rushing offensive lineman when going after the passer. But let’s be a little patient with the second-year linebacker. He still has plenty of room to develop this season.

The Packers’ pass rush will improve as the season progresses. After the bye, they’ll face more traditional pocket-passers, like Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, and Jay Cutler. They’ll also face offensive lines far less talented than Cincinnati’s and San Francisco’s.

So let’s give Perry a little more time, and let’s hope he, along with Neal and Andy Mulumba, get more production at outside linebacker this season.