Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #5 — Perry’s improvement

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Nick Perry was a project last summer. Is he ready to be a difference-maker across from Clay Matthews?
Nick Perry was a project last summer. Is he ready to be a difference-maker across from Clay Matthews?

When the Green Bay Packers selected Nick Perry with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, they envisioned him and Clay Matthews being their version of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

Prior to the draft, the 270-pound Perry made it clear that he’d rather play with his hand in the ground in a 4-3 scheme.

“I prefer 4-3,” Perry said. “I like to keep my hand in the dirt, but as long as I’m rushing and getting to quarterback I’m fine whatever it is.”

Last summer throughout training camp, Perry was brought along slowly by outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Athletically, the transition wasn’t much of a problem for Perry, who clocked a 4.55 40-yard dash and posted a 38.5-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The biggest obstacle for Perry was the mental aspect of playing in space after playing on the defensive line for four years at USC.

As a rookie in Green Bay, Perry was the opening-day starter at outside linebacker across from Matthews. Perry appeared in six games before suffering a wrist injury which caused him to miss the remainder of the season.

The highlight of Perry’s rookie year was the crushing blow he delivered to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Perry wasn’t blocked on the play and drew a 15-yard penalty for hitting Luck on the chin; however, that type of aggressiveness is what the Packers envisioned when they spent the No. 28 overall pick on him a year ago.

When Perry went down, Erik Walden stepped in and filled his shoes in the starting lineup. Walden signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason, leaving the Packers thin at the position.

Behind starters Matthews and Perry, the Packers have an inexperienced group that includes second-year player Dezman Moses and rookies Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba and Donte Savage. Needless to say, the Packers are counting on an improved Perry for a more effective pass rush in 2013.

Will Nick Perry show considerable improvement this season?

It’s not as if Perry got a ton of on-field experience as a rookie. Sure, he was a Week 1 starter, but the wrist injury ended his rookie year after just 211 regular-season snaps.

But sometimes a player doesn’t necessarily need on-field reps to take that “next step.” Perry has been in the meeting room with the outside linebackers for a year now, and he’s continuing to learn the ins and outs of his role within Dom Capers’ defense.

Best guess: Yes

Preseason? Maybe not. Regular season? I think so.

During training camp last summer, Perry and Kevin Greene were attached at the hip. When Clay Matthews wasn’t in Perry’s ear, Greene was. And Perry’s relatively slow start to the summer, Greene became even more enthusiastic with the young pass rusher.

On one such play, Perry was lined up across from Bryan Bulaga in a one-on-one pass rushing drill. Bulaga had been undefeated throughout the drill, but Perry stood Bulaga up, drove him back on his heels and onto his backside. You could have heard Greene’s scream from Appleton.

Time will tell if Perry shows significant improvement in the preseason. But at some point during the 2013 season, I believe Perry will give the Packers undoubtedly their best pass-rushing duo since Matthews was drafted in 2009. I’m not expecting Perry to overtake Matthews as the team’s leader in sacks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s close.

I’ll set the over/under on Perry’s sack total at 9.5. Thoughts?

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • crefan

    If Perry comes out as advertised along with Jones,Matthews and Raji in a contract year it may very well be a bad year for opposing QB’s.
    I think our biggest question will be at safety.

  • http://allpackers.com nick perry

    I think you’re right on with that total, I was thinking 10. The guy is really talented and as Greene has said, he’s got tape on Perry doing everything right from last season. I definitely agree that he still learned a lot last season even though he was injured. I think between the two of them they get 25 sacks.

  • Klausen

    25 between Matthews and Perry.. Maybe more!

  • Cow42

    UNDER!

  • BRinMilwaukee

    If Perry can come close to 9.5 sacks, I’ll be surprised and delighted. And the Packers’ defense will be in GREAT shape!

  • Tarynfor12

    “Perry wasn’t blocked on the play…that type of aggressiveness”

    An unblocked sack is hardly aggressiveness.

    “Perry stood Bulaga up, drove him back on his heels and onto his backside.”

    Its also my understanding that Bulaga was suffering with a hip problem all along which became very evident as time went on.

    “sometimes a player doesn’t necessarily need on-field reps to take that “next step.”

    Becoming book smart is a huge benefit but,if Perry proved or showed anything..he needs on field reps…you can’t throw books at an offense.

    I have been consistant in saying Perry needs to gain weight and play DL but I will hope he can prevail as an 3-4 OLB.

    • Stroh

      I agree about the sack on Luck. It was a penalty on an unblocked play. I call that a negative play by Perry. However, I don’t think Bulaga was suffering from the hip when Perry handled him. WHen Bulaga suffered the injury he was out for the year. Also its important that Perry learned the Defense and his visual cues. If he used the offseason in that regard, when he gets on the field this training camp and throughout the year, the mental work he did will pay off almost as much as being on the field. He wont be thinking everything and just reacting once he gets thru trainging camp. The NFL is becoming more and more of a mental game, w/ the limited practices, there simply isn’t enough to just learn by doing. Players have to be able to take the mental and apply it to the physical on the field almost immediately.

      Perry won’t ever be a DL w/ the Packers unless they go back to a 43D, so you can forget about that.

      • Tarynfor12

        I believe Bulaga was hindered from the get go and the effect tooks its toll,many said and thought something wrong from the start and the play of Perry in camp on Bulaga could very well have been Bulaga being leery..besides,nobody on the OL stops a bullrush 100% of the time…just saying.

        As for the NFL becoming more and more mental,I agree that the schemes are more intricate depending on the developer of such,but the actual physical play of certain positions is still a larger factor.

        Getting a degree in book smarts doesn’t automatically get you the job,whether its football or in some office field..holding your own by doing is still priorty.

        Rodgers is perfect example…has the book down pat yet still needs to perform it ‘on the field’.
        Perry ‘needs’ to perform on the field..his margin for error isn’t huge.

        • Stroh

          Like I said players have to be able to take the mental and apply it physically faster. They don’t get huge a amount of reps to learn thing by rote memory anymore. They’re probably getting less than 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of reps per play. No doubt its much different than book smarts. Its much more of an athletic skill than it is a mental one. Perry has a couple years to learn the on field part totally. This year he needs to know the D and play faster, the rest will come. He just can’t get caught up in thinking on the field anymore.

          Do you have anything to backup your belief that Bulaga was injured when the season started? And if he was injured was it the hip? This seem like total conjecture on your part. Without any evidence you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

        • Oppy

          I also think Bulaga wasn’t right from very early on, Taryn.

          I remember commenting in posts during the preseason more than once that Bulaga was playing very poorly.

          Whether or not it was his hip, who knows. Either way, he certainly wasn’t himself through training camp.

      • Nopainnogain

        even with today’s harsher rules, I don’t think perry’s hit deserved a flag. he hit luck right in the chest like he was supposed to. the only reason the flag was thrown was because the hit looked nasty. if he keep his head higher, he goes straight into luck’s helmet and if he ducks it lower, he’s spearing. they are perverting the intent of the rule

        • Stroh

          Actually the reason for the penalty was leading with the crown of the helmet. Go back and listen and watch the replay. It was called that way and Perry clearly led w/ the crown. No matter where Perry hit him he led w/ the crown and it was a penalty. It sucked but in todays NFL unfortunately anytime you lead w/ the helmet its gonna be called.

          To me that should be a good football play, and it sucks that its being legislated out of the game.

          • Lucas

            Crown? Facemask isn’t crown. Maybe my memory has Packer goggles.

          • Nopainnogain

            yea I think at some point, the “crown” was redefined. your forehead used to be fair game. in fact they actually would teach to hit with the top bar of your facemask. the only thing that was outlawed was the top (spearing). the thing is, perry is almost forced to duck a bit, otherwise his helmet’s gonna hit luck’s. what they are saying with this call is that you will have a 50/50 chance of getting a flag no matter how you hit the qb, unless you arm-tackle.

            as for the replay, I dont put much stock in that. broadcasters don’t know what the hell is going on half the time and they get alot wrong.

            • Oppy

              This, 100%.

              Perry tackled the QB EXACTLY how every coach in the NFL tells every player to do it.

              nopain is also dead on about Perry tucking his head down to avoid the helmet to helmet.. It was a no-win situation due to over zealous “rule” enforcement.

              I’d go so far as to wager that when the Packers went over the film on Monday, they made a call to the NFL and went on to tell Perry he did what they ask him to do and told him to keep on doing it.

              • Stroh

                How they USED to teach. Not anymore. Either way Perry hit Luck w/ The top of his helmet above the facemask. And just so everyone is clear its not the announcers in the replay saying the penalty, its the official.

                The rules now are pretty clear. Tackle w/ your shoulder if your hit w/ your head its a penalty. Personally I think it sucks and takes the hitting out of the game. Just means instead of hard hits guys will be tackling and tackling only, not hitting.

              • Nopainnogain

                “used to” wasn’t that long ago. like within the last decade. tackling with your shoulder isn’t safe either. plenty of clavicle injuries come from that sort of thing.

              • Stroh

                Clavicle injuries don’t cause life long dementia and other psychological issues, which the NFL is facing a major lawsuit over.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    Perry certainly has the measurables. But you have to wonder if the light will come on for him as an OLB.

    If he can get 8 sacks, we should be very pleased.

    • Stroh

      8 sacks my Perry is my guess. He could get close to 10, but I’m not sure it’ll happen this year. Even so 8 sacks from Petty, Matthews 12+, Neal 6+ and the Packers pass rush will be dominant. Count me as very excited to see how the D performs this year. IMO they have the potential to become dominant again this year, not just the pass rush.

      • PatMc

        I think the DB group adds another 6 – 10 sacks as well. This is the year it comes together. go pack go

        • Stroh

          I agree Pat. I think this could be the year the D becomes very good to outstanding. I’m really excited about the personnel we have and it just needs to come together. Most important are Perry and Jones/Neal stepping up and becoming disruptive players. Add in Manning, House, Hayward, McMillan and the makings of a dominant D could be in place if they all make strides.

    • Mojo

      Agree with Bearmeat. At the combo, Perry had the most reps on the bench press, and the best vertical and broad jumps for his position group. Plus he put up one of the fastest 40 times. He was described by ProFootballWeekly as such:”Positives: Looks chiseled from granite and is a physical specimen (bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times at the Combine). Explosive athlete — boasts a 381⁄2-inch vertical leap and broad jump of 10 feet 4 inches. Features a long, sudden first step and explosive upfield burst (see Stanford). Flexible to dip, bend and shave the corner. Very quick-handed. Terrific balance body control. Recorded 10-yard split times (1.51 seconds) faster than several cornerbacks at the Combine.”

      It’s obvious, from an athletic standpoint Perry has what it takes. However, PFW concluded: “Has upfield speed to scream off the edge and the bulk and weight-room strength to handle the left side, but tape does not match workout numbers and lack of consistency vs. the run remains a concern. Better tester than football player at this stage of development, but upside is immense in a fly-at-the-snap scheme and could benefit tremendously from a veteran position coach.”

      As Bearmeat said, “the light needs to come on”. If it does – watch out!

  • rick

    He is too heavy and slow! put him in the dirt!

    • Stroh

      He’s lost weight down under 265 and speed is a strength of his (quickness not quite as much). Perry was faster at 270 to Matthews at 240. He has everything physically that he needs to be successful at OLB. The issue is learning all his cues when standing up. Matthews played at USC as a safety and OLB, so he was used to seeing the entire field, Perry was a DL. As a DL all Perry had to worry about was the OT, now standing up he has to be aware of the entire backfield and a receiver or 2.

      • Tarynfor12

        I’m glad you have the excuses list ready to fire in defense of him.
        I may not be sold on perry as you but like I’ve said…”I’ll gladly eat crow if he proves me wrong”,just don’t try a serve it before that time.

        • Batavia Greg

          WARNING!!! DO NOT FEED THE TROLL!
          There is a troll who haunts this site. His uses a name similar to that of a now- demolished brewery in Detroit. DANGER: Feeding him may be hazardous to your mental health.

        • Stroh

          Exactly where did I make an excuse for him? I said he has everything needed to succeed and I think he’ll be much better this year. Not a thing of what I said is anything other than making it clear that Perry should succeed, none was an excuse!

  • Chad Lundberg

    I might be the only one excited about this, but don’t forget about Mike Neal either. There’s a somewhat possibility that Neal could contribute somewhere between 6-8 sacks as long as he stays healthy.

  • http://butlerrf@msn.com old time packer fan

    IF A GUY TELLS YOU WHERE HE WANTS TO PLAY THAT’S A NEGATIVE START. I JUST DON’T THINK THIS GUY WILL EVER LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS. MAYBE A TRADE FOR ANOTHER TALENT THAT DOES WANT TO PLAY OLB IN A 3-4
    I THINK HE’S A SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE.

  • Mike Sherman

    over, i think he gets double digit sacks this year. our line should be pushing the pocket back, most of the attention will be on mathews and perry has speed to get to the edge. I think he has a big year, over 10 sacks and Mathews has right around 10 too. The defense should have a lot of sacks this year with teams having to pass so much to keep up with our offense.

  • Jeff Lawver

    I’m a wait and see guy. He has to prove he’s got what it takes to play olb in the NFL. I also don’t see Mike Neal as the answer either. Really both players are defensive ends, and maybe that will end up being the answer with Perry eventually.

  • Batavia Greg

    Must be a slow news day. No new news. That’s good, isn’t it? Remember that old saying, “No news is good news.” Everything is conjecture with “I believe” this or “I believe” that. “He’ll get 9.5 sacks.” “No, he’ll get 10.” “I’ll be happy with 8.5.” “Perry and Matthews will get 25.” Good material for gossip, though.

    Article Grade: C-

    • Stroh

      Comment grade D.

    • http://allgbp.com/ Chad Toporski

      We are at the mercy of the events that do or do not transpire in the NFL and within the Green Bay Packers organization.

      Sometimes no news is good news. Besides, only a few more days now and the Packers blogosphere will be exploding with training camp information and analysis.

  • packett

    I’ll give a B on the article. Nice conjecture, and you make a reasonably good guess based on what we know: second year players making a strong improvement, gaining experience and knowledge despite the injury, benefitting from the coaching and a year of exposure. I appreciate the article…and it stokes our hopes for Perry. Thanks.

    • Marques Eversoll

      Thanks. Appreciate it.

  • GBPDAN

    Perry and jones are the x Factors to improving this D. Of course the improvement of the other young players are important also, but, perry and jones are 2 pieces that were not available (for the most part) last year. If we can get decent production from these two players, the D as a whole will be much improved. Im split on perry being the answer at OLB, but im crossing my fingers that he is. If hes not the answer, I not sure if the answer is currently on the team. Finding the answer for the other OLB position is critical for this D. Please let it be Perry!

    • PatMc

      Barnett is still waiting for a call from a team. He might have a good year left. Another cheap TT veteran signing maybe?

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    Here’s a news article for ya’ll:

    Why are people jerks online? It’s like road rage. They just come out of the woodwork!

  • Lucas

    Sacks are certainly good, but constant pressure every down, every series is what I want out of CMIII/Perry. QBs that throw early, are uncomfortable, and start seeing shadows…exactly what I envision from the duo.

  • Oppy

    Perry should get some stats, to be sure.

    However, his true impact will need to be measured somewhat subjectively. I believe Perry’s biggest impact will be found buried within his teammates’ stats.

    Just as he had a very large impact on Matthews’ sack totals early last season, Perry should end up impacting the tackle and sack totals of the interior defensive linemen and inside linebackers as well.

    Perry is monster as a pocket collapser. QB’s and RB’s are going to have to turn it back inside and/or flush away from his edge when they don’t want to..

    I do think Perry will make his share of plays as well, but I’m already bracing myself for the onslaught of criticism we’re going to hear from fans if MM and Greene praise Perry’s play if he’s not a stat-sheet hero.

    • Stroh

      Perry didn’t have a large impact on Matthews sacks last year. Matthews getting single blocked by OT allowed him to start so fast, and that wasn’t cuz some rookie who never played OLB before was on the other side. SF decided to take a chance w/ Staley a Pro Bowl LT vs Matthews one on one and lost. And the Bears were dumb enough to allow Webb to try to handle Matthews. Teams after that gave Matthews a lot more attention.

      You think teams are going to give Perry, a rookie who has never played OLB before enough respect to force them to single Matthews? Sorry but that’s ridiculous.

      • Oppy

        Try watching the games.

        Go away.

        • Stroh

          You seriously think teams were so afraid of a rookie OLB that had never played OLB that they would allow Matthews a 3x Pro Bowler w/ 30+ sacks to his credit in 3 seasons to have single blocking just to stop Perry?! Get Freakin Real! Now your bordering on asinine!

          The 9ers thought Staley could handle Matthews and were wrong and the bears are idiots.

          I haven’t missed a Packer game in over a decade and 1/2 living in AZ. I watch and analyze.

          It was nothing more than the 9ers thinking Staley could handle Matthews and coincidence that Perry was on the other side. Believe me teams will make Perry prove he is capable of being an excellent pass rusher, before they’ll allow Matthews to dominate the OT one on one again. NFL doesn’t give respect to rookies, they make them EARN it!

          • Oppy

            Again, go away.
            Last communique.

            • Stroh

              You should have stopped a long time ago. I can’t help it your not making sense.

        • Batavia Greg

          You failed to read the warning about not feeding the troll. He’s a vicious one, you know.

  • Martha Hess

    Dear Friends:

    A nice article: I have to tell you that I have been shaken by our playoff losses. The stats of those games are…well troubling. The answer if before: It will be someone rushing the passer that makes everyone else better. [You know like Mr. Jenkins] I believe the answer is in an obscure scout who believed we should insert Mr. Daniels from Iowa as a linebacker. Not Mr. Neal. Mr. Daniels is the answer: find a place where he can be successful. Move him around put his hand in the dirt don’t put his hand in the dirt. Allow Mr. Daniels to thrive! Thank you