Packers Outside Linebackers: Erik Walden vs. Nick Perry All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Erik Walden
Erik Walden celebrates. Jay Cutler cries.

Before the season started, Jersey Al posted this about Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden. Jersey Al said the following about Walden early in the post:

Erik Walden can flat out rush the passer. When Walden is turned loose to pursue the red meat known as NFL quarterbacks, he performs like a hungry lion.

I wasn’t as high on Walden as Al, but I wasn’t ready to boot him off the team like most everyone else. After getting arrested Thanksgiving Eve last season, Walden’s play fell off a cliff. He was decent before the arrest, though.

More importantly, the Packers decided to re-sign Walden in the offseason. Ted Thompson and the Packers see something in Walden. Why would they bother bringing back an average to below-average talent with a domestic assault arrest on his record? You can easily find average to below-average guys without arrest records off the street if you need to.

But the Packers obviously think Walden has the talent to be more than just average.

Thompson knows a lot more about his players than I do. If he thinks a guy like Walden is worth bringing back, then there’s talent there, folks.

Walden and Perry vs. the Bears

Walden showed why he was given another opportunity on Thursday against the Bears. Cutler was the hunk of red meat, and Walden was the hungry lion (who had gone a week without a good meal after being suspended week one).

Nick Perry was drafted in the first round to help Clay Matthews get after quarterbacks on the edge. On Thursday, it was Walden who teamed with Matthews to blow up the Bears offensive line. Walden finished with 34 snaps. Perry had 19.

Now that doesn’t mean Perry is done for. It’s only one game. But Walden was far and away the better player on Thursday.

So far Perry appears to only have one tool in his pass-rushing toolbox: a hammer. Perry puts his head down and tries to bull-rush his way into the backfield almost every play. He needs to work on using his hands more to disengage from his blocker before making his move.

I’m also worried that mobile quarterbacks will take advantage of Perry blindly charging upfield by side-stepping him, breaking containment and making plays outside the pocket.

Walden’s toolbox has more tools than Perry’s. On Thursday, Walden showed off a little power, some shake-and-bake type of moves, and even came hard on a few delayed blitzes that caught the Bears flat-footed.

Walden doesn’t have the raw power of Perry, but he’s more explosive. Both player attack their blocker, but Walden looks quicker doing it, and he has more of a plan.

At least that’s what I saw after comparing the two on Thursday.

Long Season

Perry has plenty of time to add the necessary tools to his toolbox. He’s never played standing up before and I expect it to be a while before he’s totally comfortable.

But the Packers can’t afford to be overly patient with a rookie when they have Super Bowl on their minds. If Walden is playing better than Perry, Walden will be on the field. That was the case on Thursday.

They say if you have two quarterbacks you have none. I don’t think that rule necessarily applies to outside linebackers.

I expect the Packers to keep mixing and matching Perry and Walden (and Dezman Moses if necessary) to push both players and take advantage of matchups. I can see Perry being too strong for some tackles and I can see Walden coming in against tackles that aren’t very light on their feet.

Whether it’s Walden or Perry (or Moses), if the Packers get the kind of play opposite of Matthews that they got on Thursday, this defense is in for a major turnaround.


This didn’t really fit anywhere in my post, but I found it funny.

One one of Matthews’ sacks in the second quarter, the Bears double-teamed Walden and tried to block Matthews one-on-one. Walden played well on Thursday, but he shouldn’t be drawing double teams away from Matthews! Not sure what the Bears were thinking there, but hopefully other teams attempt the same thing.


Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


39 thoughts on “Packers Outside Linebackers: Erik Walden vs. Nick Perry

  1. I remember that Clay was sort of a non-factor his few first games. Then it must have clicked. I remember his stripping the ball from AP in MN and taking in for a TD, but his start was slow too and not totally without fault. I think Perry is in the same boat, and in time will be exceptional as a 1st rounder should be.

    Walden has really terrorized Cutler, and I love it.

    How about Moses? A rookie udfa and he was out there with Perry, Daniels and Worthy. This group was causing caous for Cutler and crew. That is worth getting excited about. These rookie pass rushers have talent!

    1. And with Matthews it was clear his football IQ was off the charts, just a natural player that could play any position.

      With Perry, you have the athletic freak. And more, he’s converting to a position. Matthews played standing up in USC.

      Really, I’m actually very upbeat about Perry. I expected him to struggle much more than he is.

      Let’s revisit this topic after week 11.

    2. Wasn’t CMIII out the first few games? The MN game was really his first game.
      Still…the point still holds that maybe all Perry needs is time.
      A very solid point; although Perry has only the hammer, Walden is the carpenter. An OT preparing for both guys is a great advantage to GB. Playing against both is a nice change-of-pace.

  2. When I look at Perry on film from week 1 All-22,not only is his ‘bull rush’ not bullying but the whole Dline moves on the snap and he’s still on the line.Where is the quick burst(combine) that he was suppose to have?From all I’ve seen via the two games,I really question his desire to play in a 4-3 OLB role and he looks just too heavy for the

    I’ll continue to hope he gets it and better in the next few games but,most can sugarcoat his play all they want…they is no impact from this #1 to date and there should be.

    1. Let’s not be too quick to judge. Give the guy time to develop. My guess is the more he plays the better he will become but it’s not going to happen overnight.

    2. Be patient, Taryn. Perry still is probably traumatized from having to cover Michael Crabtree last Sunday.

    3. I would agree perry just doesn’t have it. Obviously it takes time to develop, but there is just no raw talent with perry. Physically he has it, mentally he is absent at best…….

  3. I think they should experiment with Perry as a inside pass rushers in nickel, just to see what he has. He likes the 3 point stance and was a good pass rushers at USC. Mathews and Waldon/moses at OLB and Perry/Raji or Worthy (or Daniels) at Tackel. I know they don’t want to overload Perry with multiple possitions, but, I think its worth a shot.

    1. I actually like that idea Dan. Everybody is right with the bull rush and that’s all he does. I believe in Kevin Greene teaching Perry some skills but I think we’ll start to see it come later in the season. As we saw against the 49ers he has to learn to cover better. As long as Waldon keeps playing like he did against the Bears and Moses can add some help I don’t care who plays as long as the results are good. Move Perry around a little, like Dan suggested and see what he can do but I really believe this guy will be special. It just may take awhile.

    2. That could be another tool added to the toolbox later down the road. I’m guessing they don’t want to overload him right away (remember, in addition to playing standing up, he’s also learning how to cover a TE/RB/WR ((gulp)).

    3. when it comes to rushing the passer, i would think that transferring from an end rusher to an inside rusher (as you suggest) would be even more difficult than transitioning from de to olb. though he’s standing up, at least the angles, attack points, and hand usage are similar. his bull rush would have even less chance of working the deeper inside he gets.

      if you’re talking about putting him in a 3 point stance on the edge once in a while, i’m “all in” – but if you want him inside the tackles, i’m gonna say “no thanks”.

  4. Perry has yet to show anything positive. He has to show that he deserves to play. Until he does, it should be Walden all the way.

  5. Perry needs to get better with his hands and add more tools to his pass rush arsenal. He’s got the speed, power, agility, and attitude to play the position.

    Even CM3 didn’t ‘wake up’ until 1/2 through his rookie season. I’m getting tired of saying this, but I’ll keep on doing it until I’m blue in the face: Give Perry more time.

    Until Perry is comfortable, Walden will probably split snaps with him. But once Perry ‘gets it’, watch out. We’ll be talking Harrison/Woodly or Greene/Lloyd combos.

  6. While I won’t deny Walden has something, I really cannot compare two people after Week 2. The season has just begun.

    Statistically Perry is finishing better than Walden, 8 tackles to 3.

    To be honest, I never heard Walden’s name much but one I did heard was AJ Hawk. I know they are two different positions, but quite possibly Hawk could be progressing?

    Lets see how we do next week, and see how things progress between the two.

  7. Good stuff. I like having the ability to use fresh guys on the outside, especially when the offense gets tuned up and scores more. You know teams will be forced into passing situations and keeping guys fresh will be critical. Perry will be fine as long as he doesn’t get singled up in the slot against a wr like I saw a couple times vs the niners. One more thing I like is starting Worthy along side Pickett and Raji. That’s big boy football and will keep the linebackers clean to make plays.

  8. I watched the entire game twice on tape winding and rewinding. Perry played fine. He did not get a sack, but he was active and got close to the QB on several plays and helped others get sacks.

    Let’s not diss the guy just because he is one of 5 or 6 guys who have serious pass rush skills. The Packers are loaded. The 2012 defense is nothing like the 2011 version.

    For example, with 8 minutes left in the game, the Packers rushed 3 – Matthews, Worthy, and Perry and forced Cutler to scramble after a very short time. He ended up rushing an incomplete pass downfield. BTW, there were 5 rookies on the field for that play.

    1. Exactly.

      “So far Perry appears to only have one tool in his pass-rushing toolbox: a hammer. Perry puts his head down and tries to bull-rush his way into the backfield almost every play. He needs to work on using his hands more to disengage from his blocker before making his move.”

      This is just not true.

      This is just one example. He did it 2 times this game, in 19 (or 20 by PFF’s count) snaps. He had another pressure (by bullrushing).

      Perry has already shown he has both the strenght to push offensive linemen and the speed to beat them off the edge. He obviously needs to work on his hands and overall get better, but it’s clear he has physical tools that are rare in the league.

      1. Key word in what I wrote is “almost.” I never said he does the same thing over and over again.

  9. It also helps that both CB’s Williams and Shields look good on coverage which will also heip in the sack totals. McMillian looks a lot better than MD Jennings at safty. I like the speed and energy that the rookies bring. I agree that Worthy will help Raji inside.

  10. Nick Perry was abusing Camini at the end of the game with pure speed rushes off the edge… So he’s already proven he can do more than bull rush.

    What Perry needs to learn to do is come off the line showing either power or speed, and learn how to make a move and transition to the other.. Not just setting a guy up with one and then beat him on the next snap with the other, but to come off the LOS bull rushing, only to suddenly slap away the hands of the defender once he’s on his heels and transition into speed heading for the QB- or vice versa.

    BTW, pretty sure the wrist injury is a decent part of why he was limited, and it would also explain why he went with more speed rush when he was in there. No doubt, Walden’s history of giving the Bears all they can handle was also a factor.

    To those who claim Perry has “shown nothing” to prove he should have playing time, I have to wonder what the heck you were watching in week 1. You all might be the same folks who thought Clay Matthews regressed in 2011 because he only tallied 6 sacks.

  11. By the way, Bob McGinn has Walden with 34 snaps and 1 1/2 pressures vs. the Bears, with Nick Perry having 19 snaps and 1 pressure. That’s a nearly identical percentage of pressures (Walden’s 4.4% vs. Perry’s 5.2%). That would suggest Perry is just as hungry for red meat as Walden.

    For the record, Moses had 17 snaps and accumulated two pressures (8.5%) and Clay Matthews played 57 snaps with 5 1/2 pressures (9.6%)

    Slice it up any way you want to, these are really excellent numbers, IMO. The OLB corps has really improved greatly in the course of one off season with the addition of Moses and Perry.

    1. Last year the Packers had one pass rusher – Matthews. This year they have Matthews, Worthy, Daniels, an improved Walden, Perry, and Moses. And a rapidly ascending secondary.

      Mark my words, this defense will be seriously good at the end of the year.

      1. Forgot Raji. He played really well this last game, specially against the run, which he has struggled against.

      2. Is Worthy doing anything? I did not see the game due to a power failure if you can believe that but I never hear his name.
        Saw him play at State and he has the ability to go un-noticed. That was his moniker before the draft- hot and cold player.

  12. Personally I prefer a bull-rusher over an edge rusher. Too often edge rushers leave a gapping hole for the QB to get through. If you can push the o-lineman back into the pocket it not only creates pressure on him, but the defender csn slip-off to either side in case a runner comes his way.

    I thought Reggie Whites bull-rushing ability is what set him apart from the rest. In time, if Perry ends up doing both, he will be very dangerous.

    1. White knew how to set up offensive linemen to cheat to the outside and use leverage to throw them off.

      Comparing anyone to White is just not fair. He was both a physical freak and a great technician, he invented moves (hump) for crying out loud.

  13. I like that they were quick to get Walden back in the mix. Perry has some talent, but it needs to develop. The biggest advantage I see is Walden’s ability to cover the pass.

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever thought to myself, “Man, that Walden- he sure can cover!”.

      To my eyes, Walden has been a pass-rushing specialist thus far. His coverage is below average, and his ability to play the run had been a massive liability so far.

      That said, Perry clearly isn’t a coverage ace at this point and while he’s clearly strong enough to hold the point of attack, he has had lapses where he gets wide and does not contain the run. The coaches insist (or, at least, Walden insists) that Walden didn’t fully understand his responsibilities until now. We shall see.. But Walden is a LB in his 3rd or 4th year as a pro, and Perry is a DE converted to OLB in his rookie season. I would think there’s more room to improve for Perry in the near and long term.

  14. Dan is right: Before the season is over, in certain passing situations (for example 2nd and 12) the Packers will play 6 rookies: down lineman: Worthy; Daniels; Perry. Outside linebackers: Moses McMillan at safety and Hayward at dime!
    Not a bad draft and this will also allow BJ a little rest.

  15. Perry reminds me of a used car I bought one time. I paid too much for it and had nothing but problems with it from day one. Now I would come up with every excuse in the book to try and make myself think that I made a good purchase. Bottom line was I got screwed and the car always sucked. I think that’s exactly what is going on here. YOu fellows are making any excuse you can to make Perry look like the next Matthews. Sorry to say it doesn’t work that way, however I admire your enthusiasm..

  16. Thanks for your observation. I thought when the Pack picked Perry that the GB fans may have to watch what they wished for. This guy can be an under-achiever.
    If you recall the pre- draft reports he was listed as a late first or early second rounder and not high on too many lists. There are always reasons for that and it may be heart and motivation or head. Some people just can’t get it???
    I did hear something interesting last night in the Frisco game. The announcer said that Suh is more effective now since the Lions forced him into a three point stance. He was reluctant to do that but they forced it on him. Maybe Perry needs to get into a three point stance too to utilized his strenth more?????

  17. Walden was the worst rated OLB in the game last year. I cannot easily forget how horrendous he was last year. There were times when he was just COMPLETELY washed out of the running play. I know Al thinks more of him as a situational pass rusher, than an every down guy, but I am like an elephant. I cannot forget his pitful 2011 performance that easily. He has looked more explosive this pre season though. It seemed like he and Clay tried to put on a few LBs last year and it did not work. They look a little slimmer and quicker this year.

  18. I don’t think Perry gets to pick his team & position being a late round choice. If you have the physical skills, your long term goal is play your heart out, get good, make a pile of money & retire early before EVERYTHING hurts. From the sounds of a lot of the writers this guy would like to play in his system & not crossover to what the Packers drafed him to do.

    1. This whole “Perry doesn’t want to learn to play OLB” thing is an overblown, almost fabricated, product of sports writers making something of nothing.

      He was asked at the combine if he’d be more comfortable playing DE from a traditional 3-point stance or upright as an OLB. He responded he’d be more comfortable playing DE from a 3 point stance.


      He didn’t ever say he’d refuse to learn OLB, not even remotely- in fact, he stated he’d be happy to do whatever his future team asks of him. He simply stated he’d be more comfortable at DE.

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