GREEN BAY- The first thing you notice about rookie Nick Perry is his size. He looks the way a 3-4 outside linebacker is supposed to look. Here are some other things I noticed about the 22-year-old player the Green Bay Packers are counting on to help lead a defensive resurgence this season:
Perry ran a 4.56 in April, and more importantly, he plays to that time. In fact, the former USC star probably covers more ground than any linebacker on the roster – including perennial Pro Bowler Clay Matthews. He chased down backs on a couple of occasions at last night’s practice. Perry also looks pretty solid at the point of attack. He has obvious take-on strength and the strong hands needed to control/disengage. Teams aren’t going to find it nearly as easy to run at the linebacker opposite CMIII this season.
Not surprisingly, the former college defensive end needs to improve in coverage. Besides lacking experience in this part of the game, he’s also a bit stiff in the hips. This will cause him problems against quick backs and tight ends – especially early in his career while he’s still adjusting to the position.
As a pass rusher, Perry also needs some work. Bryan Bulaga handled him with relative ease all night. Part of that is because Bulaga is one of the best right tackles in the league, but part of that is because Perry isn’t really an explosive, quick-twitch athlete. If he’s going to beat good tackles on a consistent basis, he’s going to have to get off the ball quicker and develop secondary moves to go along with his outstanding speed. There’s no question he has the potential to be an effective pass rusher, but he’s not there yet.
It’s very difficult to judge a football player in such a short period of time, but from what I saw of Perry last night, I can’t say I was overly excited or overly disappointed. Upon first glance, he looked better than former first-round draft picks Aaron Rodgers, A.J. Hawk, Justin Harrell and Derek Sherrod. He didn’t look as good as Matthews, B.J. Raji and Bulaga. But it doesn’t really matter what he looks like on the second day of August. It only matters what he looks like in the second week of September. And beyond.