May 11, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers rookie linebacker Nick Perry (53) during the Green Bay Packers mini-camp at the Don Hutson Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE
Nick Perry hadn't yet signed his contract when he talked to reporters prior to his first practice in a Green Bay Packers, but for reasons that became very obvious a couple of hours later, he was ready to get on the practice field and begin his transition to outside linebacker.
Perry played as a 4-3 defensive end in college at USC and was thought of by many scouts as a better fit for a 4-3 than a 3-4 at the pro level, but the Packers picked him up to be a big body and pass rusher at outside linebacker, and he's hitting the ground running. Just prior to his first practice, Perry talked to the media about transitioning from playing with his hand in the dirt to standing up.
"I know I have to make the transition, but I have the coaching staff it takes. I'm ready to take it to the next level ... There are different stances, but once you get comfortable in those, it shouldn't be an issue. I know we need help, obviously, on defense. I know the opportunity is here and I want to take advantage of it any way I can to help."
The Packers' have had a revolving door of linebackers opposite Clay Matthews in recent times, with all of Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo looking serviceable, but struggling to make the starting job their own. Perry will have a chance to unseat all of them and win a starting job opposite Clay Matthews when Week 1 rolls around, but which sides will Matthews and Perry play on?
In his first practice with the team, Perry started at left outside linebacker, where Matthews has played during the last two seasons. Matthews started on the right during his rookie season, but made his transition to the left side -- where 3-4 teams usually play their larger starting linebacker -- and has flourished.
However, if the Packers are going to try to get Perry and Matthews on the field together for every down, it makes sense that the coaching staff might want to move Matthews back to the right. On top of being smaller than Perry, he's almost certainly more adept in coverage than Perry, on account of Perry doing a very minimal amount of dropping into coverage in college. The transition to standing up might be made easier for Perry if he spends most of his time rushing the passer and stopping the run, while doing less dropping into coverage than his counterpart at OLB.
This all seems reasonable, but it's unclear whether or not Perry's position will be on the left, or if he's beginning his Packers career in that spot to ease into the transition. Mike McCarthy's quotes about Perry's position were unsurprisingly ambiguous, given that it was just the first day of rookie minicamp.
"It's a starting point ... That's - we played Nick Perry exclusively on the left side (today), so that will be the starting point for him."
At this point, all we can do is wait and see how Perry progresses as a stand-up player and wait to see where Perry and Matthews line up when they take the field together in training camp. Still, it's fun to speculate for the moment, and I'm sure there will be differing opinions among the members here about what to do with Perry and Matthews.
On one hand, playing Perry on the left will allow the Packers to get their two most talented OLBs on the field at the same time without too steep of a learning curve for Perry. On the other hand, some might be weary about taking Matthews out of the position where he became a Pro Bowler.
Where do you think Perry and Matthews are going to start the season?