While scouting reports of Nick Perry are divided on the issue of whether or not he can make the transition from the 4-3 he played in college to the 3-4 of the Green Bay Packers (which would require him to drop back into coverage), they're all consistent regarding one aspect of his game: he is one heck of a pass rusher. He is explosive off the edge and knows how to get after the quarterback; his 9.5 sacks in 2011 led the Pac-12.
With his incredible speed and athleticism (he ran a 4.64 40-yard dash at the combine and had a 38.5-inch vertical jump, which was the best out of all defensive ends), there is reason to hope Perry could form a lethal dynamic duo with Clay Matthews at outside linebacker. That would be the best case scenario for the Packers.
Perry may have been hoping to play in a 4-3 in the pros, but now that he is with the Packers, he seems to be excited and ready to do whatever it takes to win.
At the Combine, he was asked about playing in a 3-4 versus a 4-3 and said, "I can handle both. I prefer a 4-3. I like to keep my hand in the dirt, but as long as I'm rushing and getting to the quarterback, I'm fine, whatever it is."
Ted Thompson said Perry was "pretty fired up" when they drafted him, even with the knowledge he was going to be moved to outside linebacker.
"I know I gotta make the transition, but I got the right coaching staff that supports what I got and I'm ready to take it to the next level now," Perry said at Rookie Orientation Camp on May 11. "I'm open to everything; whatever I can do to help the team. That's what I'm here for and I will continue to do that."If all this is true and Perry is really content with the switch, then the only question remaining is: does he have what it takes to successfully make the transition? Thompson has pointed out that, "It's not like he hasn't stood up and played before," even though he was "predominately" a defensive lineman who had his hand in the dirt.
Sideline Scouting thinks that the transition "would come fairly easily for him." Here's what they had to say about him dropping back into coverage:
"Has dropped into coverage and looks comfortable doing so, good lateral and change of direction agility, fluid athlete, can play in coverage at the NFL level."
However, Jonathan Bales of The New York Times disagrees and thinks Perry will struggle in coverage. Here's his take:
"Despite his explosiveness, Perry is a bit tight in the hips and frequently has trouble moving laterally. Because of this, he will have some trouble in the N.F.L. if asked to drop into coverage."
There's a pretty blatant contradiction between those two scouting reports when they talked about him moving laterally. I think Perry will probably be fine in coverage, though there may be an adjustment period. But the most important thing is that he helps out Matthews, who can't be left as the only one getting pressure on the quarterback. Ultimately, rushing the passer is most likely what Perry is going to be asked to do in Green Bay, especially if he stays at left outside linebacker, which is where he has played early on in OTAs. Here's what Dom Capers had to say about him:
"We think that he certainly has the size and the athletic ability that we look for at the position. He tested extremely well at the Combine. I think he's an explosive player...[He] had good production at a high level of competition at USC. It'll be a little bit of a transition: he's played with his hand down more than he has standing up. But that's not uncommon for us in this defense. One of the qualities that we look for is a guy's ability to rush the passer, and we think that he's a guy that has the speed to come off the corner and [he] certainly has the size and the power where he can convert that from speed into power in terms of rushing the passer."
Another point of concern the media has had with Perry is his weight, though Perry and the Packers do not seem to think it's an issue. Nick has put on about 20 pounds since his college career ended, to now weigh in at 271.
At the Combine, he said of his weight, "I feel good. I wouldn't have it on if I couldn't handle it."
At Rookie Orientation Camp Perry said, "I'm around 270 still. That'll probably be where I end up playing, [it's] just where I'm comfortable. Obviously I have great athleticism and I guess [the Packers] want to use that. Weight isn't really a concern."
Meanwhile Ted Thompson is satisfied with the way Perry ran at the Combine when he weighed 271, and so am I. I think it may seem like a red flag that a defensive lineman trying to transition to OLB has put on 20 pounds, but at the end of the day, Perry probably knows what he's doing.
Some have compared him to Dwight Freeney, but Perry tries not to think about such comparisons.
"I don't quite compare to anyone," Perry said at the Combine. "I'm my own self and I want to keep it that way."
Whether he likes it or not, someone he may now get compared to is the man he's playing alongside: Clay Matthews. And Perry has a long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as the player who was nearly named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, but at least he knows that in playing alongside Matthews he's playing alongside a fellow Trojan who can guide him towards achieving great things.
And regardless of all comparisons and expectations, Perry is enjoying the moment.
"I'm excited to be here. This opportunity doesn't come too often and I'm just glad to be here and I'm just taking it in one day at a time," Perry said at Rookie Orientation Camp.
And he's ready to help a team that was dead last in the NFL in yards allowed per game last year.
"Obviously they see something in me that I maybe can help them with," Perry said. "I'm ready to give it all up and just work and progress as being a member of this team...I can't really say that I'm gonna be the savior. But I'm gonna put my best foot forward to help the situation and just to try to help the team any way I can."