Of course the No. 1 guy on this list was going to be the first round pick, especially when he was drafted at the team's biggest position of need. Nick Perry, who spent his entire college career with his hand in the dirt, needs to learn to stand up immediately. He's getting great reviews, but hasn't proven yet that he's an elite pass rusher at the NFL level, or that he's competent dropping back into coverage.
No one's expecting Pro Bowl-caliber stuff from Perry in his rookie year, but he's needs to look like an NFL-quality 3-4 outside linebacker at the very least if the Packers want to return to the Super Bowl. The pass rush was awful last season, and if nothing else, Perry should be able to rush the passer. Even though he'll be on the opposite side of the field and standing up instead of getting into a three-point stance, he should be able to get to the QB on third down.
After the jump, exactly what you should be watching for from Perry.
1. Can athleticism alone get him by Bryan Bulaga? - Nick Perry has plenty of pass rushing moves, but more than anything else, I want to see if his speed and strength is good enough to get him by Bulaga on a couple of occasions. Bulaga is one of the best right tackles in football, and if Perry can behind him on simple power and speed moves, he's going to be a terror for opposing right tackles.
2. Is he exclusively a stand-up LOLB? - We're not expecting to see Perry switch sides at all, nor are we expecting to see him put his hand down, but who knows? Dom Capers has cooked up crazier things in his day. Keep an eye on whether or not Perry is doing any moving around, or if his responsibilities change drastically from play to play.
3. Can he cover anyone? - Perry will have struggles in coverage. He's going to struggle to pick up halfbacks coming out of the backfield and he's not going to be able to stick with Jermichael Finley in man. Accept this, set your expectations accordingly, and move on. If Perry can avoid getting embarrassed in man against tight ends and he looks to have some basic understanding of zone concepts already, we probably have a star on our hands.
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