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Packers 2016 First Half Awards: Our Defensive MVP is Nick Perry

Perry is finally playing to his potential, and Green Bay is better for it.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Until very recently, the most exciting play of Nick Perry’s career didn’t even count.

That destruction of Andrew Luck happened way back in the 2012 season, when Perry was still very much a defensive end trying to learn how to play outside linebacker. Though he was flagged, the way he exploded into the backfield (albeit virtually unblocked) provided a tantalizing glimpse at the player he could be.

But for years, we waited. Injuries mounted, games were missed, and the athleticism Perry showed in spurts never materialized on a consistent basis.

Then Nick Perry met Trent Williams in the playoffs, sacked Kirk Cousins two and a half times, took down Carson Palmer once for an encore, and inked a "prove it" deal with the Packers.

So far, he has.

At the age of 26 and after five years in the NFL, Nick Perry is finding himself. The raw numbers are good: six sacks and an interception through eight games.

The advanced stats are even better: Perry is the NFL’s 14th-best edge defender overall, according to Pro Football Focus. By their metrics he’s the 15th-best pass rusher, pushing the pocket nearly as well as Mike Daniels and Julius Peppers, while playing the run significantly better than his future Hall of Fame counterpart. And thanks in part to Perry’s work, the Packers rank seventh in the Football Outsiders defensive DVOA rankings.

A lot has had to go right for Perry to get to this point. He’s benefitted from playing against some poor offensive lines, gets to line up in the same front seven as one of the best defensive players in the league, and (perhaps most importantly) he’s staying healthy for the first time in his professional life.

But there’s also reason to be optimistic. While he’s collected two half sacks against Indianapolis and Minnesota, his best pass rushing games have come against Detroit, New York, and Jacksonville, all of whom rank in the top half of the Football Outsiders pass blocking rankings. He’ll still get to benefit from playing with Mike Daniels, and it’s hard to fault a guy for having talented teammates. And there’s no reason to assume that he won’t stay healthy if I don’t stop rubbing this magical talisman 53 times a day like that genie told me to.

For years, fans have asked for a productive pass rusher to pair with Clay Matthews. Now, it seems the Packers have one, and as the secondary gets healthier, that only makes the defense more dangerous down the stretch.

In the "also receiving votes" category were Daniels and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but Perry was the runaway winner in our voting.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know who your pick for defensive MVP in the poll below.