The Green Bay Packers drafted linebacker Nick Perry in the first round of the 2012 draft with the idea that adding another talented pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews would help solve the team’s deficiency in getting to the passer.
So far, the results have been mixed.
While Matthews is on pace for 28 sacks (seven through four games) this season, Perry has mostly platooned with Erik Walden on the left side. The rookie has sometimes struggled disengaging right tackles and covering players in space.
But if Matthews in 2009 taught anything, it’s that a little patience is required with Perry now.
Consider these stats from our friends over at Pro Football Focus:
Clay Matthews through four games in 2009: 150 snaps, one sack, three hurries, two stops (tackle that constitutes a negative play for the offense), one forced fumble, touchdown, seven tackles, three missed tackles.
Nick Perry through four games in 2012: 146 snaps, one sack, seven hurries, five stops, 15 tackles, zero missed tackles.
Matthews had his one impact play, a strip of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson that he returned for a touchdown in the Packers’ Week 4 loss in Minnesota. But overall, the numbers across the board are very similar.
PFF’s stats actually point to Perry being the better overall pass-rusher through four games.
Admittedly, Perry has had more early struggles in coverage, allowing five receptions for 60 yards in four games. Matthews only allowed one catch through his first four. But by the end of the 2009 season, opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 99.9 against Matthews. Perry has given up just one catch since his NFL debut, too.
The moral of this story: There’s no need to rush to judgement on Perry. I have been as critical of Perry as anyone, but even a superstar like Matthews wasn’t an instant hit.
This adjustment from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker is a difficult one, just as it was to a lesser degree for Matthews. And if Matthews is any indication, real results may still be a few weeks down the road.
In 2009, Matthews had just three sacks, three quarterback hits and five hurries through the first eight weeks. From Week 10 on, however, Matthews recorded eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 21 hurries.
In this instant gratification society, fans want production right away. The Packers understood when they took Perry that an adjustment period was awaiting them early in 2012.
If Dom Capers gets even half the late-season production from Perry as he did with Matthews, this Packers defense will be just fine. A little patience right now is required.