Here’s our feature article on Nick Perry originally published on March 1…
Southern Cal defensive end Nick Perry will potentially still be on the board when the Packers pick the 28th player in the first round of the NFL Draft.
But will his hesitation to play in a two-point stance scare teams away like the Packers who would view him as an outside linebacker in their defensive system?
Not that Perry is dismissing outside linebacker entirely, but he’s clearly more comfortable playing an end position.
“It’s just that edge,” said Perry at the Combine. “Some people have a better edge getting off the ball with their hand in the dirt. I’ve been playing it a long time now, and I have experience in that. Being put further away from what you’re used to doing makes you a little uneasy.”
If the Packers are going to make a first-round investment in Perry, they better make sure they’re selecting a guy that is comfortable playing in space.
Perry displayed several skills during his workout at the Combine that suggest he has what it takes to make the transition. He finished first among all defensive linemen in both the jumps. He had a 38.5″ vertical and tied for first with a 10′ 4″ broad jump (tied with Rice’s Scott Solomon).
He also had the third-fastest 40 time among defensive linemen with a time 4.64 seconds and tied for the fifh-most reps on the 225-pound bench press with 35.
The change of direction drills gave Perry a little more trouble, however. He didn’t finish among the top 15 defensive linemen in either the 20-yard shuttle (4.66 seconds) or the three-cone drill (7.25 seconds).
What makes Perry intriguing is that he comes from the same program as Clay Matthews, the player the Packers are trying to find a complement for at the other end of the line of scrimmage.
Consider that USC produced four linebackers in the first four rounds of the 2009 Draft alone, with Brian Cushing of the Texans and Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava of the Bengals joining Matthews.
USC’s reputation for placing players in the NFL was one of the reasons Perry enrolled there.
“It was big,” said Perry. “Knowing they produce a lot of great players in the league, I wanted to be one of those too.”
Perry’s production during his junior season in 2011 was impressive. He totaled 54 tackles, 13 for a loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
California tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who also was invited to the NFL Combine and will soon be playing on Sundays, said Perry was one of the toughest players he faced in college.
“He’s a pretty good player,” said Schwartz. “On the field he’s a little bit quicker than he is on film. I’ve known that from the year before, playing against him, so I kind of had a good game plan against him, going into it.
“But he’s the speed guy up the field, and he’s pretty strong on the bull rush coming in. You can’t just bail out on the guy and sell out for speed, you’ve got to play with some anchor.”
The Packers would certainly like to add that kind of playmaking ability to their anemic pass rush that ranked tied for 27th in the NFL with only 27 sacks in 2011. Only two teams had fewer.
And their sack efficiency was even worse considering all the times opponents dropped back against Green Bay in order to play catch up. The result was the Packers giving up the most passing yards in NFL history and the second-most yards ever.
Now they just have to find out if Perry fits their 3-4 defense.
“I can handle both,” said Perry at the NFL Combine. “I prefer 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.”
The Packers might be able to live with that.