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The Efficiency of Perry, Outside Linebackers Beginning to Radiate

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The Efficiency of Perry, Outside Linebackers Beginning to Radiate

At the University of Southern California, excellence is expected not just among students but in their sporting programs as well. The list of professional athletes that have been produced from the school is a rather extensive one. While many have hit home runs with their careers (or scored touchdowns, made a hole-in-one, a three-pointer, etc.), some such as Nick Perry may have needed an extra kick in the right program.

When the Packers drafted Nick Perry at 28th overall in 2012, they were getting one of the finest linebackers produced out of USC since the same organization snatched up Clay Matthews in 2009. Despite being converted from a defensive end to an outside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme, he showed immediate promise in his newest endeavor. He totaled six tackles in his first game at the NFL level and in due course two weeks later, his first sack in Seattle. But that same promise soon dwindled once Perry was sidelined after six games for the remainder of the 2012 campaign with a wrist injury. Although the injury hadn't been a key component to the clean bill of health Perry would fail to maintain over the next three years, it would mark a series of questionable luck. 

Perry would see only 11 games the following year, but find balance in 2014 and 2015, playing in 15 and 14 games respectively in that two-year span. His 6.5 sacks and 34 tackles in the mere five games he was privileged to start in began showing flashes of what the former All-American was capable of — especially in the heavy-blitz scheme implemented under defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

In January of 2016 during the Packers' short-lived playoff run, heads would begin to turn in favor of Perry. He helped rally the defense's pass rush and recorded 3.5 sacks through the two post-season match-ups, eventually earning him a one-year deal to stay in Green Bay through 2016. $5 million kept Perry in green and gold, almost a year after the Packers declined his fifth-year option.

In the last three games to kick off the 2016 season, Perry has played more defensive snaps than any of the outside linebackers. To be precise — when the defense is on the field, Perry is there 77 percent of the time. He would've out-bid them in each individual game as far as snap counts go if it weren't for Matthews' 53 snaps in Jacksonville compared to Perry's 52. Nonetheless, he's made the most out of his playing time.

Perry's quickness off the edge has earned him 3.5 sacks so far this season, two of them coming against Detroit. Perry has already beat out his yearly totals from 2012 and 2014 and tied his amount from 2015. It's a feat that the fifth-year linebacker is taking in stride.

"I felt pretty good. I got to get out there and just make plays." Perry said after Sunday's win against the Lions. "We had a good gameplan, we wanted to stop the run and get after them when the pass came, and we did just that. I had a good game."

The Packers initially intended on 15-year veteran Julius Peppers remaining stagnant on a pitch count this season, which may very likely be his last in the NFL. If Perry can continue to overpower opposing tackles the way he did to Detroit's Taylor Decker on Sunday, keeping Peppers fresh may be a lesser-known concern — or perhaps not even a concern at all. Peppers, meanwhile, has averaged just under 30 snaps per game in the opening trio of games. 

The success Perry has obtained thus far combined with the injuries to Datone Jones and Clay Matthews, who are both primed for ample years, has also given Capers an opportunity to utilize Jayrone Elliott and rookie Kyler Fackrell. Elliott saw his first field action of the season on Sunday, while the 7 snaps in each of the first two games that Fackrell saw sky-rocketed to 37 against the Lions. He also recorded his first sack at the professional stage.

"We were working on those tackles all game," spoke a giddy Fackrell post-game. "They were doing a good job of chipping and doing different things... Our coach told us we just have to keep grinding, keep putting moves on them, keep working. That's what we eventually did."

Concurrently, Elliott's 28 snaps were modest in comparison to the other aforementioned linebackers, but getting on the field was the first step. After a strong start to the 2015 season in which he recorded two sacks, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and an interception, he was hampered by a quad injury for the remainder of the year. An injury whose repercussions were magnified in the form of Elliott's slowing production as the season went on.

The next test for Perry and his peers will come against the visiting Giants from the east in primetime. Hopefully, with Matthews, Jones, and every other defensive starter who will be using this upcoming bye week as a means to rehabilitate.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tundraboy's picture

So good to see Perry healthy, and the rookies and second/third year players, Thomas, Martinez,Clarke Elliot Ryan and even Fackrell playing well and getting solid experience. Arrow is truly pointing up for this D.

sonomaca's picture

Perry first flashed in Washington playoff game against Trent Williams. Continued it this year. If the Pack are going to sign him, better do it pretty quick.

mrtundra's picture

Elliott only occasionally makes an impact because he is only occasionally in the game. He needs more snaps. Every time he plays he makes an impact. Perry is a stud! Atone has played well this season, too. Fackrell shows tons of potential. Our pass rush and D Line has played solid football. Here's hoping TT can keep these guys healthy and on the roster.

sonomaca's picture

Perry has the look of an emerging star. Despite the fact the throat-cutting gesture cost 15, I think that was an accurate portrayal about how the Perry feels right now. He's got the confidence to say, "I'm going to decapitate you!" Jones and Elliott just don't have that swagger, at least not yet.

If the Packers wait on signing him, they risk him becoming an outrageously expensive superstar as the season progresses.

Oppy's picture

Pretty sure the Ads are data profile generated, meaning, you're seeing vikings ads because the analytics generated from your IP address suggest you might be interested in things related to the Vikings.

Do you troll vikings sites or something?

Totally legit question, no funnies.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Nice article. Perry has played well. I think he can play well against good tackles (the tackles he seen so far haven't been very good, but he played well against Trent in Washington last season). IIRC, the coaches could only find 351 snaps for Perry last year, while giving 734 snaps to Neal. smh

I liked McCray, but if it were close, TT had to pick Elliot over McCray because Elliot is under contract for 2016 and 2017. Looks like TT made a good choice (McCray is playing 38% of snaps over in buffalo - 5th LBer for them - though I don't know how well he is playing).

L's picture

It's possible he may still be assimilating to their defense, but who knows for sure?

Since '61's picture

Key for Perry and OLB group is to remain healthy. When CM3 returns our pass rush will be difficult to stop. We have been waiting a long time for the Packers to have another pass rushing OLB that opposing DCs need to plan for. If Perry with CM3 continues to play at a high level it may be difficult for Elliot and Fackrell to find more playing time to continue their development. Arrow pointing up for the OLB position group. Thanks, Since '61

NMPF's picture

Perry has been strong in run and pass rush but the OLB position as a whole besides #52 is a liability in any passes more than 5yds down the field. As far as re-signing him after the season if Perry does produce a double digit sack total, there is not a pry bar big enough to get TT to open the wallet to match what he will get on the open market. Remember 3 yrs ago E. Walden got 16M over 4yr for 89 tackles and 9 sacks in 3 yrs here.

NMPF's picture

you are making my point exactly. when Perry gets 10+ sacks this year, TB, Indy, Clev., whomever will be offering way more that TT will pony up, thus enjoy his success this season and then its adios amigo.

L's picture

If worst came to worst the Packers could Franchise Tag in order to retain his services while they work on a multi-year deal.

NMPF's picture

Hayward would look pretty good in the defensive backfield right now.

L's picture

Just remember TT doesn't typically let his ascending young talents who fit critical roles leave in Free Agency.

E.Walden wasn't a big time ascending young talent, nor was he someone who fit a critical role on our team's defense.

NMPF's picture

Good point on the franchise tag, although the tag for a LB in '16 was 14.1M. The point on Walden was with his production he still got over 4M per. Worth it? No way.

MarkinMadison's picture

Perry puts TT in a tough spot. His first four seasons he averaged about 3 sacks a year and about 4 games missed per year. The arrow is point up, but do you sign him to big money right now, or do you make him prove it through a full year? And if you are Perry do you sign now or do you bet on yourself and test the market?

I thought CM3 had the hamstring bug beat. Then he goes back to OLB full time and he has it bite him again. Maybe he is better off inside.

sonomaca's picture

With CM3, there's going to be time missed. He just plays really hard, and that's going to produce injuries. This means that they pretty much have to sign Perry, since Peppers is gone and Jones/Elliott aren't yet proven.

I think that, if they wait, Perry's price tag could escalate. I see absolutely no reason why his sack total doesn't get well above 10. If they can sign him for $10 million a season, that would be good value right now.

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