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Timing Couldn't Be Better for Packers First Rounders Perry, Jones to Emerge

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Timing Couldn't Be Better for Packers First Rounders Perry, Jones to Emerge

Defensive lineman Datone Jones recovers a fumble by DeMarco Murray by Andrew Weber—USA TODAY Sports.

Defensive lineman Datone Jones recovers a fumble by DeMarco Murray by Andrew Weber—USA TODAY Sports.

In 2011 the Green Bay Packers were historically bad on defense, allowing the most yards in league annals at the time.

Understandably, the front office set out on improving the unit, spending first round picks on the defensive side of the football in each of next three NFL drafts.

Linebacker Nick Perry in 2012, defensive lineman Datone Jones in 2013 and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2014 were supposed to be building blocks for a return to glory.

The Green Bay defense has made strides since 2011, no longer embarrassingly poor, but also far from great.

More or less an average NFL defense the past three seasons, progress hasn't come quick enough for some critics, and a lot of it has to do with the failure of the team's first round investments to pay dividends.

Perry and Jones in particular have done little of note in their five combined seasons in professional football. To state the obvious, they haven't developed into Pro Bowl players. Much to the Packers' chagrin, however, they haven't even become full-time starters.

Granted, both players have battled injuries. Perry suffered broken bones in each of his first two NFL seasons: a wrist in 2012 and a foot in 2013. Jones, meanwhile, has been dogged by an ankle sprained multiple times over the course of two seasons.

But lo and behold, just as the stakes are at their highest, Perry and Jones have begun to flash that first-round talent.

In the divisional round playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, Perry and Jones made plays—big plays.

With the Cowboys up by one point in the second half and the Packers in need of a defensive stop, Perry sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on back-to-back plays—the last play of the third quarter and the first play of the fourth.

Perry's first sack was a solo effort, the second shared with defensive lineman Mike Daniels. The losses totaled 10.5 yards and the Cowboys were forced to punt, setting up the Packers' go-ahead touchdown.

Jones, meanwhile, made his presence felt in a multitude of ways.

The defensive lineman's first big play was a deflection of a field goal attempt by kicker Dan Bailey with less than a minute in the second quarter. It wasn't a full-fledged block sending the ball backwards, but it was enough to force a miss.

A six-point swing ensued as the Packers offense set up a Mason Crosby field goal as time expired before halftime.

As the second half opened, Jones was "Johnny on the Spot," recovering Julius Peppers' forced fumble of running back DeMarco Murray, once again setting up another field goal and pulling the Packers within one point of the lead, 14-13.

Jones finished his day combining with Mike Neal for a sack on the Cowboys' final possession of the game, two plays before Dez Bryant's disputed catch overturned by replay.

The argument can be made that a couple of the day's sacks were of the coverage variety, aided by good play in the secondary.

But there's little doubt that Perry and Jones took steps in the right direction. Each player made multiple momentum-changing plays, not just a flash in the pan.

The solid play from Perry, in particular, may give the Packers more confidence to honor him with a larger role against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.

Facing a team with one of the most dangerous and mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, it makes sense that Clay Matthews will be needed to play more snaps at inside linebacker than ever before, spying Russell Wilson and ideally keeping Brad Jones off the field.

If Matthews isn't lining up as an edge rusher, it will be up to guys like Perry, Peppers and Neal to pick up the slack.

The timing has been right for the Packers to get the most out of their first round picks playing in the trenches, and all the better if Clinton-Dix can join them with a solid performance of his own.

But the Packers can't afford regression. After all, a spot in the Super Bowl is on the line on Sunday, and the defense sure could use a couple more big plays.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"The argument can be made that a couple of the day's sacks were of the coverage variety, aided by good play in the secondary."

Sounds like team work. For the record I'm happy with interceptions caused by the pass rush too.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Well said, Sir.

RCPackerFan's picture

I thought both Jones and Perry played well...

Honestly, I think Perry played well enough that he deserves more playing time against Seattle.

What I want to see is Perry at ROLB, and have Mathews play his hybrid ILB most of the game. I want Mathews to do more of a spy role on Wilson. Not necessarily rushing Wilson, not necessarily in coverage. Just kind of hovering/roaming around to not allow him to escape and hurt us with his legs.

Mathews has a tendency to over run plays or get out of position especially against mobile QB's in the read option. If he is playing ILB he won't be out of position and then he can explode to the person with the ball.

Perry's play will allow Mathews to move more to ILB.

CTPack's picture

Completely agree. I also think its worth mentioning keeping Wilson in the pocket is a big issue. He's most dangerous when he's able to get mobile (whether thats actually running the ball himself or buying time until one of his guys gets open). I like our DBs 1:1 with Seattles WR group as long as we contain Wilson and force him to throw in a reasonable amount of time. If he can buy himself 4 seconds he'll find a target.

lou's picture

Talent wise both #1 picks have all the measurables required but it is time to turn that into game time production and it is great to see some results. Perry unfortunately seems to always get injured right after a great game. Jones is yet to have the type of games Perry has had but his positive attitude is just the opposite Worthy had. In regards to keeping Wilson in the pocket, that is the KEY to a win, I sure wish we had a healthy Desmond Bishop, QB's didn't take it up the gut on him, and when Bishop blitzed inside he almost always got to the QB.

Tundraboy's picture

Yes!!!! Other than Datone, I do not want to hear the name Jones on Sunday.

Amanofthenorth's picture

Watched week one game again. IL play was non existent. Rodgers had time and Lacy and Starks ran well Bulaga injury derailed the game.

Like the Packer's chances

Tundraboy's picture

Would be great if Perry has an even better game.

RCPackerFan's picture

I completely agree.. Perry holds the point a lot better. Yesterday on NFL Live they showed some plays from the first game. They basically used Mathews explosiveness against him. They allowed him to get up field then they ran behind him, which created huge holes. Also took Mathews out of the play.

I really like him at ILB for the Read option plays as well. In that first game, he had to decide who to go after and was wrong a quite a few of those plays. Now he will be able to see who has the ball.

I don't know how much they will use him as a spy, but honestly, I want to see them use him as a spy more. Maybe use him more on delayed blitzes, that way the blockers will be locked up on other players and might allow a few free lanes to Wilson. Or if Wilson steps up to avoid other rushers Mathews will be there.

Facing mobile QB's you have to rush them differently then others. You can't create lanes for them to run. Mathews sometimes can create lanes with his explosiveness. Mathews at ILB and more of a spy role will allow the other rushers to hold Wilson in the pocket or force him to step up.

Honestly, having Mathews at ILB alongside Barrington and Perry at ROLB, makes it alot stronger against the run.

L's picture

You and I have been singing this song since last year, so glad to see it implemented this year and hope to see more of it going forward.

Tarynfor12's picture

Both came up with big contributions more because of the play of others and that is a need for any on the field.

However,until either can show an ability to make needed plays irregardless of performance of others, with health issues aside ,lets keep it to simple adequate thank you levels for both at this time.

All to often those who make these rare contributions one week often erases with play the next with utter ineptitude and that is the issue for the defense again and again and again.

Does Perry get his 5th yr option picked up based on his total development or is he a player with which you bide time through season 4 with hopes of seeing enough to offer another deal when he hits FA?

Datone hasn't hit this contract decision yet but unless he grows a lot next season....same situation as Perry ensues directly at its ending in 2016.

aj's picture

I personally think Datone is on track developmentally. He's already a pretty good pass rusher, all he needs to gain is the ability to anchor against the run. Only way to improve that is by work in the weight room, and that takes time.

aj's picture

I personally think Datone is on track developmentally. He's already a pretty good pass rusher, all he needs to gain is the ability to anchor against the run. Only way to improve that is by work in the weight room, and that takes time.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Your question about picking up Perry's 5th year option is interesting. My answer is no. GB must inform Perry whether it intends to pick up the option after the last regular season game of the player's 3rd year and by May 3 of 2015 (since it is guaranteed for injury, no team picks it up until May). The option for a 1st round pick taken btw the 11th and 32nd pick is the average of the 3rd through 25th highest paid players at the player's position. That is probably (by my rough calculations) about $8.26 million per year (assuming that the position includes all OLBs and all ILBs). The number is subject to change depending on what other players sign for. It is guaranteed for injury only. If the player is on the regular season opening day roster, it is guaranteed for injury, skill & cap.

There is no way Perry is worth $8.26 million/yr. It would be better to extend him for a lesser amount. As a note, the Jets are facing the same issue with Quentin Coples, the 16th pick. Here is a link to an article about the Jet's decision:

http://www.nj.com/jets/index.ssf/2015/01/should_the_jets_pick_up_linebac...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Not sure how the two players compare. Perry has had injuries, of course, but he has only had 9 sacks in his first 3 years during the regular season, including 3 this year (he also had an additional 1.5 sacks versus Dallas) in 360 defensive snaps, or 1 sack per 120 snaps (regular season). Coples has 16.5 sacks in his 3 years, including 6.5 sacks this year (2014) in 689 snaps, or 1 sack per every 106 snaps. You will have to decide whether Perry would have better numbers and a better ratio if he were the full time starter (i.e., whether he gets substituted for by say Peppers, Neal and CMIII in obvious pass rushing situations). PFF rated Coples as the 40th best OLB in a 3-4 (27th for pass rush and 42nd for run defense) and PFF rated Coples 31st out of 42 in 2013 (38th pass rush and 18th run defense). Coples sounds pretty pedestrian at this point.

As you said, if GB picks up the option for the 2016 season before May 3 of this year, it would be guaranteed for injury sustained during the 2015 season (Perry's 4th year) if that injury prevented Perry from playing in 2016. GB could watch Perry play in 2015, and if he does not have a serious injury that precludes him from playing in 2016, GB could cut Perry before March of 2016 (start of the new league year, usually March 3) and owe no financial obligation to Perry, nor would there be any CAP hit. If cut on March 2, 2016, Perry would be a FA and I believe would get a jump on other FAs as they can't negotiate with other teams until May. If GB did not cut Perry by the start of the new league year in 2016, the option (which I believe would be in excess of $8 million) becomes guaranteed for injury, skill and cap, meaning that he can't be cut, I think. As far as I know, there is nothing stopping TT from extending Perry this off season, maybe using incentives or non-guaranteed roster bonuses in the out-years of the extension to provide GB with some safety but allowing Perry to earn more if he performs.

I note that GB did not pick up Raji's option, but he was a year earlier. I am not sure if the same rules applied to Raji

vj_ostrowski's picture

Wilson was tied for 16th most rushing yards in the league. That's an insane challenge for a team that also boasts one of the top 5 running backs.

The fact that Wilson had more yards than half the starting backs in the league gives me nausea.

But I'm giving our guys a chance. When we faced Seattle last, Hawk and Bad Jones were our starting MLBs. And upon review of that game, without hyperbole, they each played two of the worst games I've ever personally seen from a Packer MLB - on the same day!

Highly unlikely to happen again with Hawk and Jones both seeing minimal playing time.

CTPack's picture

Big differences I see since the first game:

1. Clay in ILB. We largely kept Murray in check, same for J.Bell. I fully expect to stack the box and dare Wilson to beat us with his arm. He's capable of it but I think we stand a pretty good chance there with our DBs in 1:1 coverage.

2. Adams/TEs have arrived: this can be hit or miss but in the first game they essentially took Jordy and Cobb out of the game and dared Rodgers to go to Boykin or R.Rogers. Now that we have Adams emerging as a legit WR3 and Rogers is picking up quality impacts catches their secondary will be far more stretched out. Lacy has also taken on the check down roll and done very well with it.

3. I'm not sold their defense is as stellar as people are saying. They might be but the last games have been against Drew Stanton, Kaep twice, Austin Davis, Lindley, and Sanchez. Not exactly your murderers row of QBs.

4. I pray they stop trying to run Lacy outside the tackles against Seattle. They're a smaller faster defensive front. They get to the sidelines quickly. Run it up their damn gut and make Wagner make a play +4 yards from scrimmage.

Bottom line - if Austin Davis can beat them dinking and dunking his way down the field Aaron Rodgers can do it and then some.

tjm65's picture

Agree completely CT, well said. Should be a great game

Tundraboy's picture

Soooo agree.

aj's picture

I don't know why, but I feel surprisingly confident about this game. When their backs are against the wall, this team has answered the call. Whether it be "will they make the playoffs after starting 1-2?" or "patriots will blow them out" to "the cowboys will run the ball down their throat" this team has come through under pressure. Nobody is giving the pack a shot this week, and I hope those voices get louder. "Washed up" clay and "old man" peppers will come through for us. I'm happy to be a fan of the pack, and I believe we'll win. Is it possible that a team that made it to the conference championship game can be more questioned than ours?

lhsto03@yahoo.com's picture

I really like playing Perry significant snaps at OLB and keeping Matthews at ILB most of the game, but I really hope the coaching staff makes Perry watch film from Erik Walden against the 49ers from a few years ago. I mean, make him shake his head in disbelief at how Walden played the read option, and make Perry want to be sure to never ever ever make those mistakes against Wilson.

If we can stop the run and contain Wilson, I really like our chances.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Well said. Perry's ability to bull rush helps him maintain gap integrity, too. If he can do that and retain the ability to shed should Wilson get flushed, it should work out much better than our other options at OLB as to containing Wilson. CMIII and Peppers do have more pass rushing moves though, so it will be a balance dependent on how much pass rush we are generating from other players. I favor an expanded role for Perry against Seattle.

Paul Griese's picture

Bevell's gameplan will include some read option and alot of motion to get Wilson out of the pocket on purpose. This is why Jones is playing over an older fatter guy, no? Wilson is too short to be a great pocket passer, and when he moves and finds open lanes for passing or running. I think Perry setting the end is more comfortable for me than Matthews, he's bigger and harder to move and less likely to get "sucked in" to misdirection. A big difference from Week 1 is the lack of Harvin. You know he plays week 1, and from then on he might have a headache or something. So we saw him at his best. Its all about tacking and getting Lynch to the ground. Then set up a slow containment rush for Wilson. Tough to do this in the second half with a smaller Jones in there.

cheesehead1's picture

An obvious comment that goes for all teams. Stop the run and NO turnovers, easier said than done though. Also hoping Brad Jones sees very little playing time. IMO, he's run out of chances.

chris davis's picture

No Brad Jones is the "Best" Brad Jones!

Tundraboy's picture

After everything I have seen this year, not sure which team will show this week but I do know for certain that we can surprise everyone and love that no one is giving us a chance. We can. but we have to seize momentum from the start, by being aggressive, in play calling and attitude. To me that means, the full playbook and whatever it is that MM has held back. We are who we and that means our offense is our best defense,but it can not be predictable. We are much better team now and if we do not play timid like last time, and play our game from the start we can bury them. Run Lacy up the middle, screens like the NO game, Cobb in motion,all the types of plays that we see occasionally, and wonder why we stopped doing that. They are arrogant, cocky and over aggressive by design and are ripe for the taking. A great D can be beat by a great offense if it is smart.. We are most of the time.

Tundraboy's picture

Just read this on NFL. Com. Exactly how I hope they approach game. Let's win in Seattle and set things right.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000458441/article/aaron-rodgers-pac...

DrealynWilliams's picture

1) Sherman might be a damn good CB,but he's slow and he doesn't have good hips. I say let Cobb and Adams put moves on him. Of course Cobb would see most of his snaps in the slot (or maybe backfield), but with his quickness and speed I KNOW he could beat Sherman anytime.

2) that route combo of 2 slants from WRs and TE flat will NOT work against a team like the Seahawks without a TE with speed. I'd only like to see that near the Red Zone.

3) Try to get Lacy started early and often. Whatever we do - we can't abandon the run unless it's 4th quarter with 1 < to go.

4) Call me crazy, but this might be a game where we need Boykin. Teams like the Seahawks require strong/physical WRs or just flat out fast WRs to consistently give those CBs/Safeties a battle.

5) I hope we never go "Big" unless we're at the Goalline. That's a weakness of ours and a strength of the Seahawks. I love the Shotgun and Pistol with 2 HBs in the backfield. I also love the Full House formation. In the Full House formation,run with Kuhn and Rodgers in the backfield with Lacy. Pass with both TEs in the backfield with Lacy.

6) Our backs will have to make a few catches and have decent YAC to open up the field for our WRs.

4thand1's picture

As in any game plan, attack the weakest link. Trouble is their defense doesn't have much. Speed and fly to the ball. Power run game and get the tough yards. Keep the game close and the time of possession so the defense doesn't burn out.

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