The pickings weren’t slim. The Packers had their choice of a handful of defensive front-seven players thought to be first-round talents and went with Nick Perry, an early entry in the draft after he racked up 21½ sacks in three seasons at USC.
“He’s got that kind of juice,” Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said of Perry’s pass-rush ability. “We’re looking forward to getting him with (outside linebackers coach) Kevin (Greene) and (defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers). He’ll jump in with our guys and compete with our guys and we’ll see how he stacks up.”
Having spent a first-round pick on him, and choosing him over Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and Penn State’s Devon Still, among others, the Packers are expecting Perry to stack up well.
Erik Walden, Frank Zombo and Brad Jones – all originally late-round draft picks or free agents when they entered the NFL – got their shots last year to play outside linebacker opposite Matthews, but the Packers’ pass rush went from one of the most productive in the league in 2010 to one of the most anemic in 2011.
“We think he can certainly fit into our nickel scheme, being an edge rusher there,” Capers said. “Maybe we can move him around a little bit. You’ve seen how much we move Clay around.”
Thompson called Perry a “tremendous physical specimen,” at 6-2 3/4 and 271 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.5’s – almost unheard of for a player that size – had a 38½-inch vertical leap, and put up 35 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press at the scouting combine. Capers mentioned the “explosion in his body” a couple of times and said, “I don’t think the power and the physical part of it will be any problem for him.”
Perry led USC in sacks with eight as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and then led the Pac-12 Conference with 9½ last season. He also caused five fumbles and batted down six passes over the last two years.
“He played with his hand on the ground, but we’re convinced he’s athletic enough to play standing up and do some of the things we do,” Thompson said. “He’s a very physical guy.”
Perry himself admitted that dropping into coverage as an outside linebacker will require the biggest learning curve, but he has done it in the past. Capers is accustomed to asking prospects to adjust to that in making the transition from defensive end. The Packers appear to have no qualms about Perry’s ability to set the edge against the run or get after the quarterback.
“I think I have the raw set of skills and the mind to do it,” Perry said in a conference call with reporters, moments after walking across the Radio City Music Hall stage in New York City with a Packers jersey. “I think I have a lot to bring to the table. There’s a lot of potential that needs to be taken out of me.”
Perry, who will wear No. 53 for the Packers, also said he already received a congratulatory phone call from Matthews, who was finishing up his USC career when Perry was a redshirt freshman on the scout team.
A native of Detroit, Perry is accustomed to upper-Midwest winters, though they will be a switch from his southern California college days. That’s just one of the things Matthews is likely to help him with.
“I’ll be glad to be across from him just to create problems like he did and be a force on the other side of the ball,” Perry said.
“I’m ready to take it to the next level. It’s been a dream all my life. I’m taking my chance now.” RELATED LINKS