Can lightning strike twice?
Packers general manager Ted Thompson hopes so after selecting USC defensive end/outside linebacker Nick Perry with the 28th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. For the second time in four years, the Packers used a first round pick on linebacker from Southern California.
The other pick? A certain Clay Matthews III, drafted in 2009. Three years later, Thompson recognized his defense desperately needed another elite pass rusher to complement the Claymaker and once again took a player from USC.
Matthews has panned out very well for the Packers so far, so what does the future hold for Perry, who spent one season on the same team as Matthews at USC?
Well, to place Matthews-like expectations on Perry would be incredibly unfair. No one expected the results Matthews produced in 2009 and since he and Perry played for the same college, some fans may be expecting Perry to duplicate Matthews’ rookie season.
Perry is a different player than Matthews. Perry played with his hand to the ground, though Thompson said he wasn’t concerned about moving Perry to outside linebacker. It’s easy to understand why Thompson feels that way, too. Perry is a terrific pass rusher who has a good motor (not as strong as Matthews, but still decent) and explosiveness off the snap.
The concern with Perry is not his skill sit, but rather his size. At 271 lbs., he looks like he may be better suited as a defensive end in a 4-3 defensive scheme rather than a 3-4 linebacker. It remains to be seen what Perry’s coverage skills will be as the linebackers do play coverage in defensive Dom Capers’ scheme.
Capers has shown flexibility in his defenses, so he very well could limit Perry’s role in pass coverage. Regardless, his presence and abilities hopefully will take some attention away from Matthews who was swallowed up by double and triple teams in 2011 thanks to no help from the other outside linebackers. Even if Perry’s stat line isn’t impressive, if he can get Matthews back in 2010 form it would be hard to make a case against the drafting of Perry.