It's Perry's Time To Shine
The Green Bay Packers are preparing for life without Clay Matthews on the football field for about a month. The first test comes this Sunday in Baltimore against the Ravens.
It will not be an easy one. While the Packers went 3-1 without Matthews in 2012, two such wins were against the 4-12 Detroit Lions, the other was at home to the Christian Ponder-led Minnesota Vikings and the loss was a 38-10 drubbing to the New York Giants. His importance cannot be overstated.
But with Matthews’ absence comes opportunity from those on the depth chart behind him. Specifically, Nick Perry has the biggest chance to shine this Sunday and start to make a name for himself.
Perry was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft to be the pass-rushing complement to Matthews so that defenses couldn’t constantly double- and triple-team him. While Perry has performed well at setting the edge and run defending from the left side of the defense, he hasn’t yet lived up to the hype in attacking the quarterback.
But watching Perry closely trough the last couple of games suggests he might excel on the right side. Matthews exited early against both Cincinnati and Detroit, leaving Perry and Mike Neal as the primary outside linebackers. Against Cincinnati, Neal just took Matthews’ spot, leaving Perry on his left side. Perry continued to look nonexistent in pass-rushing, recording only one quarterback hurry, according to Pro Football Focus. When Matthews left against Detroit, however, Perry got to play from the right side of the defense. He had his best game of the season, picking up his first two sacks of the year while adding four hurries, which matched his 2013 total heading in.
You can’t blame matchups for his boost in productivity – the Lions had allowed only three sacks through their first four games. Despite Green Bay’s five-sack performance, Detroit is still tied for third for fewest sacks allowed.
Sunday’s matchup should be much more advantageous for Perry. Baltimore is tied for 20th in sacks allowed. It sounds as if the recently-acquired Eugene Monroe will make his first start for the Ravens, who will be a major upgrade at left tackle over Bryant McKinnie in the long run. But this will be his first time logging some real game-time minutes with his new teammates. The chemistry and cohesion vital between offensive linemen won’t be there yet, which will provide good opportunities for Perry to take advantage.
And don’t forget addition by subtraction helping Perry out. If he’s on the right side, that means he’ll be spending a lot more time attacking Joe Flacco than stepping back to defend his passes. As a former defensive end, Perry’s pass coverage has been far from stellar. He’s improved tremendously from his rookie year, but he’s still not someone you feel comfortable covering tight ends, running backs or really any route-runner for that matter. Not seeing him struggle in pass coverage as often will help everyone remember him for positives rather than negatives.
I haven’t read anywhere indicating where Perry and Neal will line up, just that they will indeed be the two starters at outside linebacker. But going off of Perry’s performance against Detroit, DC Dom Capers almost has to keep him over there in hopes of keeping the hot streak going. This Sunday just may be the beginning of Perry’s coming out party.