Perkins' signing by the Colts is a bit unusual at face value. Two years ago he was a fourth-round pick by Cleveland, heralded for his success as a punt returner at the University of Oklahoma. He returned eight punts for touchdowns during his collegiate career and set the school record for career punt return yards.
But Perkins languished in obscurity, making just six game appearances during his first two years, and sustained a number of injuries. During his rookie season, he was on the team's game day inactive list for all but one game, and late in the season had a broken bone in his hand that required him to wear a cast. Perkins reportedly said that he struggled with learning the Browns' 3-4 defense during his first year.
Last August, Perkins was limited by groin and ankle problems and was eventually demoted to the practice squad in early November.
That's the background you might get bits and pieces of from other sources, but to dig deeper on this signing, we turned to Scout.com's Cleveland Browns expert Barry McBride. After keeping an eye on Perkins over the past two years, Barry makes it apparent that it's more likely that the Colts are hoping that they can refine his skills as a punt return specialist to provide competition for T.J. Rushing rather than picking him up for depth as a cornerback.
Insider Analysis: Antonio Perkins
By Barry McBride, Cleveland Browns Team Expert, Scout.com
The release of Perkins has been predicted by OBR commentators for some time and hardly comes as a surprise as the team heads towards the opening of its 2007 training camp at the end of July. Perkins has failed to contribute either as a cornerback or punt returner, and was likely doomed by the selection of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald in this year's draft, along with the signing of free agent CB Kenny Wright.
|Antonio Perkins (right) takes on fullback Terrell Smith|
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
This didn't make much sense and is something we've tried to dig up, and a question I've asked our guys both in private and on the radio. We don't have anything specific on this pointing to a definitive reason why Perkins failed to latch on. Even with the punt return job supposedly wide open this year, head coach Romeo Crennel didn't have enough confidence in him to see him as anything other than an also-ran.
One of the things I might speculate is that Perkins' skill in college was an ability to weave himself into traffic, find a little hole and then blast through it. In the pro game, there seems to be a lot more focus on blasting straight upfield and doing less weaving and dodging. I say this based on overhearing special teams coaches in camp year after year get on returners for not heading straight upfield. I suspect that the difference is the speed at the pro level creating problems for return men if they're indecisive or try to dance around.
Another thing to consider is that Crennel repeatedly puts an emphasis on not making mistakes, a sure sign that a coach is worried about his roster. It seems to be Crennel's interior mantra: "We're not as good as the other team (or the Patriots), so avoid mistakes, keep the ball in front of you, keep the game close and steal a win."
He told us during the OTAs, with typical Crennel simplicity, that "the first thing you have to do when returning punts is catch the ball." While the reference was to Cribbs, I can't help but think of (sportswriter) Jeff Schudel telling me about Perkins dropping the ball on punt attempts in practice this year.
For whatever reason, Perkins didn't get the confidence of the coaching staff early on, never got many opportunities. and he couldn't come close to cracking the roster as a CB.