Placing Perry on Left Side Could Be All Right

Playing left outside linebacker, Clay Matthews has earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods. However, first-round pick Nick Perry lined up at left outside linebacker at the rookie camp. We tell you why moving Matthews to ROLB and inserting Perry at LOLB could help the defense.

First-round pick Nick Perry lined up at left outside linebacker for last weekend's rookie camp.

That's where Clay Matthews has lined up the past two seasons.

"That will be the starting point for (Perry)," coach Mike McCarthy said on Sunday.

While McCarthy wouldn't elaborate, "starting point" could mean two things.

The first one is the obvious one: Matthews could be moving back to right outside linebacker, where he played as a rookie.

It's an interesting idea, and here's why:

The left outside linebacker matches up against the right tackle. Typically, the right tackle is the better run blocker. Matthews is a superb run defender. He tied for fourth among 3-4 outside linebackers with 24 "stops" last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com. However, putting the 271-pound Perry at that spot could make the Packers even better against the run.

In fact, for all the talk about Perry upgrading the Packers' woeful pass rush, don't forget about how he could help the a run defense that finished 26th with 4.7 yards allowed per carry — regardless of whether he lines up on the left side or the right side. Last season, there were 19 3-4 outside linebackers who played at least 50 percent of his team's defensive snaps. Of those 19, Erik Walden — even while going up against left tackles — tied for 17th with 11 run stops. Perry is superb at slipping blocks, and if he can harness his superior strength, he could become dominant against the run.

On the other side of the defense, the right outside linebacker matches up against the left tackle, who, of course, is supposed to be the premier pass blocker. If Matthews goes back to the right side, it's because the coaches believe Matthews can beat any offensive tackle. Moreover, he'd be fresher because he wouldn't have to trade blows with a physical, run-blocking right tackle all day. When at right outside linebacker as a rookie, Matthews had 10 sacks. In two seasons at left outside linebacker, he averaged 9.75 sacks.

The other possibility is defensive coordinator Dom Capers intends to use Matthews and Perry interchangeably and Perry's left-side "starting point" was just that — a starting point to help the rookie get comfortable after a limited look at the playbook.

"We certainly think he can fit in the nickel scheme in terms of being able to be an edge rusher there, and maybe could be able to move him around," Capers said during the draft. "You've seen how much we've moved Clay around. It gives you flexibility if you've got a guy that has that kind of burst and athletic ability that you can move him around."

While bouncing Perry around from left to right seems a little farfetched as he learns the tricks of the trade in a move from college defensive end to professional linebacker, Perry was considered an instinctive and intelligent player by his coaches at USC.

"Really good. Awesome," USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron told Packer Report when asked about Perry's instincts. "He can make adjustments, loves football, will study it, will be there to learn it. Once you teach him, he'll get it."

Perry said he wasn't sure what Capers' plan entailed for him. However, Capers loves to move Matthews around the defense, and he wouldn't be able to do that if Perry is locked into only one position.

"It doesn't matter," Perry said. "Last year, I played on the right side. The year before that, I played both sides. That's really not an issue. I can play both sides. I'm just ready to play."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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