Perry Living Up To Coach's Pre-Draft Scouting

Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who recommended Clay Matthews in 2009, had Nick Perry atop his wish list in 2012. So far, Perry — the standout defensive end from USC — has made a smooth transition to outside linebacker.

In 2009, when the Green Bay Packers overhauled their defensive coaching staff and implemented Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive scheme, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene studied that draft class' outside linebacker prospects.

Clay Matthews was the one player Greene wanted.

In 2012, when the Packers had a glaring need for a "Robin" to play opposite Matthews' "Batman," Greene checked back into the film room. One player stood out above the rest.

"I had the highest grade on Nick of all the guys I graded," Greene told Packer Report last week.

"I liked the way he moved," Greene said to the obvious follow-up question. "I liked the fact that he was fluid. I liked the fact that he had some God-given pass-rushing ability and instincts to him. I liked the fact that he was explosive. I liked my interview with him and you could tell he was a smart kid. I liked what I saw, I liked what I heard from him, so I graded him pretty high."

At USC, Perry bagged 21.5 sacks in 37 career games (22 starts). He lit up the Scouting Combine with a 4.58-second clocking in the 40-yard dash and 35 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

So, Perry has the raw ingredients to be a star, but playing in Capers' scheme is so much more than raw ingredients. Outside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme is a different beast than defensive end in USC's 4-3 scheme. Greene frequently talks about vision. As a hand-on-the-ground defensive end, vision isn't an issue. There's really nothing to see other than the offensive linemen in front of you. The view of the game is vastly different as a linebacker.

"You're talking about bringing a guy that's been down in a three-point stance, looking straight ahead at one thing, keying one thing," Greene explained. "Now, you're putting him in a two-point stance that he's never been in before and telling him he's got to see the entire field and know where everybody aligns — the tight ends, the receivers, the backs — and know what that means to your coverage responsibility and where you need to get. It's a monumental deal, taking a guy that's just doing this (two-point stance) and telling him to stand up and see everything. The vision's the hardest thing. To see everything and to apply that to the defense we're running, that just takes time. You've got to see it more and more and more and more to get better."

By the end of the offseason work, Greene was pleased with the strides Perry had made in seeing the field and then getting to where he needed to be when dropping into coverage.

"It's a work in progress," Greene said. "Even my kids that have been here four years will miss something every once in a while. We're not robots. But every day, he takes a step forward and increases his vision. We're called to drop to the other side of the field on a number of different defenses. We line up on one side of the field and he may have to drop that takes us all the way over to the other side of the field, so you really need to have that vision and see those eligibles over there because you might have to cover that guy on the opposite side of the field. He is developing that and has shown some good drops."

Perry said mastering the playbook is "definitely" on top of his to-do list during the break between the minicamp and the start of training camp.

"I don't think I have a lot to learn but there are some things that I didn't know until I got here, like the schemes that they do and some different techniques," Perry said. "I'm learning as well as everyone else. The techniques are a little different but I'm learning and I'm going to become great at it."

The Packers don't need Perry to be great. Good would be good enough, considering the constantly double-teamed Matthews had six sacks last season and the rest of the team's outside linebackers combined for six sacks.

"You look historically at 3-4 defenses and the success of outside linebackers, there's two studs coming off the edge," Matthews said. "He's going to help us out."


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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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