Inside Linebacker of the Day: Perryman

In case you hadn't heard, the Packers need inside linebackers. We're breaking them down, one at a time. Miami's undersized Denzel Perryman, who met with the Packers at the Combine, brings a physical presence. But is he too small for Green Bay's tastes? (Brett Davis/USA TODAY)

The Green Bay Packers’ inside linebacker depth chart begins and ends with Sam Barrington and Carl Bradford.

Yes, the Packers need an inside linebacker. Or two. While there’s no truth to the rumor they put an ad on Craigslist, it’s a pretty sure bet that they’ll address the position in the draft.

With that as a backdrop, we are examining the inside linebacker class one player at a time. We continue with ...

Denzel Perryman

Perryman has the pedigree. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker, and was a third-team All-American. He also has experience, with 37 career starts and 351 total tackles.

However, at a rounded-up 5-foot-11, there are big questions about his height — or lack thereof.

“I find them in funny,” Perryman said at the Scouting Combine. “I hear the same questions over and over again, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Does his height bother the Packers? Other than D.J. Smith, a sixth-round pick in 2011 who matched Perryman’s 5-foot-10 5/8, the Packers under Ted Thompson simply haven’t drafted short linebackers. In fact, other than Smith, they haven’t drafted a player considered short at any position. On last year’s depth chart, A.J. Hawk (6-1), Brad Jones (6-3), Barrington (6-2) and Bradford (6-1) are all at least 2 inches taller than Perryman. Going back a few years, Desmond Bishop is 6-2.

There must be some interest, however, since the Packers interviewed Perryman at the Scouting Combine. Perryman checked in at 238 pounds, which is down 10 pounds from his senior season. He ran his 40 in 4.78 seconds, jumped 32.0 inches — two numbers that show a lack of elite athleticism — but was among the strongest linebackers with 27 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

“Just look at the tape,” Perryman said. “Say my name and you’re going to get a physical, hard-nosed downhill dog.”

Stopping the run is the name of Perryman’s game.

“Scouts compare his versatility to that of former Hurricanes standout, Jon Beason,” reads his official NFL scouting report, which is shared with teams upon request and provided to Packer Report. “Perryman might be ‘height challenged,’ but is stout at the point of attack, possessing an athletic physique, very good straight-line closing speed, good lateral agility to work down the line and the strong legs to hold position firmly vs. the inside run. Recognized as the South’s hardest hitting tackler, he is a football-smart athlete who gets his teammates lined up and shows good awareness to plays in front of him.”

Perryman compared his game to that of Chris Borland, the undersized former Wisconsin star who had an excellent rookie season for the 49ers as a third-round pick. Throughout his career, there’s been a different comparison. At Miami, Perryman wore No. 52. That was the jersey number worn with the Hurricanes and Ravens by legendary inside linebacker Ray Lewis.

“First time I ever talked to Ray Lewis was my freshman year,” Perryman recalled. “He came to speak to the team and afterward he pulled me to the side, I guess he already knew I had No. 52. He had been watching me. I pretty much just feel like he had eyes over me no matter what. Recently he was out there at the school he just told me to get ready with this process.”

Without a 6-foot-3 frame or big-time athleticism, there’s a fear that Perryman might be only a two-down player. According to his scouting report, he gets “decent” depth in his pass drops and “struggles to track the ball in flight over his shoulder.”

“I’ve answered that question (from scouts) maybe 10 times already about my man-to-man coverage. That’s something I need to brush up on,” Perryman admitted.

In a wide-open class of inside linebackers, Perryman might wind up being the first off the board — the size/speed questions notwithstanding. His physicality, intelligence and leadership are among his outstanding traits.

“It would mean a lot,” Perryman said. “One of my goals when I first started playing football was obviously getting to the NFL. Now I’m here and I might be the first ILB taken. That’s a blessing.”

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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