Inside LB Countdown: Scouting Perryman

Who do you trust for your scouting information? This look at Denzel Perryman comes straight from the NFL's head scout and is a portion of what teams will receive on the standout Miami inside linebacker.

The Miami coaches decided to move Denzel Perryman, this naturally physical hitter, back to the middle, even though he did produce a career-high 108 tackles as a weak-side linebacker in 2013. With 24 starts prior to his senior year, just five came from his natural position before earning 13 more starts in 2014. He did not disappoint, pacing the Hurricanes with 110 tackles, adding two sacks, 9.5 stops-for-losses, three forced fumbles, four pass break-ups and an interception in 2014.

Scouts compare Perryman’s versatility to that of former Hurricanes standout, Jon Beason. He might be “height challenged,” but is stout at the point of attack, possessing an athletic physique, good straight-line closing speed and valid lateral agility to work down the line. He has the strong legs to hold position firmly vs. the inside run and was recognized as the ACC’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 runs sideline-to-sideline and has a knack for locating the ball, showing good read-and-react skills. He does a nice job of pushing the tight end back at the line of scrimmage, using his hands properly to gain leverage and reroute, also utilizing his hands to ward off smaller blockers and can’t be tied up for long in one-on-one confrontations. He doesn’t have the size to play off blockers by the offensive linemen, but knows how to use his quickness and crisp spin and swim moves to avoid.

Covering in the short area, Perryman gets decent depth in his pass drops, as he has the hip flexibility and quick feet to mirror tight ends and backs underneath. He has good eyes reading the pass when facing the quarterback, but struggles to track the ball in flight over his shoulder. He has fluid hips, getting a proper drop in pass coverage, but needs to do a better job of locating the ball in a crowd (height issues occur when the bigger receivers shield the ball).

Perryman is not afraid to engage the larger offensive linemen, displaying the hand quickness to shed and works hard to hold his ground at the point of attack. He can run the field and hit, showing a smooth stride in his outside pursuit and sudden acceleration when closing.

The linebacker scrapes to the ball well and, when working in space, he uses his hands properly to keep separation, but there are times when he looks lost trying to stay on the hip of the receiver on longer routes, as he peeks into the backfield too long and doesn’t have that second gear needed to recover (better speed moving laterally or straight ahead rather than moving backwards).

The Hurricane has the speed and effort to run long distances to make plays along the perimeter. He takes proper angles and gets good depth playing in the zone, as he is best when allowed to freelance and flow to the ball rather than step up and engage blocks at the line of scrimmage. He can shock a lethargic blocker by delivering a jolting hand punch and has good lower body flexibility flashing into the backfield off the edge.

Perryman is still learning the techniques to be a disruptor in the backfield. He has just an adequate feel on the blitz and, while he is difficult to block when he sinks his pads, changes direction and shoots the clear gaps, he can be absorbed by the bigger blockers when he fails to get his hands up to keep linemen from latching on. He also needs to develop better rip moves as blockers generally lock on to his initial attempt.

Perryman is an effective wrap-up tackler, but needs to go a little lower in order to properly secure the opponent (not a hammer-type of tackler). While he has experience on the weak side, his frame may be better served at middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He does not show natural hands for the interception and needs to time his leaps better competing for the ball at its high point.

Like Jon Beason, Perryman has a good flow to the ball. He realizes that his size issues mean that he needs to avoid blockers rather than engaging them working in-line, but he has enough functional strength to make it difficult to contain him in one-on-one confrontations. He might be better suited to play inside in a Cover-2 defense, so he will not be exposed or gobbled up by the bigger blockers. With his ability to flow from sideline-to-sideline, he will be better served playing in a scheme that will let him make plays in space rather than step up and try to fill.

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