Nick Perry is replacing a legend in the Green Bay Packers’ defensive lineup.
Julius Peppers has authored a Hall of Fame-caliber career behind a sack count that is tied for ninth in NFL history. By the end of the upcoming season, he might have moved into the top five.
Perry, on the other hand, is as rugged as they come as a run stopper. Last year, according to league data, opponents averaged 0.96 fewer rushing yards per attempt with Perry in the game compared to when he was on the sideline. That’s no fluke. In 2014, the difference was 1.29 yards. In both cases, that was the biggest difference in the league among outside linebackers who played at least 300 snaps.
“I think it takes a lot of grit, toughness and knowing the schemes and the foundation,” Perry said on Thursday. “I think once you understand all of those things, you put together how to stop certain things if they’re coming to you. Being strong and physical is one of the main things that allows you to control what goes on in front of you and actually make plays. You see Mike Daniels do it all the time. No one can really stop him because he’s a very powerful guy. He gets into guys and maneuvers around them and makes plays. I like to look at scheme and being physical at the point of attack and making sure that I get in the best position to make those plays.”
Perry’s move up the depth chart, which presumably was made to keep Peppers fresh for pass-rushing situations, presents a golden opportunity. In his four seasons since being Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2012, Perry has played in 46 of a possible 64 regular-season games. Perry’s struggles were a major reason why the Packers signed Peppers in the first place. If Perry can stay healthy and use his strong end to the 2015 season as a springboard into 2016, it could be back to the future for Perry and the Packers, with Perry potentially putting himself in position to be part of the long-term puzzle.
“Could be. We’re not there yet. I’m not where I want to be,” Perry said. “I’m going to continue to strive and be the best I can be and see if I can stay here a long time. That stuff, I have no control over none of that. We’re in the season now. I’m just ready to play.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.