This is the first of a six part series that will countdown six breakout candidates for the Green Bay Packers in 2014. Number six is outside linebacker, Nick Perry
When the Packers selected Nick Perry in the first round back in 2012 many thought they had found their answer to the outside linebacker position opposite Clay Matthews. Through two seasons Perry has battled through injuries while transitioning from a down lineman in college to a standup outside linebacker in the pros.
His rookie season Perry was showing promise before going down with a wrist injury in a week six contest against the Houston Texans. In his first game at the professional level, Perry recorded six tackles. He went on to record two sacks in the next four games before suffering his season ending injury.
Heading into the 2013 season Perry was the top candidate to have a breakout campaign. He started the season off slow before recording a sack in back to back games in October, including his first multi-sack game. He suffered an ankle injury in mid-October and did not return until the second week of November. He could never get back on track in the regular season. With Clay Matthews ruled out and Mike Neal lost on the first drive. Perry responded by playing arguably the best game of his professional career. Perry recorded four tackles and a sack in the 23-20 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Heading into his third season Perry will have to have an impressive camp in order to be the starting outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. Regardless if he wins the starting job, Perry will play in a rotation at outside linebacker and the elephant position with Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and possibly fourth round pick, Carl Bradford. Playing in a rotation could prove beneficial to Perry’s career. He’s gone in spurts of playing at a high level, but, hasn’t been able to sustain it due to injuries. While injuries are a large reason why Perry has struggled. Perry is still developing as a pass rusher and doesn’t appear ready to be an every down player. Playing on a more limited basis behind a player like Peppers could help further Perry’s development as a pass rusher.
Will 2014 be the season that Perry breaks out? Playing in a more limited basis, look for Perry to stay fresh and carve out a role as a situational player in the Packers defense. He’s coming off a very strong outing in the playoff loss. Look for him to carry the momentum from that game into the 2014 season.
Way too early 2014 Stats Prediction: 38 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Playing limited snaps it would be hard to complain about Perry’s production. People have to start looking at what Perry is, not what he isn’t. Has he played like a first round pick? No, but, if he can carve out a role in the Packers defense he will be a key piece to help getting the Packers back to the Super Bowl. Not everybody can be Clay Matthews. It’s about finding your role on the team and Perry will find it this season.
Have a great day and thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @Brennen_Rupp if you want to be entertained.