Saturday, April 5, 2014

Breaking Down the Packers' Nick Perry vs. Detroit

A while back, I spent about six hours on a Saturday watching tape of Green Bay vs. Detroit, in Week 4 of the 2013 NFL season. Whether and how much Perry develops in 2014 is going to be really important to the Packers' season, so I wanted to see what his potential was by cherry-picking his best game. So sue me. Here's what I found. 

Perry played 38 snaps, including 20 at left outside 'backer and 16 at right outside 'backer. The Packers' plan seems to have been to rotate him with Mike Neal at LOLB, but after Clay Matthews went out with a broken thumb, they moved Perry almost exclusively to ROLB with awesome results.

Here's my scouting report on Perry, and then I'll provide more details below. 


Perry looked much, much more comfortable at ROLB than LOLB. He showed great footwork, a strong dip 'n' rip move and a considerable amount of power when rushing against Riley Reiff, the Lions' overmatched left tackle. However, when rushing at LOLB, he was anonymized. He didn't look nearly as natural or as comfortable there, and never got any sort of pressure. Physically, he's a big, strong, somewhat slow guy who is best when moving in a straight line towards the QB. He held up fairly well in coverage in limited opportunities, but is slow to turn his hips and very bad at changing direction. While he's solid when the other team is running directly at him, he's slow to pursue down the line of scrimmage on runs away from him, and was fooled several times by juke moves or misdirection plays, regardless of side. A pure rush linebacker who can be exploited in space. Plays with commendable violence at times. Needs to be on the right side.

Perry at ROLB: 

This was the BEST PART. Perry’s first rush from ROLB, snap #38, was also his first sack. It was one of the most beautiful plays I’ve ever seen.

Perry looked SO much more fluid, more natural, on the right side. He did his little hesitation again, took a couple of steps and then the one HUGE step that got him to [LT Riley Reiff’s] outside shoulder… Looking at the replay, he punches with both hands and grabs Reiff’s outside shoulder and just moves him, and as he’s doing that he dips his left arm under Reiff’s left shoulder and rips upward and through him. Reiff had no choice but to drag him down with a blatant (uncalled) hold, but Perry not only had the strength and ability to shake him off—even as he’s going down to the ground—but he has the awareness to keep moving forward and smack right into the back of Stafford’s legs and take him down.

Snaps #51 and #56 were excellent, too. He made it around the corner both times, nearly slapping the ball away in #51 and recording a hurry in #56 that could easily have been a holding call. Perry experimented with a spin move (#52) and attacked the inside shoulder for the first time (#52, #53). On snap #64, he notched his second sack; here’s the tape.

“Reiff appeared to be playing to the inside; he set his hips pretty early. Perry didn’t do anything unusual; he slapped Reiff’s outside shoulder and moved himself around, got his shoulders turned around Reiff’s, and was in perfect position to smash the ball away. He didn’t just hit the ball, he hit Stafford’s entire arm, coming down like he was breaking a branch off of a tree, and the ball went flying.” Stafford held it just a half-second too long, and that was the difference.

Perry rushed the passer eleven times from the ROLB spot, and had two sacks and two hurries. That’s an awesome ratio.

Perry at LOLB: 



Perry looked below-average at LOLB. Against Lions right tackle Jason Fox (and possibly Ike Hilliard), Perry was poor. On snap #13, he showed the beginnings of a dip-and-rip move; he took two steps, made a little hesitation move to the inside, and then tried to take Fox around the corner. It sort of worked, to the extent that he got his hips turned and aimed himself at the QB, but he wasn’t able to make it around the corner completely—that is, he never got his inside arm underneath Fox’s outside arm. On most of his other rushes, he tried to beat Fox to the outside, either by attacking Fox’s outside shoulder with speed or trying to go right through him with power. Neither really worked. Perry did consistently get his hands on Fox’s pads, keeping him off his chest, but Fox was able to consistently grab him by the shoulders and keep him from going anywhere. 

Perry vs. runs directly at him: 


With the exception of a reverse, which I’ll get to later, only one Lions designed run went to his side. That was snap #40, and it was one of Perry’s more impressive plays, especially at LOLB; he fought off Fox/Hilliard’s attempt to take him towards the sideline—Fox got his hands up high on Perry’s pads but Perry appeared to stay low and shed him—and stayed in the gap. The back actually cannoned into him and bounced off for two or three yards, but Perry shed the block and helped on the tackle. Detroit much preferred to run away from Perry.


Perry in coverage: 


I did not expect this. Perry dropped into coverage on snaps 30, 37, 39, 49 and 63. Snap #37 was nullified because of a delay-of-game on the offense, and in #49 he was actually in the middle of the field and covered TE Brandon Pettigrew on a four-yard out. During #63, he dropped into a shallow zone and nobody was around. The one really respectable one was #30. He was off the line opposite Pettigrew, the inmost of three wideouts to the right side, and did a nice job of turning his hips and running with him. As far as I could see, he stayed with him for 10-12 yards, by which point the ball was on its way to somebody else (it eventually hit Kris Durham in the head). Perry definitely looks clumsy and not very fluid in the open field, but he did enough to get by.

Well, except for snap #39. I have no idea what Dom Capers was thinking, but he split Perry out to the defense’s extreme right and had him try to jam a wide receiver, then drop into coverage on the back leaking out of the backfield. He jammed the WR, in the kindest, loosest sense in which you could call something a jam, and did okay on the back. I almost wonder if he was late getting off the field or something and had to settle for that, but it appeared to be a designed play.

Perry's mental mistakes: 


Reggie Bush froze him on his second snap of the game. Bush was running off LT, and Perry was unblocked on the back end. He was pursuing down the line and Bush gave him a little nod, not really a juke, but enough to freeze Perry solid. I counted three times where Perry was fooled by a hard-count; he would twitch before the snap, and Stafford would straighten up and point at him, presumably calling or changing the protection. One was probably a false start, but went uncalled. Snap #14, a play-action pass, was designed to fool Perry and get him to charge down the line and inside, which it did, allowing Stafford to get outside him and complete the pass. And on Reggie Bush’s twenty-yard reverse (#43), Perry was completely fooled into chasing Joique Bell down the line. When Bell tossed it to Bush and Bush came sweeping around Perry’s side, Perry was totally out of position and the run went through his gap for 20.

Now, most of these are minor, minor things. Mike Neal smeared Bush for -4 on the Bush juke, and most of Perry’s other sins didn’t hurt the team as a whole. It’s also worth pointing out that I don’t really have a baseline for how often linebackers do this, so this might just have been a normal game. It was something I noticed throughout the game, however.

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