Most Important Packers: No. 5 -- Nick Perry
JUL 04, 2013 11:01a ET
Note: This is not a list of the team's 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Green Bay will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player's position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered.
NO. 5 -- NICK PERRY, OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
AGE / EXPERIENCE
23 / Second NFL season
WHY HE'S NO. 5
When the Green Bay Packers used their first-round pick on Nick Perry in 2012, they knew it would take a lot of work to convert Perry to play outside linebacker. Perry weighed 260 pounds and spoke before the draft about his preference to play with his hands on the ground in a 4-3 defense. General manager Ted Thompson had other plans and selected Perry at No. 28 overall as an outside linebacker for the Packers' 3-4 defense.
Perry's rookie season had far more negatives than positives. He recorded two sacks in the first five games, but when Perry was unable to outmuscle the offensive line, he was often stopped without making any impact on the play. In his regular-season debut, Perry injured his wrist while playing every defensive snap. Over the next five games, Perry's playing time was down significantly, with Erik Walden taking over for him in several situations. It later turned out that Perry's wrist injury was worse than originally thought as Green Bay placed him on injured reserve after a short and uneventful rookie year.
One year later, Perry is No. 5 on this list because of how much the Packers are counting on him. In order for Clay Matthews to be at his most effective, he needs someone on the other side getting into the backfield. Matthews was able to pick up 13 sacks last season, but six of them came in the first two games. Once opposing teams realized that Matthews was the only major threat, he was double- and triple-teamed.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2013
Green Bay needs Perry to be very good this upcoming season. The expectations can't be too outrageous, but Perry has to be a strong complementary piece for the Packers. Starting 16 games is necessary, but so is him being able to be a consistent pass-rusher and dependable run-stopper off the edge.
Perry's importance to whether Green Bay has a successful 2013 season can't be understated. He's a first-round pick and expectations always rightfully come along with that. But Matthews needs a lot of help and he needs it now. The Packers can't afford to wait another two years for Perry to become a top contributor. Considering Green Bay's defense has allowed 45 points and 37 points in its playoff defeats the past two seasons, it will take more than one young player stepping up to stop that from happening again. However, none of the young players on the Packers' defense are as important as Perry will be.
WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT HIM?
One of the factors that plays into Perry being No. 5 in this series is how little depth Green Bay has at outside linebacker.
If the Packers didn't strongly believe that Perry was going to get the job done this upcoming season, they would have gone about their offseason planning in a different way. Walden left in free agency, as did Frank Zombo.
Green Bay didn't draft an outside linebacker until the sixth round, and that was to select Nate Palmer, whose agent described him as a designated pass rusher. Palmer could develop into an every-down player at some point in his career, but in 2013, the Packers won't expect anything more of him than to be on the field in obvious passing situations.
The depth at outside linebacker is in such bad shape that Green Bay is trying an unconventional route and attempting to convert 290-pound defensive lineman Mike Neal to a new position.
The only sure thing at backup is Dezman Moses, who made the team last season as an undrafted free agent. Moses surpassed all expectations as a rookie, but with Matthews and Perry both having a recent injury history, his role will be increased -- perhaps to a level Moses isn't quite ready for.
Lack of depth at outside linebacker, high expectations and having a star in Matthews who's very much in need of a good tag-team partner all combine to show just how important Perry will be for the Packers in 2013.
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