Janesville63.3°

Perry fills big hole for Packers

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Michael Hunt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 27, 2012
— There was an emerging school of thought last season that defense was no longer terribly important in the NFL.

To those who professed to know, it was as if Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton and Bill Belichick had somehow discovered a new way to win in a game where nothing is particularly new:


Just pass people into submission.


Some things are undeniably cyclical in pro sports. Trends come and go.


But there are certain constants that crush myths like Lawrence Taylor once destroyed quarterbacks.


The Packers proved the abiding nature of pro football as long ago as 1996, when they had a great quarterback and a great defense on the way to a Super Bowl title.


They affirmed it again last season, when they had a league MVP at quarterback and the NFL’s worst defense.


The Packers were using the clout of their 15-1 regular-season record to make early tee times about the point when the New York Giants were using a terrific passing game and a hot defense to win the Lombardi Trophy, which many had prematurely bestowed on the Packers on the strength of their average yields of 35 points and 405 yards passing a game.


The plain truth was made manifest again Thursday night in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.


The least suspenseful pick during the Ted Thompson era occurred when the Packers took a rush defensive end, conveniently enough, book-ended with ‘09 first-rounder Clay Matthews.


Like Matthews, Nick Perry played college ball at Southern California. USC players are typically valued for their NFL preparedness, given the Trojans’ semi-pro status during the Pete Carroll era.


There is also the life-ready part of playing in Los Angeles. Perry, however, is a Detroit guy, for what that’s worth.


But if you’re a Packers fan really tired of opposing quarterbacks standing in the pocket as if they were hanging around the DMV, you only want to know one thing about Perry.


You want to know if Perry can do that which a furiously spittin’ Bill Cowher once encouraged a young Greg Lloyd to do in the sideline scene made forever famous by NFL Films:


Can Perry … RUSH … THE … QUARTERBACK?


Of course, nobody knows until he gets out there and mixes it up on the practice field with a couple of Thompson’s most-recent first-round picks, offensive tackles Derek Sherrod and Bryan Bulaga.


Perry fits the Packers’ screaming need as much as Sherrod and Bulaga were obvious choices at their positions. Bulaga was a Super Bowl starter and a solid player last season when healthy. Sherrod was just starting to get a clue when a whole bunch of injuries forced him in the starting lineup. Then he got hurt.


That’s as much a part of pro football as the uncertainty of the first round.


But this much is for sure:


The last time Thompson went defense in the first round was 2009. Around B.J. Raji and Matthews, the Packers built a 3-4 defense that helped win a Super Bowl. In fact, Thompson’s picks were so brilliant that season that Raji and Matthews are just six of 32 players from the Class of ‘09 that have made the Pro Bowl.


Matthews’ game may have fallen off from his sack-master season of 2010, but it was also undeniable that opponents were able to zero in against No. 52 last year. He didn’t have a lot of help from the other side. Barring catastrophic failure, Perry is going straight into the starting lineup. He played with his hand on the ground at USC, but when you can run like the 271-pound Perry can run, that is the least of the Packers’ worries.


“Explosive ability to come off the edge, to me, that is the top priority,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose group went from near the top to the bottom in the course of one season. “Not many guys of his size can run a 4.5-(second) 40(-yard) dash.”


True that. And the way the Packers played defense last season, anything is worth a shot.


Now let’s see if Perry can deliver one.



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