The Green Bay Packers were Super Bowl favorites for most of the 2011 season, but they still had some glaring holes to fill this offseason.
1st-round pick Nick Perry will be expected to start from day one at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. He takes the starting job over from Erik Walden, who struggled throughout the 2011 season, recording just three sacks and proving to be a liability against the run.
Perry wasn’t the most explosive pass rusher in this year’s draft class, but he doesn’t need to be in have an impact in Green Bay. The Packers will rely on Matthews to pressure the quarterback, as they have the past few years, and anything Perry adds will simply be a bonus.
The Packers will notice Perry’s impact most against the run, where he offers a significant upgrade over Walden. According to Pro Football Focus’ grading system, Walden ranked dead last among 3-4 outside linebackers against the run in 2011.
Perry is a more physical player and better suited to hold up at the point of attack, where is Walden is undersized and is better suited to be playing inside in Dom Capers’ defense.
While Perry may not have the statistical impact necessary to earn Defensive Rookie of the Year votes, he will almost certainly be one of top rookies still on the field in January.
Check out our full review of the Packers 2012 draft class.