Nick Perry

Nick Perry‘s rookie season with the Green Bay Packers wasn’t much to talk about. He split time with Erik Walden for the first six games and then went on the shelf with a wrist injury for the rest of the season.

All told, the first-round pick recorded 18 tackles and two sacks. It’s a small sample size, but the Packers are expecting big things from Perry in his second season.

“He looks different,” outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. “He moves different to me. He moves with more sense of urgency and purpose. His eyes are different. His gaze is different. I can just look at his face and look at in his eyes and know he’s not happy with what transpired last year and he’s determined not to let that happen again this year.”

As far as making the transition from defensive end at USC to outside linebacker in the pros, the Packers are also happy with that. Greene pointed to the Colts game last season

“He carried Reggie Wayne vertical up the field in a Cover 2 concept and it was as good as I can coach it,” Greene said. “He carries an All-Pro vertical up the seam in a hip-trail position. That tells me: You know what, he can do everything coverage-wise. He progressed during his time last year as a player.”

“This position takes a little time to settle into,” he said. “It’s hard to come out of the gate at this position because there’s so much involved with the eyes. Nick is going to get better with more time on the job. That’s the bottom line. He’s got to be in the cleats. Smelling the grass. Having fun. Opening his eyes. Making good plays. Building confidence. And that’s just the natural progression of a player.”

So what should we expect from Perry in 2013?

If he stays healthy and doesn’t turn into a total bust, 10 sacks are realistic. Perry would have finished with five in 2012 if he maintained his pace over 16 games. However, he was only playing half the time.

As the season wore on, you’d expect Perry would have gotten more snaps as he became more comfortable in the defense. He probably would have become the starter, as well. It’s realistic to think his rookie campaign could have ended with seven or eight sacks, so 10 in 2013 isn’t just some pie in the sky number.

If that happens, it should give Clay Matthews are little more room to maneuver. That’s definitely a good thing.

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