The Bills draft board is probably set by now so they have an idea on what players they want to target. A need position is the inside linebacker position. The inside backers in Rex’ scheme have to be special players. They must have the awareness to read and process what the offensive line is executing, they have to fill windows left open by the two-gapping defensive lineman but they must also be able to cover some ground versus the pass. That’s why linebackers in this scheme are the play-makers, but it doesn’t come easy.
Joshua Perry the linebacker from Ohio State has the measureables that Rex loves. Perry is 6’4″, 254 pounds. The thought of him in the middle of the defense is intriguing to me considering the slot wide receivers and tight ends in our division. That kind of height clogs passing lanes. Perry has good straight line speed. He ran a 4.68 and tested really well overall, he compares to some very productive players in the league.
From a career perspective he put up good numbers, he finished with 296 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Perry had decent statistics in 2015, he had 105 tackles (38th in nation), 3.5 sacks (71), 24 run disruptions (107), and 13 run stuffs (44). To be honest I expected more plays made behind the line of scrimmage given the talent in front of him. But as is often the case when you turn on film of this “productive player”, I was left unsatisfied.
Perry is projected to be an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and many scouts have him listed as a 2nd round pick. Putting him inside in the Bills’ defense worries me for many reasons.
The first red flag I saw were his read and diagnose skills. Something that physically talented linebacker Nigel Bradham struggled with. When you move inside, the plays, reads and blocking schemes happen quicker. With Perry’s current intelligence in that department I think he would struggle in Rex’ scheme. He struggled versus Michigan State, a team that runs an NFL style offense. On this play he should be reading through the offensive tackle and guard to the backfield. The line blocks a pin and pull to his side, but his eyes are glued to the QB and it puts him completely out of position…
With his physical measureables I expected him to be a violent, punishing linebacker but that wasn’t the case. In my opinion, the Ohio State linebackers were more athletes and finesse players. I would love to see Perry explode into blockers, use his length to his advantage more so then what I saw on film. Look at how he there is very little hand jolt or power when the tight end engages him. You can’t be a finesse inside linebacker in the NFL.
Perry obviously has made his fair share of plays on the ball carrier, that can be seen in his tackle numbers. But where were those tackles made? According to Real Football Network, Perry made 40% of his tackles from behind the line of scrimmage to 2 yards, 37% of his tackles from the 3-7 yard box and 23% of his tackles were made at 8 yards or more. So he is a player that has the range to make tackles all over the field. The linebacker at times is tough to block at the second level. Offensive lineman have a tough time scooping or cutting him of because his speed and length.
His length can be an asset if he uses it correctly. But as of now it seems he only uses it when chasing sideline to sideline. The Bills need a big inside linebacker that fills with conviction.
From what I saw on film he makes a lot of tackles, but they are arm tackles. That worries me from the inside linebacker position, where he will be asked to take on blockers, shed and make a forceful tackle against some bigger RBs.
When Josh reads the plays correctly and understands what the defense is trying to do, he can be a terror. On this swing screen he gets down-hill, absorbs the block by the WR, and tackles the running back to force third down.
Although he tested quite well in his speed drills, he really doesn’t have that quick twitch or top notch change of direction on film. Now this isn’t as important a skill inside. Ask yourself this, if he struggles to read a play, will he have the jump to make up for the late read? Pay attention to the stop and go on this play. He shouldn’t get out-leveraged to the edge by the QB.
That same problem can arise in pass coverage, late read here and slow to get to top speed on the wheel route.
An easy out route by the tight end. In 2015 according to Real Football Network Perry was thrown at 22 times, allowed 14 passes for 109 yards and deflected 4.
His chase ability is fantastic, here he is able to sift through minor traffic to blow up the screen.
There is no double that if Rex schemes to keep the linebackers clean, Perry can have 80-100 tackles in this scheme. When kept free of lineman he can produce!
I like Perry a lot, there aren’t many linebackers in this draft that are as athletic as he is. When you read scouting reports on him you will see terms like heady or takes good angles, a mobile player. Which are all good things.Yeah, sure Rex wants heady players but he also needs players that are disciplined in their keys. Perry is heady, but he played outside of his keys too often in my opinion. Perry was often fooled by misdirection and false keys thrown at him by the offense, quite similar to Bradham. Of course at the college level he was able to make up for it with his athletic ability. That is what worries me about this prospect. His lack of ability to play within the system, read his keys to the ball. A trait that he must be able to do even quicker inside. Scouts have him projected as a second round pick, but based on the Bills scheme and what is expected of their linebackers I can’t see the Bills using that pick on him, I would be ok with a 3rd or 4th round but a 2nd is too early given how his game translates into the Bills defensive scheme.
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