NEPD Staff Writer: Adam Bogdan
Continuing my Potential Patriots series, I decided to look at Miami’s middle linebacker Denzel Perryman based on the feedback from readers.
The Patriots have certainly struggled this year against the run at times, and their linebacking corps may be one of the shallowest positions on the team. While Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins have exceptional athleticism, and with Dont’a Hightower becoming a pass rusher, there lacks a physical presence in the middle of the defense that can stuff the run with ferocity and fearlessness. That is what Perryman can do.
At 6’1″, 245 lbs, Perryman isn’t a prototypical run stopping middle linebacker, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity. The first player I could relate him too, in the way he attacks blockers and comes downhill towards the line of scrimmage, is Ray Lewis. He does a phenominal job of reading the play and shuffling down to fill the hole and tackle to running back. Instinctual with his eyes, he watches the quarterback as he goes through reads and then breaks on underneath routes, delivering hits that jar balls loose. Just like Lewis though, he doesn’t have the quickest of feet and will not be able to run with slot WRs or athletic TEs downfield, which is where he could be easily exposed.
In his college career, he has played all four years at Miami, including five starts as a true freshman. Here are his career stats from HurricaneSports.com.
I watched his full game against Louisville thanks to Draftbreakdown.com and will highlight some his strengths and weaknesses.
On the first play from scrimmage, Perryman drops back into a curl/hook zone and was able to feel his way to the receiver and then break on the ball once the quarterback started his motion to throw the ball.
At times, he reads the play for too long, giving blockers time to make their way up to him on the second level, or he loses his patience and over pursues the play, taking himself out of position.
What he excels at is his downhill attacking of block with absolute disregard for human life. This play, knowing the down and yardage, Perryman flies toward the line to make the push to try to stop the back short of the first down.
Despite not getting to the quarterback always, the way Perryman approaches blitzing causes quarterbacks to throw the ball out of the sheer thought of him hitting them. Here, he pushes two blockers back towards the QB even though they outweigh him by over 300 lbs.
One thing I noticed was that in every defensive play for the Hurricanes in the first quarter Denzel Perryman was always around the ball in both the run and pass game. This nose for the ball, or ball carrier, is an underrated factor for defense players, specifically linebackers and safeties, and it is one area of the game that Perryman has shown often.
One of the early highlights of the game came from Perryman and the DE combining for a sack/strip of the quarterback where Perryman slid past the offensive linemen moving to block the DE to deliver a crushing blow, knocking the ball loose.
Again, his downhill style, combined with his short area quickness, allow him to find holes and stuff the running back in the backfield to stop them in a short yardage situation.
Just to highlight the pure strength this kid has, here he simply pancakes an offensive lineman on a blitz and then reacts to try to jump and catch the throw.
One draw back to his intensity is a habit that makes him go for the big hit, lowering his head and leaving his feet, instead of squaring up and using his power to make a proper form tackle.
Another highlight play, Perryman shoots the gap perfectly and delivers a forceful hit to the running back several yards behind the line of scrimmage.
At the end of the game it appeared that Perryman hurts his leg, but it wasn’t a major concern at that point in time. Currently he leads the team with 18 tackles in two games so far this season. I look forward to seeing him continue to progress as a leader on the Miami defense, with plenty of future highlights to be made. Given his limitations in pass coverage, he could fall to the Patriots later on in the draft or in the second round. It is far too early to begin to assess mock draft positions for both teams and players, this is just a profile on a player that has garnered some interest from readers and myself.
Please comment with your opinions and with suggestions on who I should take a look at next.
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