San Diego Chargers fans had mixed emotions when the name of the team’s second-round draft pick (#48 overall) was announced this past May. General manager Tom Telesco had submitted the name of Miami linebacking standout Denzel Perryman. Many felt that Telesco should have exercised that choice for additional help along the D-line. It was the third consecutive draft year that TT had chosen a linebacker (Manti Te’o in 2013 at No.38 and Jerry Attaochu in 2014 at No. 50) in that round.
Post-draft via Chargers.com, here is what Telesco offered on the selection of Perryman:
“He’s an explosive, extremely instinctive inside linebacker,” said Telesco. “He plays with a lot of energy. As far as we’re concerned, and obviously it’s just one team’s opinion, as far as inside linebackers go, he has the best instincts in the draft, the best tackling, and he is the most explosive. When he hits people, they go backwards. He’s got some coverage skills too which is going to help him in this league. We’re really excited about getting him in here.”
Even during his high school years, the 5-foot-10, 240-pound Perryman had a reputation as a “thumper,” a force to be reckoned with. The former Hurricane was a tackling machine despite missing the first nine games of his sophomore year due to a high ankle sprain. He amassed 218 tackles (14.5 for loss), three sacks, three forced fumbles, broke up eight passes plus one interception return for a touchdown during his junior and senior years. Those gaudy 2013-14 numbers garnered him a nomination and finalist for the Butkus Award.
This past Sunday on the not-yet-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, we all had an opportunity to judge for ourselves the wisdom of that pick when the rookie ran out onto the field for his first career start.
Earlier in the week, San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano was asked about Perryman playing against the Packers: “It’s about trust,” he said. “It’s about us as coaches trusting him, but also him doing the things that he needs to do with the players out there on the field, that they trust him. So you just go from there. There’s going to be growing pains. All rookies end up making mistakes here and there, but if his time is called upon this week, we need him to step up. We’ll wait and see on that.”
There was little disappointment in his performance last Sunday. He was in on 28 snaps, led the team with eight tackles (7 solo) and forced Eddie Lacy to fumble; not easy considering the bulk of man who is the Pack’s lead running back. Subbing at inside linebacker due to a bad ankle for Te’o, the day became an awesome showcase of Perryman’s abilities and points out why his presence can no longer be ignored.
For comparison, here are what the other inside linebackers (Manti Te’o, Donald Butler, and Kavell Conner) have done in their initial starts: Te’o had three solo tackles versus Dallas on September 29, 2013. Conner (2010 Colts/7th round/#240) had five total/four solo against the Giants on September 10, 2010. And the guy that it seems everyone loves to find fault with lately, the oft-maligned Butler? His rookie season (2010) was derailed by a torn left Achilles sustained in training camp. He returned September 11, 2011 and made six tackles against Minnesota.
Still the question hangs in the air unanswered: if he plays so well, why is the 21-year-old rookie still logging time on special teams when Butler is struggling? Chargers fans may speculate about the future make-up of that unit. Perhaps the future is now, at least short-term – it looks like there may be a roster change as Te’o has not practiced all week.
I hope the young linebacker gets the nod to start in the match-up against Oakland on Sunday. His motor revs high and he doesn’t quit.
I think that challenges the rest to play better.
Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.