Packers linebacker Nick Perry, a former All-Pac-12 defensive end at USC,… (Mike Roemer / Associated…)
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nick Perry has found his first training camp to be quite a transition.
Perry, a first-round draft pick who is playing outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers after playing defensive end at USC, has had some ups and downs. Some believe it might take him awhile before he is ready to be a significant contributor.
"The hardest thing is seeing the bigger picture," Perry said. "You have to know where everyone is on the field. You have to learn our plays. That's one of the hardest things — make sure you don't get calls mixed up."
Perry said Dom Capers' defensive playbook may have three times as much information as his college playbook.
"It's an overload," he said.
Learning to drop in coverage also has been a challenge for Perry.
"I wasn't used to dropping," he said. "Given the talent I have, I can keep up with the receivers as long as I know my drops and get into a good groove."
To prepare for his position change, Perry lost about five pounds to 265. He still looks considerably thicker, especially in the lower body, than the Packers' other outside linebackers.
He is getting a full workload because Packers coaches believe he has a lot to learn.
"That's always a challenge, and it takes time," Capers said. "We have to figure out how much he'll be able to do early in the season."
Capers said he has seen "tremendous progress" from Perry since organized team activities. And Capers, who has coached many college 4-3 defensive ends into pro 3-4 outside linebackers, expects to see more.
"He has all the qualities we look for in this position," Capers said. "He's very strong. He can bend. He can get under people. You don't see anybody knock him off the ball. I think he's going to be an excellent run player for us. Once he gets that power and speed working for him in terms of rushing, I think he'll be a good rusher."
Perry started Thursday's exhibition game against the Chargers in San Diego in the same defensive lineup as another USC product, Pro Bowler Clay Matthews. On the second play, Perry bull rushed the Chargers' veteran starting right tackle, Jeromey Clary, and sacked starting quarterback Philip Rivers. Later, he drew a holding penalty on Clary.
"He's getting comfortable," Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said after a recent practice. "He is going to be a good player."
The Packers hope Perry keeps improving and will attract blocking attention that frees up Matthews on the other side. Matthews was often double teamed last season.
Before the draft, many suspected the Packers were most interested in selecting Shea McClellin. But he was taken nine picks ahead of the Packers by the Bears.
"When we evaluated Clay Matthews, he moved all over the place," Capers said. "McClellin had some of the same qualities. I think he's going to be a good player. He's a talented guy. He can do whatever you ask him to do — rush, drop. He has a lot of versatility."
Capers said McClellin and Perry are very different players. Perry is more athletic and explosive. McClellin is more instinctive. Perry posted a vertical jump of 381/2 inches and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine, compared with a 311/2 -inch jump and a 4.62 40 for McClellin.
Some believe McClellin would be better suited playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 and Perry would be better suited playing defensive end in a 4-3.
Asked whether he thought the Packers defense was the best fit for him, Perry paused.
"I don't know," he said. "I feel like I can bring a lot to the table. As time goes, we'll see. I feel I will have a presence on the field as far as getting to the quarterback, stopping the run and even dropping into coverage."