- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Injuries limited him to just six games as a rookie in 2012 and 11 games last season.
While the sample size to date has not been enough to call Perry's conversion from a college defensive end at USC to an NFL outside linebacker a success just yet, the 28th overall pick in the 2012 draft has made some impact plays – the strip-sack of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that set up a Packers' field goal on the last play of the first half in the Oct. 13 win among them.
And most of them have had one thing in common: They have come with him lined up on the right side of the defensive formation.
"The plays he's made, the things that he does well, playing from the right side, something that's clearly more natural for him, so I mean that's something I think we have to pay closer attention to," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters last week at the NFL annual meetings. "He does have ability."
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Perry rushed from the right outside linebackers spot on just 55 snaps last season but recorded all four of his sacks from that side. He had no other quarterback hits from that side but had seven hurries. In 139 rushes from the left outside linebacker position, Perry did not record a single sack or quarterback hit but was credited with 14 hurries.
In PFF's pass-rush-productivity rating, Perry's grade was more than twice as high on the right side (16.8) than the left (7.6).
So why, then, don't the Packers play him on that side more often?
It might not be as simple as just moving Perry to the right side on a full-time basis. That's where Clay Matthews has played primarily the last two seasons. In 2013, 75.5 percent of Matthews' pass rushes came from the right side. In 2012, 67.6 percent of his rushes came from that side. However, the previous two seasons, he rushed more often from the left outside linebacker spot, which was a change from his rookie season of 2009, when he played primarily on the right side.
Perry's role this season might be less about sides and more about what position he plays. Rather than playing exclusively at outside linebacker, the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder will be part of the elephant position that McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have planned for several players, including new acquisition Julius Peppers.
"He's a smart, instinctive player," McCarthy said. "He has flexibility to move Nick around, but really Nick's had an injury situation two years in a row. If we can remove that, I think everything else will take care of itself. Have a full year availability opportunities, and I think his numbers will be right where they need to be."