The Buffalo Bills’ defense was inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry.
Joshua Perry was a reliable and consistent starter at linebacker for the Ohio State Buckeyes, recording 293 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. According to ProFootballFocus, he missed just nine tackles in the last two years. Named 1st Team All-Big 10 twice, Perry played all three linebacker positions for the Buckeyes, but he’s seemingly gone overlooked in the draft process by the bigger names on Ohio State’s defense such as Joey Bosa, Darron Lee, Adolphus Washington, Vonn Bell, Eli Apple and Tyvis Powell. However, Perry was a key cog in the defensive unit and was arguably the most consistent.
Joshua Perry Size/Physical Attributes
Joshua Perry has a rare blend of size and athleticism, standing 6’4” and weighing 254 pounds. He ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine while posting a 33.5” vertical leap and a 10’4” broad jump—impressive numbers for someone of that size. He’s got long arms (33 7/8”) and big, heavy hands (10 ¼”) that allow him to excel in a variety of roles within a defense.
Joshua Perry Run Support
Joshua Perry is a fantastic run defender and routinely shows the ability to quickly diagnose runs and quickly flow to the ball carrier. According to RealSportsNetwork, Perry had 12 “stuffs” and 24 run disruptions during the 2015 season and 42 of his 105 tackles came within two yards of the line of scrimmage.
He’s got the strength to take on lead blockers and uses his length well to not only disengage, but wrap up the ball-carrier as well. This ability is highlighted in the following two plays.
Here, Joshua Perry is aligned as the weakside linebacker and the Michigan State Spartans are running a power with a pulling guard and tight end from the backside of the play. Perry uses his strength and shoots his arms into the pads of the oncoming tight end, tossing him aside before changing direction and leaping to make a tackle for a short gain.
In this rep against Western Michigan, Joshua Perry is lined up as the SAM linebacker in an Under front. At the snap, Western Michigan’s right tackle gets to the second level and locks onto Perry. While he’s unable to fully shed the block, Perry’s motor doesn’t stop and he works down the field to bring down the running back while engaged with the lineman.
Perry is a smart and instinctive player that can routinely fight through the trash on outside runs. He understands angles and rarely finds himself out of position to make a play. The following rep against Michigan is a perfect example of this.
Lined up in the middle in a sub-package, Michigan runs a sweep out of a shotgun formation. The Wolverine’s center is uncovered and gets out to the second level to seal Perry, but he’s able to shed the block with ease, keeping his eyes on the ball-carrier. As he closes in for the tackle, he avoids some traffic at the line of scrimmage, before shooting through a small hole and making the tackle for a gain of just two yards.
Joshua Perry shows impressive lateral quickness and is truly a sideline-to-sideline defender. Here against Cincinnati, Perry shows off his ability to scrape over the top of the formation, shedding two blockers before making a tackle and forcing a fumble.
Joshua Perry Coverage Ability
You typically don’t see many 6’4” 254 pound linebackers dropping into coverage very often, let alone excelling at it, but Joshua Perry has the speed, range and hip flexibility to do so. According to RealSportsNetwork, Perry allowed 14 receptions on 22 targets for 109 yards, a 4.9 yards-per-attempt average and just a 7.7 yards-per-completion rate.
He can run the seam with tight ends, defend wheel routes against running backs, but he’s at his best when playing as a hook or flat defender in zone coverage.
Joshua Perry’s change of direction ability is shown in the following clip as he drops into coverage between the hashes. As the tight end comes across his face, Perry quickly flips his hips and closes on him.
When playing in a shallow zone coverage, Joshua Perry is quick to break on passes in front of him as he does in the following play against Rutgers. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback and when the back releases out of the backfield as a checkdown, Perry explodes to him and brings him down for a two-yard gain.
Perry is quick to sniff out screens and gets downhill in a hurry, without worrying about traffic.
One area that Joshua Perry needs to improve on is being overaggressive against play action. In the following clip, he takes a false step against the play fake and lets the H-Back get on top of him. Perry can’t recover quickly enough and it results in a touchdown.
Something that will have teams attracted to Joshua Perry as a prospect is his ability to rush the quarterback. He’s got the size and speed of an edge rusher, so creative defensive coordinators will be able to move him around and let him blitz at times. Here, he blitzes through the A gap and forces a throwaway.
Potential Fit with Buffalo Bills
Joshua Perry is one of the most overlooked linebacker prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft and would be an interesting fit with the Buffalo Bills’ defense. Rex Ryan’s scheme is multiple and diverse, so having a player like Perry that can play several different positions within that defense would be valuable. While he doesn’t have the quick-twitch athleticism of his teammate Darron Lee, Joshua Perry has the speed, physicality and football intelligence that should allow him to make an early impact in all aspects of the game—from defending the run, dropping into coverage and rushing the passer.
Player Comparison: K.J. Wright