INDIANAPOLIS -- Two seasons into his NFL career, former first-round draft pick Nick Perry still hasn’t fully shown he can make the transition from collegiate defensive end at USC to NFL outside linebacker with the Green Bay Packers.
He might not have to this year.
Among the ideas the Packers have considered to tweak and improve their defense is to use an elephant defensive end position, and Perry is one of the players whom coach Mike McCarthy sees in that role, he said Friday during an interview at his hotel during a break from the NFL scouting combine.
“We’re looking at different combinations,” McCarthy said. “That’s part of the thing I was talking about [earlier in the day at the combine] utilizing personnel better.”
McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers actually toyed with the position last offseason, but never employed it. McCarthy explained the elephant end position as someone who is a “tweener.” Perry was considered that by scouts who debated whether his best position in the NFL would be defensive end or outside linebacker.
The elephant position would essentially cover both spots. McCarthy described it as a position in which a defensive player would never line up on the inside shoulder of an offensive tackle. Instead, the elephant end would play what’s called a 7-technique, which lines up on the inside shoulder of a tight end.
It was a position that Charles Haley of the San Francisco 49ers made famous in the 1980s and 1990s.
That might suit Perry, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds. In parts of two seasons in which he was slowed by injuries, Perry has played in 17 regular-season games and has six sacks. He has been most effective using his powerful bull-rush move.
A year ago, the Packers decided to try defensive end Mike Neal at outside linebacker, and it was largely successful. According to McCarthy, Neal was never supposed to play as much at outside linebacker as he did.
“We developed a position called the elephant and we never really [used it],” McCarthy said. “We trained it in training camp. Just the way the injuries went, Mike played pretty much outside linebacker most of the year. That wasn’t the plan or the vision of his job description.”
McCarthy said he believes that Neal’s best position, especially on third downs, remains the 3-technique position, which is a lineman who plays opposite the guard.
“I think he’s a real force in there,” McCarthy said.
Some of the plans could hinge on whether Neal returns. He was in the final year of his contract last season, and is scheduled to become a free agent next month.