Denzel Perryman Is Best-Kept Secret Of 2021 Season

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker has long been an Achilles heel of the Las Vegas Raiders defense. It seems like every offseason the team is attempting to bolster the position and every year the team falls short in doing so. Under former head coach Jon Gruden’s tenure, the team made several moves to improve their linebacker unit and almost all of them didn’t pan out.

In 2018, the Raiders signed Tahir Whitehead after he had a number of productive seasons with the Detroit Lions. Whitehead would last just two seasons before getting released. In the offseason of 2020, the Raiders made it a point to address the linebacker position both in free agency as well as the draft. The Raiders signed Cory Littleton, who at the time was a big-ticket free agent. Littleton, who still is on the roster, has yet to live up to his three-year, $36 million deal and has failed to become the playmaker the Raiders were hoping for. The team also signed Nick Kwiatkoski in the same offseason, and while he wasn’t as big of a free agent signing as Littleton, the team had high expectations for him as well. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Kwiatkoski hasn’t panned out the way they have hoped either. Lastly, the Raiders drafted Tanner Muse, a tweener out of Clemson, in the third round and he barely lasted a season before the Raiders cut ties with him. 

While we can appreciate the effort in fixing this position, the results have been downright bad.

Knowing that linebacker is a vital position in his Cover 3 defense, newly-hired defensive coordinator Gus Bradley knew couldn’t go into the season with what he was given from this team’s front office. The team elected to bring in some additional help right before the season when they traded a sixth-round pick to the Carolina Panthers for linebacker Denzel Perryman and a seventh-round pick. Having coached Perryman for three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, Bradley knew his skill set and knew he could be an asset. Perryman, who signed with the Panthers this past offseason after a six-year stint with the Chargers, was traded barely four months after signing his new deal—while that could have proved demoralizing for him, he has more than made the most of it.

Through six games this season, Perryman has been a revelation. He currently ranks third in the entire NFL in tackles and has provided the stability that has long been needed in the Raiders' linebacker room. His toughness, instincts, ability to stack and shed, and play downhill have all been very welcomed additions to a Raiders defense that has struggled to stop the run for many seasons.

Whenever you turn on a Raiders game this year, you see No. 52 flying around and delivering punishing hits and making clutch tackle after clutch tackle. While his stats are very impressive, it’s his energy, physicality, and toughness that have changed this entire defense for the better.

Perryman’s success this season should not come as a major surprise to anyone who has watched him play in his career. A former second-round pick out of the University of Miami back in 2015, Perryman has been a tackling machine ever since entering the NFL. He is an outstanding run defender who consistently can defeat blocks and make plays in the box. Ability has never been the issue for Perryman, but his availability has severely hampered his value as a player. In his six-year career, Perryman has yet to play more than 14 games as he’s dealt with a number of injuries. His violent and physical nature of play has led to numerous injuries and has made him a very unreliable player throughout his career. So far with the Raiders, he has yet to miss a game and has been a mainstay for the Silver and Black.

There are plenty of people who deserve credit for the turnaround of this Raiders defense. Defensive end Maxx Crosby has taken the next step into becoming a superstar pass rusher. Big-ticket free-agent signing defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has helped make life hard for opposing quarterbacks. The defensive backfield has played very well thanks to the additions of Casey Heyward in free agency and the drafting of Tre’Von Moehrig and Nate Hobbs.

The defensive coaching staff led by Bradley deserves a ton of credit for getting this unit to play and putting them in position to succeed. But it’s Perryman, who not only has played at an exceptionally high level but whose energy and temperament have completely changed the swagger and confidence of this unit, that deserves the most praise.

Written By:

Brentley Weissman

NFL Draft Analyst

Experienced Recruiting and Scouting professional with past stops with the University of Oregon, UCLA, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers.

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