Last year was a breakout season for Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Denzel Perryman. He racked up 154 total tackles — more than double his previous single-season high of 73 — en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. While Perryman had 10 double-digit tackle performances in 15 outings, perhaps his most impressive game from last year came in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.
That week, he logged 13 total tackles which were the second-most he had in a single game, eight of which were run stops or tackles that resulted in a “failure” for the offense, per Pro Football Focus. Those eight led all linebackers for the week with second place falling three behind, and his 25.8 percent run stop rate ranked second.
What stood out the most about Perryman’s film was his combination of instincts and athleticism, and he also put together a few clutch plays to give the Silver and Black opportunities to win the game.
Our first clip is a beautiful read by Perryman to get an unblocked tackle.
The Bears call an inside zone and with the nose tackle – No. 90 Johnathan Hankins – slanting strong, Perryman has the week A-gap in the run fit – between the center and left guard. However, he sees the guard crash down hard on the slanting Hankins and recognizes that the offensive lineman has done his job for him and closed the A-gap.
That allows the linebacker to come downhill and put a picture-perfect form tackle on the running back to limit this to a one-yard gain.
Shoutout to Hankins and Quinton Jefferson for taking care of the front side, too.
Perryman doesn’t get a ton of love in coverage, as he does have his faults, but he also makes plays like these that won’t show up anywhere but the tape.
The Raiders are playing a patented Gus Bradley cover three and with the trips formation and the back working across the center for the play fake, Perryman has no threats to his area and should carry the inside slot receiver against four verts like this. That’s Darnell Mooney, who runs a 4.38, running the deep over that you almost always hit when you run this play on Madden or NCAA; Y for my Xbox folks, triangle for PlayStation.
However, the linebacker runs pretty much stride for stride with Mooney or at least forces what would have needed to be a near-perfect throw to make Justin Fields hit the check down.
That’s the matchup the Bears were looking for, it was just a little riskier of a throw than they might want their young quarterback to attempt.
While this next play technically isn’t in coverage, it is a beautiful play against the passing game.
Chicago runs play-action and Las Vegas linebackers spot drop to get into their zone coverage. That’s just what the Bears were hoping for as they run a screen on second and about five with the underneath defenders dropping about nine yards past the line of scrimmage.
Luckily, Nate Hobbs takes away the outside lane by beating his blocker and Perryman puts a nice move on the right guard to make him miss. That puts Perryman in a perfect position to make another beautiful form tackle and force a third and short.
As a linebacker, making plays on the ball in coverage is great but you can stay on the field if you rally to the ball and limit big plays after the catch.
I went with the wide-angle on this one because the end zone view doesn’t do Perryman justice.
The Bears are in second and ten, a typical RPO situation so that the offense can make the defense wrong a pickup a chunk play for third and manageable to short. So, the linebackers have to stay deep to help either make a play on the ball or rally to the slant and protect against the pass.
Perryman stays patient and deep because of this while also remaining in his run gap, and once he sees the handoff, he comes crashing downhill to get an unblocked tackle for a three-yard gain.
Essentially, the Pro Bowler helped take away an eight-yard gain with the slant and kept what could have easily been a five-yard run into a third and long situation.
It’s a thing of beauty when instincts meet athletic ability.
Chicago is near the goal line and calls a wide zone run to the three tight end side where Perryman is bumped over to the strong D-gap. Vegas has numbers on the strong side so this is almost an immediate cutback for the running back Khalil Herbert.
Perryman recognizes this and stays deeper to be in a position to still honor his front side gap responsibility but also be able to work across an offensive lineman’s face who’s climbing up to the second level.
He has the agility, quickness and hand usage to make the lineman miss in space and go help make the tackle about five gaps away from where he was originally lined up. That’s some impressive range.
This next play isn’t as pretty of a tackle as we’ve seen in the past but it is a nice one that saves a first down.
It looks like Chicago broke the huddle and got on the line quickly and Vegas had to scramble a bit to get lined up. That creates some chaos for the defense and means someone needs to step up and make a play to avoid getting burned for a long run.
The offense runs a mid-zone with a split zone action from the inside receiver, and Maxx Crosby does an excellent job of slanting to his gap and beating the right guard to force a cutback.
Perryman has to come downhill to fill his gap since it’s second and short, and Herbert does a solid job of seeing that and working to cut it back to the back side, where Yannick Ngakoue has gotten too far up the field and Cory Littleton is flying outside to cover the receiver running the split zone action for some reason.
That should be an easy first down but Perryman does an excellent job of laying out and getting just enough Herbert’s hip to bring him down short of the sticks.
The Raiders’ defensive line would stuff the next run on third and one to force a Bears’ punt, which wouldn’t have been possible if the team’s tackle leader missed on the previous play.
Another example of combining mental processing with great quickness and agility to make a third-down stop.
Let’s start with the situation. It’s third and five with the Raiders down five and about 3:30 to go, and the Bears are on the Raiders’ 29, but a field goal gives Las Vegas’ offense plenty of time to tie it up with a touchdown and two-point conversion. So, someone’s got to step up on defense and make a play.
Pre-snap, notice the tight end’s split. He’s much wider than the rest of the line and left enough room where you could almost put another blocker between him and the left tackle, a decent indicator that the offense wants to run outside. Perryman responds by lining up over the tight end so that he can get to the outside but still be able to help on a halfback dive or an inside run.
Post-snap, the Bears run a pull-lead concept where the left tackle is going to pull around the tight end and receivers and they have Fields keep the ball so that the running back can also lead block. That gives Chicago a numbers advantage with seven players to block six defenders.
However, Perryman reads this immediately, works over the top of the receivers and Nate Hobbs to throw off the angle on the crack block from Mooney – No. 11 – and beat the tackle and running back to the spot on the outside lane. With all of his momentum coming downhill, there’s little to nothing those two lead blockers can do and the linebacker essentially beats three blockers to make a stop and give his offense a chance to tie the game.
We don’t need to rehash what happened on the other end when the Raiders got the ball back, but these are the types of plays you’re looking for as a defensive coordinator from one of your best players and leaders.