Based on where he lined up in the Miami Hurricanes defense, it was of little surprise that MLB Denzel Perryman led the team in tackles each of his last two years. That production however, is what is convincing NFL clubs to take a long look at the linebacker despite his less than ideal stature.
Perryman is barely six feet tall, and though he has a solid frame that goes 236 pounds, some pro scouts worry as to whether his frame can hold up to the down in and down out contact that goes on inside for 16 games. The Coral Gables product just points to his game tape.
"I've been pretty much getting knocked for my height since I got to high school, getting recruited. My play makes up for my height. I don't play like I'm 5-11," Perryman said. "I'm smart, I'm physical, I'm a downhill, hard-nosed dog."
NFL scouts don't doubt Perryman's willingness to run and hit after a 351-tackle career. They just wish they saw more of it at the Senior Bowl. Perryman was on hand, but suffered a strained abdominal muscle on the first day of practice and was done for the rest of the week.
"They like how I go downhill, they like how I take on blocks," said Perryman of the feedback he's received from pro scouts. "Some scouts like to see my man-to-man coverage, my technique on that i just need to brush that up. As far as my pass coverage, some of them were impressed at the Senior Bowl after just one practice."
Perryman's play appeared to take a step forward this past season. Not only was he again the Miami's leading tackler, but he was playing faster. The linebacker attributes that to his improved anticipation through film study.
"My passion for the game," said Perryman when asked what makes him a playmaker. "I had two older brothers who played and I wanted to be just like them. So I guess you can say I built a passion for it."
After a disappointing 4.78 40-time at the NFL combine, Perryman ran a much improved 4.66 before tweaking a hamstring at the Miami pro day. That should be fast enough to convince teams that he can be more than a two-down run stuffer.
Compared to undersized linebackers of the past like London Fletcher and the recently retired Chris Borland, Perryman appreciates the comparisons. At the same time he has full confidence that his skill set is unique.
"My style of play is a little different," he said. "I'm my own man."