Tale of the Tape: Nick Perry vs. Whitney Mercilus

Tale of the Tape: Nick Perry vs. Whitney Mercilus
Illinois' DE Whitney Mercilus has had a fantastic season rushing the passer.

So far this offseason, Bears’ new G.M. Phil Emery has put a big emphasis on offense and special teams. Although wide receiver and offensive lineman are not out of the realm of possibility with the first-round pick, all indications point the Bears addressing defense at No. 19.

The most glaring need on defense is at the defensive end position. Lovie Smith needs another guy who has the ability to consistently get pressure on the opposing quarterback.  The two DE prospects in this year’s draft best suited are USC’s Nick Perry and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus.

Perry played at 6’ 3”, 250 lbs. last season for USC, but he came to the Combine bulked up an extra 20 lbs. He was even more explosive and stronger at his new size, running a 4.50 40 and bench pressing 225 lbs. 35 times. Perry has had a great offseason and has positioned himself as a top-20 pick.

Mercilus also had a great Combine, flashing strong athleticism and showcasing the explosiveness that made him the nation’s leader in sacks and forced fumbles.  It was also reported that he had a great Pro Day, and he’s quickly rising on draft boards needing a DE or 3-4 OLB.

Bears representatives have attended both Pro Days and worked closely with both prospects. Both guys should be available when pick No. 19 comes around. So, if the Bears go with a DE at 19, who’s  it going to be? Here’s the Tale of the Tape on both prospects . . .

Defensive Roles  

Perry: USC ran a 4-3 Tampa-2 scheme under the originator of that scheme, Monte Kiffin. Perry’s role in the defense was nothing out of the ordinary from a 4-3 DE, which is to get to the QB (knowing the OLB has your back) and play the run. Perry also dropped back into zone at times, showing his quickness, athleticism, and ability to cover an area of the open field.

Mercilus: Illinois ran a 3-4 scheme under former Illini coach Ron Zook. Mercilus’ role in the defense was simply to pin his ears back and get after Big Ten QBs. That simple strategy help Mercilus become the nation’s leader in sacks and forced fumbles. Mercilus was versatile in the scheme, rushing from a 2-point stance when posing as a rush OLB and a 3-point stance when playing nickel DE.

Measurables and Skill-Set

Perry: At 6’ 3”, 271 lbs., Perry has a great combination of strength and speed, and he uses it quite well when trying to get to the QB. His length is a problem for opposing OTs, and he has an array of pass rush moves.

Mercilus: At 6’ 4”, 261 lbs., Mercilus displays a strong frame, a great wingspan, and quick first step/explosion off the snap. He was versatile enough to move inside in passing situations at 3-technique, but I don’t know if he would be effective in that role at the next level.

Pass Rush Ability

Perry: His wide array of moves helps his stock; most notably his bull rush—a blend of quickness and strength. He can overwhelm opposing OTs with his explosion off the snap. The flaw with him in this department is that he plays too up-right when speed rushing outside or turning inside, leading him to get stonewalled from time to time. Overall he’s a decent pass rusher who needs more refinement on his technique, specifically his pad level, to take that next step in his development.

Mercilus: In my opinion, Mercilus is hands-down the best pass rusher in this draft. He’s fully stocked with pass rush moves that he combines with raw speed, strength, and the ability to sink his hips and shoulder to get either around the corner or dip inside if the OT is overplaying the speed rush. Mercilus also can threaten with his strength on a bull rush, so he’s not just all about athleticism. Not only does he get to the QB, he also looks to force fumbles as mentioned earlier. There are no flaws to his game in this category.

Run Defense

Perry: Perry is a very disciplined run stopper from the DE position.  He was 250 lbs. at USC, but looks big and physical when anchoring the edge. He's a sure tackler and did a great job with play recognition and shedding blocks in pursuit of the runner.

Mercilus: Very raw as a run defender, he doesn’t have a great feel for diagnosing plays and locating the football. I think a lot of Mercilus’ short comings against the run have to do with coaching. At Illinois, he was simply taught to rush the passer and rely on your LBs behind you to clean up mistakes in the run game.

Overall Potential

Perry: Has all the potential in the world to be a special DE at the next level. The athleticism, explosion off the snap, measurables, and understanding of the game are all there, but the inconsistent production over the years at USC is big question mark. If the Bears select Nick Perry they would be getting a prospect who was well coached by Monte Kiffin with a lot of familiarity in the Tampa-2 scheme.

Mercilus: Despite his limitations against in run game, Mercilus has the most potential at the next level of the two. Pass rushers are at a premium with it being more of a passing league. And with Mercilus being the most talented pass rusher in this year’s draft, teams will not pass up on him just because he’s a poor run defender.

Ideal fit for Chicago Bears: Whitney Mercilus

Bill Walsh always had a great saying: “The first year we teach the player and fit the player to a role. The next year we will teach him the playbook, and if you have the right role with a player, he can make an impact.”

That quote came from former NFL team executive and current NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi in today’s episode of Path on the Draft. The quote applies perfectly as to why the Bears should choose Mercilus over Perry (if DE is the direction they are going in the 1st).

The re-signing of Israel Idonije gives the Bears time to develop Mercilus into a complete DE, but for his first year he should be nothing more than a situational pass rusher. Sure, Perry has best chance of being a complete DE right of the bat, but the Bears primary need on defense is another outside pass rush threat opposite of Julius Peppers.

In a division that had a 5,000 yard passer in Matthew Stafford and a QB who threw for 45 TDs in Aaron Rodgers, the Bears could use a another pass rusher to neutralize the high octane offenses of Detroit and Green Bay.


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  • I would be good with a DE in #1 slot and I rank them Quenton Couples, Mercilus and Perry in that order...pick the best one available. There are 3 main targets imo DE,WR and OT.

    The trick here is to pick a starter/good player in this league...not Mike Haynes, Jaron Gilbert, or Dan Bauzine. If it is WR, don't draft a David Terell, Dez White, or Mark Bradley. If it OT, don't draft a Stan Thomas, Dave Zawatson, or a 7th rounder like Webb and think you are good to go...see note in previous post regarding striking out in the 7th is bad; real bad.

    We are all watcing Emery...this is his signature draft. Will the honeymoon continue?

  • In reply to Mouser:

    I'm starting to lean more toward Mercilus over Couples. I think Mercilus is the more explosive DE of the three with still more room to grow. Reminds me a bit of Jason Pierre-Paul

  • I say neither now that we lost Okoye.

    Michael Brockers, Devon Still, or Fletcher Cox should be the guy if their available. Then, use your scouting resources to find a situational pass-rushing gem in 3rd or 4th Rds.

    I've been watching YouTube video of Mike Quick (WR from App St) & I'm praying we take this guy in the 2nd! Man he's impressive, & would compliment our current guys tremendously.

    Izzy is going to start opposite Pepp so I'm not sold on selling out on a 'situational' guy just yet. If Coples fall to us then fine, we'll take him because he's more complete. But let's add the most impactful guys to the roster as they become available to us. We have a great chance at being special this year if we do not bomb Apr 26-28. Here's my projected possible choices:

    rd 1. Michael Brockers
    rd 2. Mike Quick
    rd 3. Bruce Irvin
    rd 4. best OLB prospect
    rd 5. Tydreke Powell
    rd 6. best C prospect
    rd 7. Vontaze Burfuct

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    Yeah, I really like Mike Quick too...I hope Irvin is there in the 3rd because that would be awesome value....I am still holding out for on OT that can protect Cutler's blind side because I believe J'Marcus -the turnstyle- Webb can undo the best layed plans. No 7th round Bears pick in the last 20 years has started in his second contract for this team...I don't know if any have been awarded a second contract!

  • In reply to Mouser:

    *crossed fingers*

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    I wouldn't address DT in the first round specifically because you have Henry Melton who is developing nicely for the Bears and you just used a high round pick on Paea last year. I know Paea is not Emery guy, but he probably would want to see what he has in him before drafting a high round DT.

  • In reply to Dominique Blanton:

    my reasoning for the DT pick at 19:

    If the thought process in Chicago is to provide sack help opposite Peppers, then those situational-type guys will there for you in later rds via scouting & position changes projected to the next level. We've lost Adams & Okoye this offseason (a lot of snaps at DT). The 1st rd is projecting a strong run on edge pass-rushers which in tune would leave top-tier tackles available by pick 19. If we can inject a Michael Brockers & a Fletcher Cox (both considered at the top of their position) into our current tackle rotation, it would be much, much better than getting the 4th or 5th best DE do to "reaching" as opposed to adding the best talent for the overall strength of the team. Now, that said, it must be some strategy to it. The Bears would have to be confident that they can later get a guy at DE to fit their situational pass-rush issues to make the decision to pass on one early. IMO, the guy we would ask Mercilus to be, is the guy we could get via scouting in the 3rd or 4th rds - 'situationally' rushing the passer. That to me shouldn't suggest using a 1st rd pick necessarily.

    If a DE the magnitude of Quinton Coples is there at #19, no doubt, we take him. But that's because he would be a better prospect for this team due to his ability to do several things well instead of 'specializing' in particularly one thing. I really feel that adding the better football prospect is the better option in rd 1.

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    We could do worse than draft a good DT, the move would suprise me....I think the bears will obtain another tackle through draft or FA but I'd think the underlying need to improve the pass rush, left tackle and add a play maker at reciever and maybe TE will take precedence in the top 3 maybe 4 rounds.

    What none of us know that heavily influences the choices is the evaluation of current players on the roster...I go to TE to make my point. We have a few young TE's that haven't seen the field including one of the pass catching variety from Purdue. I think Kellen Davis has the tools to be a force in this league but Martz wouldn't call his number....anyways, Defensive Tackle is a necessary cog in our defense...I think Melton and Paea will both get second contracts because they are good and will get better.

  • Emery has so far put a spin or two into the Bears off season pick ups, cant wait to see if / what kind of rabbit comes out of his hat next.

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