All New England Patriots rookies face a learning curve in their first few weeks of spring practices.
Outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins’ is steeper than most, however.
Perkins’ role at Oklahoma, playing in the Big 12, was pretty straightforward. He put his hand in the dirt, got after the opposing quarterback as fast as possible and blew up offensive linemen to make run stuffs in the backfield. But it’s not quite that simple in New England, where Perkins is transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker and doing one’s job is just as important as making big plays. Now, Perkins will likely need to drop into coverage more and be cognizant of setting the edge in the run game and containing the quarterback on passing plays.
The Sooners product has been working with Patriots outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick and inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo rather than defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington. Perkins said he doesn’t have a ton of experience dropping into coverage, but he thinks he could be a pretty quick study.
“I’ll say I have a good athletic background that allows me to transition into stuff like that,” Perkins said. “It’ll allow me to transition into coverage easily just because I had a tight end background, so I’m kind of good with footwork and everything, so that’ll help my transition to linebacker.”
Perkins is soaking up everything he can in a room that, beyond Mayo and Belichick, includes veterans Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Matt Judon, among others.
“Pretty much everyone in our room has been around for a real long time,” Perkins said. “Coach Mayo, he played in the system, Steve, he’s been around the system his whole life, and then you got guys like Hightower and KV, they’ve been in the system for a long time. So I’ve got some great guys to learn from every day.”
Perkins also has been studying former Patriots players who showed versatility to play on the edge as outside linebackers and off the line of scrimmage as inside linebackers like Willie McGinest, Rob Ninkovich and Mike Vrabel. Perkins stopped short of saying he saw similarities in his game.
“I see just a lot of stuff that I can do that they can do better just because they’re experienced and everything,” Perkins said. “So this is my first crack at the NFL, so still kind of — I’d probably say at a little nervous point, should I do this or think too much? So just watching those guys and seeing how they do stuff without thinking just helps me a lot.”
With so many great linebackers in his room, it could be a while before Perkins sees the field. It will certainly benefit him to learn from players like Hightower, Van Noy and Judon as he gets settled.