Navy’s Malcolm Perry likely won’t be playing quarterback in the NFL. But there might be another position where Perry could flash his electric skills.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Perry lit up Army on Saturday with a dizzying array of runs to the tune of 304 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries in the Midshipmen’s 31-7 win. In doing so, Perry became the all-time leading rusher in the vaunted series between the two longtime combatants.
This 55-yard TD might have been the high note of his performance:
And this wasn’t so bad either:
It’s not hard to envision Perry as an offensive weapon in the NFL, even if he won’t play quarterback. Most NFL scouts see him as a slot receiver and returner, but there could be some run and pass packages built in for his electric skills.
CBS announcer Gary Danielson wondered during the broadcast whether Perry was the next Julian Edelman.
Former Navy and Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is a triple-option legend and has watched “several” of Perry’s games. Johnson believes Perry can help an NFL team.
“He’s just a tremendous athlete,” Johnson told Yahoo Sports on Monday morning. “Guys who are good athletes are good athletes, and guys who are good players are good players. It doesn’t matter what system they’re in or what they’re asked to do. There are a lot of players in the league like Julian Edelman who aren’t playing the same position they played in college.”
Making the switch in the NFL
Part of that position transition could begin at the week of the East-West Shrine Game, which begins Jan. 12. It’s expected that Perry will run routes as a receiver, a position that is not entirely new to him.
Perry spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons at both slotback and QB, so he has experience — albeit limited — in terms of running routes. In his Navy career, Perry caught 22 passes for 470 yards (including 73- and 75-yard receptions) with three TD grabs. He also has kick-return experience, running back 20 for 491 yards (a 24.6-yard average) with a long of 58 yards.
Throw in Perry’s school-record 4,146 rushing yards and 40 TDs, along with his 1,254 passing yards, and there isn’t a whole lot that Perry can’t do with the ball in his hands.
In fact, Johnson isn’t convinced that Perry can’t handle some duties under center in the league.
“You see what’s going on in the league, especially with Lamar Jackson doing what he’s doing,” Johnson said, “and who is to say [Perry] couldn’t be a quarterback?”
Johnson visited Ravens minicamp in June and talked scheme and watched film with head coach John Harbaugh. It’s not hard to imagine that some of Johnson’s run-game elements didn’t rub off on what the Ravens are doing in what has been the most diverse and imaginative offense in the league this season.
The NFL has taken notice. There’s sure to be a “Lamar Effect” of sorts this coming offseason where other NFL teams try to copy what the Ravens have done this season offensively. There’s also the possibility of Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman earning a head-coaching job elsewhere.
“I haven’t been around [Perry] enough to see how he’s throwing the ball, but you see what Lamar is doing with the Ravens, and I think Perry could be the new Ravens [style] player in the NFL,” Johnson said.
Perry isn’t close to Jackson’s level as a passer — and likely never will be. He’s also quite a bit smaller. But that’s not to say that some of Perry’s passing skills can’t be utilized in the league in trick plays or change-up wrinkles in an imaginative scheme.
The most recent comp for Perry is former Navy QB Keenan Reynolds, who was a sixth-round pick (182nd overall) of the Ravens in 2016. Reynolds was more sturdily built than Perry at 5-10 and 205 pounds, but an AFC area scout we texted this weekend said Perry was “by far a better athlete” than his Navy QB predecessor.
“The four or five games I’ve gotten to see of his, I don’t care who they’ve been playing, he’s been the best player on the field,” Johnson said. “It didn’t matter who they were playing. Certainly in the Army-Navy game, he was head and shoulders better than anyone else on the field.”
Military obligations no longer an obstacle
A recently issued Department of Defense order gives Perry a much stronger chance of playing in the NFL in 2019. Service-academy prospects have leaked into the NFL over the past few years and are still in the league, such as Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (Army), Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (Navy) and 49ers offensive lineman Ben Garland (Air Force).
“[Perry] deserves that shot,” Johnson said. “Hopefully with the new rule, he’ll get that chance. When I coached there, we had several kids who could play at that level. There’s no more excuse built in now about why a team shouldn’t draft or sign a special player like him.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is long known as a Navy admirer, having grown up watching the Midshipmen up close with his father serving on the team’s staff for many years in the 1960s. In addition to drafting Cardona, Belichick also coached former Patriots tackle (and Navy grad) Max Lane and also personally worked out Reynolds twice before the 2016 draft.
You’d have to think — especially with Edelman fighting through injuries in his age-33 season — that Belichick has a keen eye on Perry in this coming draft cycle.
Perry’s final game for Navy will be at the Liberty Bowl against Kansas State on New Year’s Eve. We suspect that a few scouts will make it to Memphis to watch Perry with an eye on whether they can tap into his electric skills in the NFL.
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