These days, you can't throw a rock without hitting a starry-eyed pundit lusting after Peria Jerry. Please note that I'm not advocating that practice.
Nonetheless, the Peria Jerry hype train has built up a powerful head of steam. Even his fellow players are getting in on the act, saying stuff like this:
"Peria was drafted in the first round for a reason,’’ cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "When you see him on the field now, it just looks he’s playing with a lot more confidence. He’s out there running around and he’s loving football again. He can just focus on football now and I think he’ll be a devastating force for us.’’
You may be hesitant to pile in the back of the Jerry bandwagon. After all, isn't this the guy who lost his entire rookie season to injury and was a semi-effective rotational defensive tackle in 2010? How is he supposed to make such a huge leap in 2011?
Well, hypothetical questioner, there is a difference. For the first time since before his injury, Jerry appears to be totally healthy. His talent was never in question, given his productivity at Ole Miss and the team's willingness to draft him even though he was a little older than most of his draft class. When Jerry was on the field in 2010, he was actually pretty effective, posting nine tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection. It's just that he lost a ton of snaps to Corey Peters, maybe because he was, you know, playing with a bulky knee brace.
I'm not going to suggest you toss away your skepticism entirely. We're going to have to see it with our own eyes, of course, and this tends to be the time of year when everyone wants to talk up the underdog.
But as good as Corey Peters was in 2010, he's not the pass rusher Jerry is. When the Falcons want to really get after the quarterback, they're going to toss Jerry and Jonathan Babineaux out there. Peria will have his chance to make an impact, and I suspect the last two years will be forgotten if he does. I'm totally comfortable predicting five sacks for Jerry and plenty of pressure, which would be enough to validate heavy snaps for our 2009 first round pick.
What are your expectations for Jerry in 2011?