Per­ri­man: ‘I know what I’m ca­pa­ble of’

In first year of NFL ac­tion, wide re­ceiver strug­gles with route run­ning, hands

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

Bre­shad Per­ri­man sat slouched in front of his locker at MetLife Sta­dium, a hood and win­ter hat cov­er­ing part of his face. Ravens wide re­ceiver Ka­mar Aiken of­fered a few re­as­sur­ing words to Per­ri­man be­fore he headed to the shower. Mike Wal­lace then spent about five min­utes talk­ing to the young re­ceiver, the veteran’s arm at times rest­ing on Per­ri­man’s shoul­der.

“That’s my lit­tle brother,” Wal­lace said. “I’m go­ing to al­ways talk to him re­gard­less of whether we have a rough day, re­gard­less of what’s the sit­u­a­tion, be­cause he’ll do the same for me. It’s big­ger than foot­ball at the end of the day, so you just want to make sure he’s OK and he’s good men­tally.”

Per­ri­man was tar­geted five times in the Ravens’ 24-16 loss to the New York Jets, and he fin­ished with just one re­cep­tion for 11 yards. Two passes from Joe Flacco in­tended for the wide re­ceiver were in­ter­cepted, and one fell in­com­plete when Per­ri­man didn’t rec­og­nize the Jets were blitz­ing on third down and Flacco had to get rid of the ball early. Nov. 6, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Flacco spoke to Per­ri­man on the side­line af­ter one of the in­ter­cep­tions. A day later, Per­ri­man and John Har­baugh met. The quar­ter­back and coach know the Ravens need Per­ri­man to pro­vide the type of ex­plo­sive of­fense they want.

“I told him, ‘I just am im­pa­tient. You have all this tal­ent and there is a lot to learn, but I just want to speed the curve up,’ ” Har­baugh said. “Ob­vi­ously, he said that he could not agree more. We just have to keep chas­ing it. It is go­ing to hap­pen, and let’s try to make it hap­pen sooner rather than later.”

Per­ri­man, the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2015, is fifth on the team in re­cep­tions (14) and fourth in re­ceiv­ing yards (183). The high­light-reel 35-yard catch down the side­line in his first NFL game, against the Buf­falo Bills, and the 41-yard bomb he went up and caught against the New York Gi­ants, pro­vided glimpses of his po­ten­tial.

But af­ter miss­ing his en­tire first sea­son with a strained PCL in his right knee and a chunk of the sum­mer prac­tices with a par­tially-torn ACL in his left knee, Per­ri­man has spent much of this sea­son strug­gling to find his place in the of­fense as he in­her­ited a big­ger role be­cause of Steve Smith Sr.’s an­kle in­jury.

“That def­i­nitely tests your pa­tience,” Per­ri­man said Tues­day. “You have to stay prayed up and stick [to] the course. I know it’s go­ing to come. … I’m a rookie be­cause this is my first year. I ex­pect the most and the best out of my­self than any­body else. I know what I’m ca­pa­ble of.”

Per­ri­man has played only seven NFL games and 245 of­fen­sive snaps, so grow­ing pains were ex­pected. The other four wide re­ceivers taken in the 2015 first round be­hind No. 4 pick Amari Cooper, a group that in­cludes Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nel­son Agholor and Phillip Dorsett, have all had prob­lems stay­ing healthy and be­ing pro­duc­tive.

But Per­ri­man’s strug­gles in re­cent weeks have been well-doc­u­mented be­cause the Ravens are los­ing — they’ve dropped four straight games head­ing into their bye week — and the of­fense can’t get into the end zone.

Per­ri­man wasn’t com­pletely at fault for Flacco’s two in­ter­cep­tions against the Jets, but he cer­tainly didn’t help mat­ters by run­ning a poor route on each of them. He said he was con­sumed af­ter the game by the thought of what he could have done to pre­vent the picks.

Three of Flacco’s six in­ter­cep­tions this sea­son have come on passes for Per­ri­man. Only four NFL re­ceivers have had more passes in­tended for them picked off, ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus.

“It’s still a grow­ing process, still work­ing to get bet­ter day in and day out,” Per­ri­man said when asked about his chem­istry with Flacco. “It’s show­ing. It’s def­i­nitely show­ing. It’s just a mat­ter of time.”

There were no con­cerns about Per­ri­man’s size and speed com­ing out of Cen­tral Florida. The Ravens used the 26th over­all pick on him be­cause they cov­eted a fast and phys­i­cal re­ceiver who could stretch the field and make plays in the air.

There were con­cerns about his route run­ning and hands, and they’ve been jus­ti­fied to an ex­tent. Per­ri­man hasn’t played enough foot­ball over the past two years for out­siders to make any de­ter­mi­na­tions, but he has strug­gled at times in both ar­eas.

Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus has him cred­ited for one drop, though there were a cou­ple of other con­tested catches he didn’t make.

“Ob­vi­ously, early in the year, I had a cou­ple of drops that I, of course, want back,” Per­ri­man said. “Other than that, I just want to keep work­ing on the lit­tle things. I think I can get bet­ter in every sin­gle area of mygame. That’s what I want to do every day.”

The nar­ra­tive shift­ing from Per­ri­man’s health to his per­for­mance is ac­tu­ally good news for the Ravens. There were times over his first 15 months in the NFL when Ravens fans won­dered whether they’d ever see the first-round pick on the field. Last year’s knee in­jury, which was ini­tially de­scribed as a day-to-day con­cern, left Per­ri­man in a “dark place.”

The par­tially torn ACL, suf­fered dur­ing or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties this year, only added to the frus­tra­tion. Since his late sum­mer re­turn, though, Per­ri­man has man­aged to stay on the field. That’s been im­per­a­tive for a young re­ceiver still learn­ing his craft.

“He’s re­ally un­der­stand­ing what it takes to be re­ally good in this league, and that’s work,” Ravens wide re­ceivers coach Bobby En­gram said. “Work on the de­tails on every facet of be­ing a re­ceiver. It’s been kind of fun to see the pro­gres­sion and the learn­ing curve. My job is to keep speed­ing that up. The more we can force-feed him and him to con­tinue to soak all of that up, the more you’re go­ing to see more of those types of plays, the big plays down the field, the catch-and-runs, the more you’ll see those show up on the field on Sun­day.”

En­gram said Per­ri­man is spend­ing a lot of time these days work­ing on his re­leases off the line of scrim­mage. Cor­ner­backs have at times been able to mus­cle him off his routes and pre­vent him from be­ing able to use his speed to full ad­van­tage. Per­ri­man also takes time be­fore and af­ter every prac­tice to catch balls from the Jugs ma­chine along­side Wal­lace.

There have been times this year — and his locker room de­meanor af­ter the loss to the Jets is the big­gest ex­am­ple — when the frus­tra­tion is ev­i­dent on Per­ri­man, who tends to in­ter­nal­ize wor­ries.

Last year, Per­ri­man was so down be­cause of his knee in­jury that coaches and team­mates had a hard time com­mu­ni­cat­ing with him.

“He’s just a dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity,” En­gram said.

How­ever, En­gram in­sists that has never car­ried over to the prac­tice field or meet­ing rooms. En­gram and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marty Morn­hin­weg cited Per­ri­man for hav­ing a strong prac­tice Tues­day af­ter his poor per­for­mance against the Jets.

“He has done some re­ally good things,” Morn­hin­weg said. “A lot of it is reps, reps, reps. We were able to ac­com­plish that to­day. We will get some more [Wed­nes­day]. Once again, we get bet­ter every day and good things tend to hap­pen. That’s Bre­shad’s men­tal­ity as well.”

ELSA/GETTY IM­AGES

Corey Klu­ber, left, be­came the first pitcher in World Se­ries his­tory to strike out eight bat­ters through three in­nings and Roberto Perez hit two home runs as the host Cleve­land In­di­ans won the first game of the World Se­ries, 6-0, against the Chicago Cubs on Tues­day night.

In a matchup between the teams with base­ball’s long­est cham­pi­onship droughts, the In­di­ans led from the start. They scored two two-out runs off Cubs starter Jon Lester in the first in­ning, then got a solo home run from Perez in the fourth and a three-run shot from the catcher in the eighth. Perez, the ninth bat­ter in the lineup, hit three home runs in 153 at-bats dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

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