Defensive end Maxx Crosby gets many of the accolades aimed by the Las Vegas Raiders defense, and rightly so because he makes so many big plays, but middle linebacker Denzel Perryman has been the unsung star for the Silver and Black so far this season.
The 5-11, 240-pound Perryman leads the Raiders (4-2) in total tackles in six games with 73, including 45 solos, and has recovered two fumbles. In fact, Perryman leads the National Football League in tackles, with linebacker Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks second at 72.
Linebacker Cory Littleton is second on the Raiders with 55 tackles.
Perryman fit right in with the Raiders when he was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers in August, having spent four seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who is in his first season with Las Vegas.
“He’s got a presence about him,” Bradley said of his middle linebacker. “I think when he’s in the huddle, (his teammates) feel him. So he’s a very good leader, a very good pro. He brings some explosiveness to us. He’s got very good instincts.
“Denzel, we have a lot of history with him just from our time back with the Chargers. He understands the package and what is asked of him. He’s been a good addition. He fit in well with that group, too.”
Perryman has made at least 12 tackles in each game this season, getting exactly that many against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers and Denver Broncos, while making 13 against the Chicago Bears and a season-high 14 against the Miami Dolphins.
And he’s taken it upon himself to become a leader on and off the field in his seventh NFL season.
“I’m comfortable,” Perryman said of the role he’s been asked to play in Bradley’s defense with the Raiders because of their time together with the Chargers. “I’ve been in the defense for like four years with Gus Bradley, so I’m more than comfortable.
"Just (Bradley’s) energy, man, it’s always positive. I was telling the guys, you will never hear that guy yell, unless you mess up on the field and he just told you something was about to happen.
“Just my experience with him, I can bring some knowledge to the some of the younger guys on this team, especially on the defense.”
Perryman was selected by the Chargers in the second round (No. 48 overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Miami (Fla.), after earning first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors twice and being selected third team All-American as a senior.
With the Hurricanes, he also was a tackling machine as he made 69 stops as a freshman, 64 as a sophomore, 108 as a junior and 114 in his final season, making 27 tackles for losses and forcing six fumbles in his career.
Perryman first played for Bradley when he became the Chargers defensive coordinator in 2017, but they both left Los Angeles after last season when Perryman signed as a free agent with the Panthers and Bradley headed for Las Vegas.
Now, they’re teaming up to make things happen on defense for the Raiders.
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