New England Patriots’ Ronnie Perkins closes the gap from defensive end to outside linebacker

Ronnie Perkins had to close the gap between playing the defensive end and playing the outside linebacker.

The Oklahoma product had his hands on the floor in 33 career games as a member of the Sooners. Those games yielded 99 tackles, including 32 stop losses, along with 16.5 sacks and one forced fumble before the junior declared for the 2021 NFL draft.

But Perkins’ rookie regular season with the New England Patriots ended without a game played.

The change of position took place backstage at Gillette Stadium. It will soon be time to see the stage.

“I’m a competitor. I definitely want to compete,” Perkins told reporters during his press conference at the mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. “But at the same time I knew what I had to do as a footballer. So I definitely approached everything I did last year with the right attitude. I came in, worked hard every day, but I was never down because I wasn’t playing.”

New England selected Perkins in the third round ranked 96th overall. A total of 96 defensive snaps followed last preseason. Pro Football Focus credited him with six solo tackles and six quarterback rushes over that limited sample size.

Perkins resided among the inactive as the calendar swung to fall. The Patriots later placed the 22-year-old on injured reserve because of an ankle injury in December. His 21-day training clock started in January but ended without a return to the 53-man squad.

“I’ve always just seen the light at the end of the tunnel and told myself that when I get out of there, I’ll be ready,” Perkins added.

But Perkins, who earned two second-team All-Big 12 honors with his three-point stance in Oklahoma, got a look at position meetings and on the whiteboard throughout the year. The 6-foot-3, 247-pound redshirt believes he’s stronger on the field, in part because of what he’s observed off it.

And more comfortable when faced with the task of getting up off the edges and dropping into open spaces.

“In Oklahoma, I was pretty much a Deatrich Wise — like a pass rusher who didn’t get dropped at all and didn’t play in a two-point game,” Perkins said while picking the 2017 Patriots draft pick in the line of defense noticed. “Coming here, all the tech and everything I do is different. Like I said, I’ve done a lot of things that put in the work, so I feel ready to help myself and be a linebacker.

The New England linebacker depth chart no longer features the rotational roar of Chase Winovich or the seasoned versatility of Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. It instead includes youth, speed and a prediction of who will face off against three-time Pro Bowler Matthew Judon.

“It’s definitely sad to see these guys go — Jamie, High, KVN — but it also tells us it’s time to step up,” said Perkins, whose four-year rookie contract includes an upcoming $877,000 base salary and a North includes cap of $1.087 million per “I can’t lean on these older guys anymore. It is time for us to follow in their footsteps.”

New England renewed Raekwon McMillan, re-signed Ja’Whaun Bentley, and acquired Mack Wilson through sales from the Cleveland Browns. Inside and out, 2021 runner-up Cameron McGrone and 2020 runner-up Josh Uche are also awaiting the next step in their role development.

Ditto for a former ESPN freshman All-American defensive end.

“I would definitely say that my approach is to contribute as much as possible to the team,” Perkins said. “Whatever form or fashion that is, just try to help this team win.”

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