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Pernell McPhee Learning New Position On The Fly

Posted Aug 1, 2013

Pernell McPhee’s switch to outside linebacker means he’s learning from some of the best.


Pernell McPhee watches tape of Terrell Suggs and is amazed that he can be joking one second and sacking a quarterback the next.

He admires Elvis Dumervil’s seriousness and work ethic.

He’s already got a nickname for new defensive end Chris Canty, based on his outstanding technique: “Big Smooth.”

Last year, McPhee was supposed to become a breakout defensive end. After an injury-plagued and disappointing season, McPhee’s been moved to outside linebacker.

He likely won’t see a ton of snaps behind Suggs, Dumervil and others, but McPhee is learning from the Pro Bowlers and vets, and becoming a more complete player.

“It’s a great experience for me. I think I’m adjusting well,” McPhee said.

“I don’t mind if one of those big boys gets tired and I rush in and try to get a big play. We’ve got a deep D-line. There’s a lot of guys out there trying to eat.”

A fifth-round pick in 2011, McPhee logged six sacks in 16 games played in his rookie season. Last year, a knee injury slowed him from the beginning, then a torn groin sidelined him for four games. He started six of 12 games he played in and notched 1.5 sacks and 21 tackles.

McPhee may go back to a role similar to his rookie season in terms of playing time, but his responsibilities will be very different. During practice, McPhee has played everywhere, including standup outside linebacker, rush linebacker, defensive end, and even nose tackle.

One minute he’ll be chasing a quarterback in the backfield, the next he’s running with a receiver. Minutes later, he’s taking on a block and setting the edge.

Outside Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino said McPhee could still be used as an interior rusher, where he excelled as a rookie, but he’s also learning other aspects of the game. Pass coverage is probably the most foreign to McPhee.

“It’s a different sport compared to what Pernell has played in the past,” Monachino said. “Every time he sees a new route combination, it’s the first time he’s seen it. So, his progress is he’s making a quantum leap nearly every day.”

Monachino is “thrilled” to have McPhee among his outside linebackers.

“What you see with Pernell is you see a guy that loves to work at his craft. He is a sponge with the learning,” he said.

McPhee wants to be able to diagnose run plays versus pass plays as quickly as Suggs. “In practice, he’ll start dancing, and the ball snaps, and he knows the play. It’s like, ‘Wow,’” McPhee said.

He can’t believe the New York Giants watched Canty walk. “His size makes him a freak of nature, but the stuff he does on the field, it’s crazy, it’s stupid,” McPhee said. “How patient, calm and smooth. It’s like, ‘God!’ I respect him.”

He’s not a starter anymore, but McPhee doesn’t mind waiting his turn while learning on the job.

“The more you can do, the more plays you can get,” McPhee said. “I don’t have a problem with it; I’m just here to help the defense. Whatever coach needs me to do. I’m not going to cry and bicker about how much playing time I get. Coaches know what they’re doing.”

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