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Scouting Jets defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey

Taking a look at a young Jets defensive lineman

NFL: Cleveland Browns OTA Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets recently signed defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey to their practice squad, so today we’re going to break him down in detail.

The 23-year old Winfrey is listed at 6’4” and 290 pounds and was a fourth round pick out of Oklahoma for the Browns in 2022. He has played in 13 NFL games, recording 22 tackles, half a sack and two passes defensed.

Background

Winfrey was a three-star high school recruit but failed to meet the academic requirements to play at the FBS level, so he ended up going the junior college route by enrolling at Iowa Western Community College.

Despite initially coming off the bench, he eventually established himself as the top-rated JUCO prospect in the nation and ended up with the Oklahoma Sooners. He racked up 55 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in two seasons at the JUCO level.

In his first year with the Sooners, Winfrey had 17 tackles, six tackles for loss and three passes defensed. In year two, he had 23 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He was voted as a second-team all-Big 12 selection in each season.

Winfrey’s stock soared when he had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl, and many analysts had him ranked as a first or second round pick heading into the draft. However, Winfrey was not selected on day two and the Browns made him one of the first players off the board on day three.

With the Browns, Winfrey established himself as a rotational contributor but didn’t make a lot of impact plays in his rookie season. Legal issues led the Browns to release Winfrey ahead of training camp in his second season.

Winfrey was without a team until the Jets added him to their practice squad in early November.

Now let’s take a look at what Winfrey brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Winfrey has long arms and big hands to go along with a solid frame. Based on his film, you’d expect his explosiveness and agility numbers to be excellent, but he was unable to perform a full workout at the combine because he pulled his hamstring running the 40-yard dash.

Despite the hamstring injury, he ran an impressive 4.89 in the 40-yard dash having weighed in at 290 pounds.

Usage

Winfrey was always an interior lineman with the Sooners, occasionally lining up as a nose tackle, but also getting regular reps as a five technique.

At the NFL level, he played a few reps outside the tackle, which he never did in college, but he’s always been primarily a defensive tackle.

Motor

Winfrey is a player who brings a lot of energy and aggression and will usually play through the whistle. He keeps battling in the trenches when rushing the passer and shows effort and hustle in pursuit.

Some reports suggest he can get frustrated and essentially quit when things aren’t going his way, though, citing a game against Texas where he struggled to make an impact.

In terms of his ability to handle a starter’s workload, he played 60 snaps in one game during his first season with the Sooners and 59 snaps in one during his second season. These were his only two games with over 50 snaps though. At the NFL level, he has played 30 or more snaps on seven occasions.

Pass rush

Winfrey’s pressure rates were basically the same in his two years in college, but his sack count went up from 0.5 in 2020 to 5.5 in 2021. Apparently, he worked hard on his weight and flexibility to improve his ability to finish after multiple near misses in that first year and the hard work paid off.

As a pass rusher, he can get past his man with a quick swim move, but he mostly just uses a bull rush to collapse the pocket.

A lot of his production comes from working upfield and then cleaning up when the quarterback steps up or tries to scramble.

At the NFL level, he hasn’t generated much pressure in regular season or preseason action.

Run defense

Winfrey’s run defense grades have typically been poor, even in college. He gets controlled at the point of attack and isn’t a productive tackler, although a high percentage of the tackles he does make are near to or behind the line.

He does have the athletic ability to win matchups, though. He uses his explosive get-off to shoot a gap into the backfield on this play.

On this play, Winfrey shows some power to penetrate into the backfield and manages to fight off the block to finish the play off.

Footwork/Technique

Winfrey has good footwork and lateral agility and brings violence with his hand strikes, but there is plenty of rawness in his technique and approach.

On this pass rush, he does a good job of getting his man’s hands off him and even displays quickness and bend going around his man.

He shows an ability to two-gap when taking on a block here, keeping his outside arm free so he can fill that gap but also using his upper body strength to leverage across to the other side and bottle up a run.

Special teams

Winfrey’s special teams role in college and at the NFL level involved rushing kicks and occasionally punts. Within that role, he came up huge with a blocked field goal in overtime against Texas.

He did, however, also get called for two special teams penalties while he was at Oklahoma.

Tackling

As noted, Winfrey hasn’t been a very productive tackler, and there were times where he had issues in finishing plays. He missed six tackles in 2021, five of which were against the run. He only had 14 tackles against the run overall, so his tackle efficiency was poor.

Winfrey had two missed tackles in regular season action but none in preseason action with the Browns.

He had one forced fumble in his college career, which actually led to a safety as it was recovered by the offense in their own end zone.

Coverage

Winfrey has hardly ever dropped into coverage during his career, but he was credited with three passes defensed in college and two in his rookie season. All five of these came as he deflected or batted down passes at the line.

Instincts/Intelligence

Winfrey’s instincts have been criticized by some analysts, who suggest he has slow play recognition abilities and is poor at guessing or reacting to the snap count and often late out of the blocks.

On longer developing plays, he seems to keep his head up and remain alert and will stay at home or in his lane to play contain if that’s what his assignment requires of him.

His academic struggles are well-documented and he reportedly had to work very hard even to get through junior college so he could play for the Sooners.

Attitude/Demeanor

Winfrey is a high-energy character who originally endeared himself to Browns fans with an excitable post-draft interview that went viral as he was fired up and barking enthusiastically. He was considered a leader at Oklahoma and was determined to work hard and be a success at the NFL level after being drafted later than he had expected, which was, in his words, “a wake-up call”.

His NFL career didn’t get off to a great start, though, as he was disciplined and benched early on in his rookie year. Details of the incident were never divulged but Winfrey said he hoped to learn from the experience.

An arrest and a police investigation followed in two separate incidents after his rookie season. The Browns opted to release him after the second of these incidents and he served a two-game suspension while not signed to any team in September.

Head coach Robert Saleh said that Winfrey is not a bad person and may have made some dumb mistakes but the team was confident he would fit in well with their group and not have any more legal issues going forwards.

Injuries

Other than the hamstring issue at the combine, Winfrey didn’t have many injury issues in college.

He was inactive four times during his rookie year. One was a team-discipline related benching and one was a healthy scratch, but a couple were due to a head injury that he reportedly suffered when he crashed a scooter into a pole.

Scheme Fit

Winfrey is a player the Jets coached at the Senior Bowl and were contemplating drafting instead of Jeremy Ruckert, so clearly they felt he would be a good fit for their system.

His explosiveness and violence is exactly what the Jets tend to look for in their rotational linemen, so he could fit well into what they do if he gets an opportunity.

Conclusions

Winfrey looked like a superb prospect during Senior Bowl week but his overall tape and body of work includes a few flaws if you look a bit deeper, which probably explains why his stock dropped again after he arrived on the radar screen.

His legal issues are an obvious concern, but the Jets are clearly confident that these issues are in his past and that he could realize his potential with them if they have some time to develop him.

The Al Woods injury meant that Tanzel Smart moved up into the rotation, so Winfrey or Marquiss Spencer would be the next man up if someone else gets hurt or if Smart’s level of play doesn’t improve. Whether or not Winfrey gets a chance to play this year, he could be a good player to bring to camp next year as he’ll be motivated to try and get back into an NFL rotation for 2024.