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Packers Might Have a Tough Decision to Make on Carl Bradford

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Packers Might Have a Tough Decision to Make on Carl Bradford

Green Bay Packers linebacker Carl Bradford (No. 54) by Benny Sieu—USA Today Sports.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Carl Bradford (No. 54) by Benny Sieu—USA Today Sports.

Back in late June, when the Green Bay Packers were finishing organized team activities, fourth-round rookie linebacker Carl Bradford said he was aiming to make the teams who passed him up in the 2014 NFL draft regret the decision. 

Now three weeks into August, Bradford's new aim should be to simply make the Packers' 53-man roster. 

Draft picks from the fourth round almost always make Ted Thompson's Week 1 roster. Since Thompson took over in 2005, only a handful of picks from the fourth round or earlier have been cut before playing a regular season game in Green Bay.

Brian Brohm, a second-round pick in 2008, flamed out during his first camp and was released at final cuts. He re-signed to the practice squad a day later. The only other cut from the fourth round or earlier was receiver Cory Rodgers, a fourth-round pick in 2006 who was let go at final cut downs. He did not sign back to the practice squad. 

Bradford may join them. 

The Packers are as deep at outside linebacker as any position on the roster. And the reality of the situation is that Bradford hasn't done much of anything since camp opened, while others at the position have seized opportunities. 

Certainly, no player should be wrote off after 20 snaps over two exhibition games. That is especially true for a fourth-round pick at a premium position. Bradford still has two more game appearances and several more camp practices to make an impression and stick with the club. But the clock is ticking.

Of the nine outside linebackers Thompson and the Packers brought to camp, Bradford has probably been the least impressive.  

As of August 8th, Rob Demovsky's numbers on 1-on-1 pass-rushing drills have Bradford at just 1-4 overall, with a 29th ranking. Of the outside linebackers, only Nick Perry posted a worse block rating. The numbers haven't been updated in over 10 days, but nothing from camp over the last week and a half suggests Bradford has moved up the rankings. 

As a result, his early game opportunities have been limited. 

Bradford played just eight snaps against the Titans in the preseason opener. He didn't see the field until almost mid-way through the fourth quarter, and he played with mostly the fourth-string defense. In St. Louis, the rookie saw 12 snaps and registered one quarterback hurry, his first tangible impact on the pro game. However, Bradford's negative-1.1 preseason grade at Pro Football Focus is the worst among the outside linebackers. 

Overall, his 20 snaps from scrimmage rank second to last among drafted rookies during the preseason. Only Jeff Janis, who missed the exhibition opener, has fewer (16). On defense, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has played 63 snaps, while Demetri Goodson and Khyri Thornton have 52. 

The learning curve has been a steep one. 

An undersized 4-3 end at Arizona State, Bradford was believed to be powerful, instinctive and intelligent enough to make a quick transition to outside linebacker in Dom Capers' 3-4. But it's possible the position change has been as hard on Bradford as it once was on Ricky Elmore, a productive college defensive end who couldn't even make it out of training camp in Green Bay. Elmore was 6'5" and had 31" inch arms; Bradford is 6'1" with 30 1/4" arms. 

Pass-rushers Bradford's size have survived in the NFL, but it's more rare than commonplace. 

Other outside linebackers at Packers camp look better suited for Capers' defense. 

Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and Perry are locks at the position. Behind the top-four, two holdovers from 2013 and a couple of newcomers have outplayed Bradford. 

Andy Mulumba (30 snaps, three stops this preseason) played 361 snaps for the Packers defense last season. Battle-tested, he would be a difficult cut. Nate Palmer (39 snaps) is a core special teams player. He has run with the first-team coverage units for most of camp, which is a good sign he'll make the final 53-man roster. 

Undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard has played just 17 snaps, but he has a sack and a quarterback hurry. He also has the prototypical size (6'6") for the position, and he played in a three-man front while at Alabama. 

The darling of camp also hails from the linebacker position. Undrafted free agent Jayrone Elliott (13 snaps) has made flash plays during camp and in games. Against the Rams Saturday, Elliott tallied three sacks and a forced fumble—while playing just eight snaps. 

"He's just a young man that's really taken advantage of pretty much every opportunity he’s been given," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "I was excited to see him have success." 

Elliott, who stands 6'3" and has a wingspan of 82", spent his final collegiate season playing outside linebacker in the 3-4. If he makes a couple more plays in the final two preseason games, the Packers may have no other choice than to keep him. 

Competing philosophies are at play. The Packers are a draft-and-develop operation, built on drafting good football players and then developing them in the Green Bay system. But Thompson is also as accommodating to undrafted free agents as any general manager in football, and those college free agents who have stood out during past Augusts have typically been rewarded with a spot on the 53-man roster. 

This deep into training camp, it'd be impossible to argue Bradford has earned a spot on the roster over Mulumba, Palmer or Elliott, and Hubbard's size may be more appealing than Bradford's motor and instincts.

A team as deep as the Packers probably doesn't need to stash a project when others on the roster are more deserving of a place on the roster.

Bradford's saving grace might be a potential move to inside linebacker, where some believed he could be a better fit in the 3-4. But the Packers have made no indication that Bradford is anything but an edge player, and a position change this late in camp likely wouldn't help the rookie make the club. He'd be competing with intriguing backups Sam Barrington and Jamari Lattimore—plus productive undrafted free agent Joe Thomas—for even a brief sniff of the field. 

The numbers just don't add up.

On Aug. 19, Bradford might be considered the No. 9 outside linebacker on the Packers depth chart. Thompson isn't going to keep nine outside linebackers. He might not keep any more than six. 

The decision wouldn't be a fun one, but three weeks of camp and two preseason games has likely forced Thompson to entertain the idea of cutting a fourth-round draft pick later this month. He still has time, but Carl Bradford's case for making the Packers' opening roster isn't currently a strong one. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (52) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I have been hearing/seeing a lot of talk about Bradford and that he may not make the roster.
Just based on Thompson's history, I would have a hard time seeing him cutting a 4th round pick. Not saying it won't happen, especially with this new version of Thompson (signing 2 FA's, trading Worthy). I just would be surprised if they would.

That all being said, OLB cuts will be tough. If they keep 6 right now it would probably be Mathews, Peppers, Perry, Neal, Mulumba, and then one of the following Palmer/Elliot/Bradford/Hubbard.

Evan's picture

Last year they kept 5 OLB (counting Neal) and 5 ILB.

The locks I see are:

OLB
Matthews
Peppers
Neal
Perry

ILB
Jones
Hawk
Lattimore
Barrington

Hubbard is not making the team. So, if they keep 10 total LBs again, it's 2 spots for Mulumba/Palmer/Elliot/Bradford.

But maybe if they keep 1 less DL (6 instead of 7) this year that opens up a spot for Bradford.

Stroh's picture

The Packers won't keep 7 DL that's for sure. But why would that extra spot go to Bradford. He's done nothing to earn it. I said right after he was drafted that I didn't think he would be a good OLB. I did think he had a chance at ILB, but I never thought he was nearly as good as most did. If he was going to be given a chance at ILB they should have started him there. His position, at least for now is OLB and there are way to many ahead of him on the depth chart to justify keeping him over other young players that have done more.

Being a 4th rd pick isn't saving Bradford. Cut him and try to get him on the PS and change him to ILB is his only shot in GB. Or release him and move on. Admitting a mistake isn't a bad thing. Keeping Bradford on the roster would be compounding a bad mistake.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, i only see them keeping 6 DL this year, so that would free up one more space for a LB.

I agree with your locks.

I think Hubbard will go to the PS. I think they like his potential, and he just needs to be developed.

If they did 5 ILB - I think Joe Thomas would be the 5th.
If they keep 6 OLB - Then it would be 2 out of Mulumba/Palmer/Elliot/Bradford.

lebowski's picture

Ted has really struggled drafting defensive players in the higher rounds. Way too many flame-outs and underwhelming situational players.

COW's picture

Keeping Bradford would be a bad message to send.

Keep the best players.
Period.

Shoulda' moved him inside on day 1.

Cow's 53...

(3) QB Rodgers Flynn Tolzein
(3) RB Lacy Starks Harris
(1) FB Kuhn
(3) OT Bakhtiari Bulaga Sherrod
(3) OG Sitton Lang Taylor
(2) OC Tretter Linsley
(4) TE Rodgers Bostic Taylor Quarless
(6) WR Nelson Cobb Boykin Adams Janis White

(2) DT Raji Pennel
(4) DE D.Jones Daniels Boyd Thornton
(4) ILB Hawk B.Jones Lattimore Barrington
(6) OLB Matthews Peppers Perry Neal Mulumba Palmer
(5) CB Shields Williams Hayward House Bush
(4) S Clinton-Dix Burnett Hyde Richardson

(1) LS Goode
(1) P Masthay
(1) K Crosby

PUP Guion

IR Lyerla

PS Rolle Elliott Neal Thomas Perillo
Goodson Hubbard Adams Dorsey Bradford

COW's picture

If the only keep 2 qb's then 1 player from Rolle/Elliott/Bradford makes the team.

Duke Divine's picture

Just take Bradford right off this list and lets say Elliot/Rolle make the team if only 2 QBs stick.

Duke Divine's picture

Just take Bradford right off this list and lets say Elliot/Rolle make the team if only 2 QBs stick.

COW's picture

Perry shouldn't be a lock, but he is.

COW's picture

Someone will be hurt be week 6, opening up a spot for Guion... a fat - body for when the weather gets bad.

Evan's picture

I think...yeah, I agree completely.

Elliott is hard to cut...but it's so close between him and Palmer, imo.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I almost completely agree on your 53.

The only player on your 53 that I'm unsure would be Myles White. Has he earned a spot on the 53? If he played more on special teams I could see it.

So if they removed him do they add 1 more OLB? Do they maybe add Banjo instead of White? Banjo does more on special teams.

BradHTX's picture

Great post, Cow -- I completely agree, but like others I wonder if Myles White is really a lock, and also, I'm just going to throw this out there… If Bostick (injury aside) and Rodgers are as good as they seem to be, is there a chance that Quarless gets released?

Evan's picture

I think Quarless is about a 65% chance to make the team at the moment...hardly a guarantee, but not quite on the "bubble."

Here's a question: who is more likely to make the team at the moment, Quarless or Taylor?

As for White, it's a good question. Personally, if it's a matter of White vs, say, Elliott, I'd go with Elliott in a heartbeat.

For that matter, if it's Ryan Taylor or Elliott, I'd go with Elliott.

COW's picture

Only reason I put white on there is because I don't think he has any practice squad eligibility left and the rest of those guys do. I'm not afraid of losing guys to other teams while trying to get them on the practice squad. for a team to steal a guy he would have to be placed on their 53 man roster (I think). I have a hard time believing that a team would take a guy like Elliott and put them on their 53 sight-unseen.

I think Taylor is more of a lock than quarless and I think bostic's injury helps quarless' cause tremendously.

Evan's picture

I think the 53-man requirement is only once the season starts and said player is a member of another team's PS.

In the immediate aftermath of final cuts, players are free to sign with any team's PS. That would be the worry.

(I'm pretty sure that's right.)

Stroh's picture

That's correct Evan. After cuts players are FA and can sign w/ any teams 53 roster, then I think w/in a day or 2 the PS guys can be signed by any team. Say Elliot were cut. Would a team sign him to their 53 roster immediately? Generally unlikely, since they haven't seen them. If the player clears waivers and can sign on another teams PS they are generally more likely to keep the guys they had in camp, since they are familiar w/ them.

Has Elliot put enough on film for other teams to claim him? Maybe, but like I said, teams will generally stick w/ players they know. Its not as hard as most think to get a player to the PS. The problem comes in when injuries happen weeks later and a team has a weakness at OLB. Then they might be more likely to claim someone like Elliot.

GoldFinger's picture

Elliott is almost a lock at this point to make the team. Great article by Bob McGinn on Elliott. All the scouts he talked too are salivating over this guy. He'll be gone in a millisecond if they release him.

As for Bradford, shit happens. It's a numbers game and it's hit and miss. I don't blame the legendary Teddy Tee if Bradford doesn't work out because he will always hit on few free agents. This year it's without a doubt Pennel and Elliott. As long as the guys he keeps are the best 53 that's all that matters. Ted will take the flack if they are a higher or mid draft pick, he's a big boy. The record is all that matters and nobody does it better than Ted. Makes me feel kind of sad for the rest.

Evan's picture

I don't know about Elliott being a lock...over whom? Palmer or Mulumba?

GoldFinger's picture

Over both of them. It's going to be real hairy on those final spots. That's why I believe firmly that if it comes to getting rid of a Mulumba or Elliott, they'll cut Flynn and keep Tolzein. No way do they have the luxury or room with such a loaded talented roster to keep 3 active qb's. I just don't see it. Flynn becomes expendable in my opinion. If they can fit all three qb's more power too them but if they do someone really really good is going to be cut and picked up.

Evan's picture

I don't know about Flynn over Tolzien - but it's a good broader point. Keeping a 3rd QB can/will really hamstring other positions.

GoldFinger's picture

I know Evan. That backup qb is such a tough call. It could go either way. I am just trying to look at it from how Ted Thompson thinks in my mind. I think he'll pick Tolzein because Ted is mostly a long term thinker with most of his decisions. Tolzein has clearly taken off with his knowledge of the offense. Flynn is Flynn. Safe is the word used to describe him and it's an appropriate one. Yes, we all feel safer with Flynn. He knows the offense, he can function if need be but he never has taken his play to that next level. He's as good now as he'll ever get. He was the same here three years ago.

Tolzein on the other hand appears to have caught up with Flynn. People feel less "safe" with him because he's more of a risk taker like Favre with his stronger arm. He's also younger than Flynn and his chances of going to another team are much higher than Flynn who's chances have all but vanished after failed stops in Sea, Oak, and Buffalo. (We can get him anytime if need be if he's cut guaranteed)

Ted is never one to play things safe. When people are looking left, he's looking right. In my opinion, if it comes down to qb's Ted will choose Tolzein over Flynn because he's younger, has a higher ceiling and at this point can win games just as much as Flynn can. Ted usually goes with the younger cheaper guy if everything is about equal. I say they are pretty much both equal. Just my opinion, I could be wrong. Either way, it's going to be one exciting end this year with the cuts.

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

Goldfinger, I pretty much agree with you. I personally hope GB keeps Tolzein. This is my Badger Red speaking now. Scott thrilled me too many times at WI, to see him go anywhere. I know he is a Good QB. I'm glad he is in GB, & hope he stays here for a long time. I also believe he is a better Over-All QB than Flynn. LVT

COW's picture

If (God forbid) Rodgers went down in the first 1/2 of the game against Seattle, who would you want coming out of the tunnel the start the second 1/2?

Give me Flynn.

GoldFinger's picture

I would take Elway myself but that's just me.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I we can pick anyone I pick Montana...

Tundraboy's picture

Did not realize until I saw your post how much I am sick of hearing the word hamstring!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"they'll cut Flynn and keep Tolzein (sic)"

Why, because he throws the ball hard with mediocre results? Tolzien is going to have to put the ball in the endzone a few times if he wants to beat out Flynn.

GoldFinger's picture

Jeremy and Cow, I get the feeling one or both of you actually have not watched any of the preseason games. Tolzein has been on fire for the most part if you've been watching. He is ascending and has matched or surpassed Flynn this year. What's this with points in the end zone? He handed the ball off to Rajion Neal and he scored. If he doesn't hand off he probably passes for a td. He actually had a nice td pass that was called back due to a penalty.

You guys are basing most of your opinions on last year when he was basically a rookie with two weeks learning the system. He's had an entire offseason and it's showing. He's already at Flynn's level in one year. It took Flynn 7 years to get where he's at. Do the math and project Tolzein's continued growth. I listened to Harry Sydney 4 time super bowl fullback for SF who knows a thing or two about quarterbacks playing with Joe Montana and Brett Favre. He also likes Tolzein. Just sayin.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

If "on fire" means can't score then I'll pass.

Please don't tell me what I'm basing my opinion on. I've watched both games and I see exactly the same thing I saw last year. A guy who can make some plays in the middle of the field because of his decent arm, but who so far in the NFL has failed in or near the redzone where there is less space because he lacks anticipation and timing. Flynn has proven he can score points and win games in the NFL, Tolzien has not. Scoring points and winning games is the goal for a QB in the NFL, everything else is just a metric.

Stroh's picture

Completely agree Jeremy. Everyone thinks Tolzien has closed the gap on Flynn, but all he does is move the ball. Unfortunately, he doesn't score when he moves it. Until that changes, Tolzien well behind Flynn. Points and wins are the only stats that matter for QB's and Tolzien hasn't proven he can do either. Others talk about his potential, but he's been in the NFL long enough that the "P" word has run its course. Tolzien has to score points... Period!

His better arm and athleticism aren't helping him do it. For all Flynn's alleged weaknesses, he scores and wins!

Tom Legener's picture

If Elliot gets any more good film there is no way they can sneak him onto the practice squad. I see them keeping only 2 QB's, most likely letting Tolzien go because they feel secure with Flynn.
Then again, I have to wonder if Kuhn's days are numbered as they are for most fullbacks in the NFL. That opens a spot.

That said, I wish I learned how to long snap as a yute.

GoldFinger's picture

Good point on Kuhn Tom. He's also a wild card in this game of who stays and who goes.

In regards to Elliott. Yes, in the McGinn article it almost sounded like the Packers were purposely keeping Elliott's snap counts low hoping to put him on the practice squad but Elliott screwed that up in a hurry by getting 3 sacks in 4 plays. lol. No more hiding him now. He's a lock to make the team now in my opinion.

This is what makes this time of year fun. You think they'll keep Flynn and I think they'll keep Tolzein. Two more weeks of debates on this.

Duke Divine's picture

Time for Tinkering Ted to swallow hard and make the tough cut. Bradford needs to be cut. Elliot, Mulumba, and Palmer have outplayed him exponentially. It shouldn't matter what round he was drafted in unless your more concerned with saving face rather than keeping your best 53. I have confidence Tinkering Ted will do the right thing!

GoldFinger's picture

Duke, I think "Tinkering Ted" lol as you call him will in fact cut Bradford and he'll be safe on the practice squad. He has no other choice at this point. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to see TT working the phones trying to get some of these surplus OLB's and WR's a new home for some more draft picks before cut down time like he did with Worthy.

As for Ted saving face, trust me, he has the keys to the city of Green Bay. He can do what he wants. If people don't trust in him by now they are insane. Ted is all about winning and keeping the team young and competitive. He will not hesitate to cut a high draft pick if they are not performing or someone is better. Yes, Tinkering Ted ALWAYS does the right thing. I sleep very well at night knowing Teddy T is working 24/7 for my Green Bay Packers. Rest easy Duke Divine.

Duke Divine's picture

i hope "Tinkering Ted" will stick around here. Seems to be getting warmer regards than my other stand by "Mashed Potato Mike."

Imma Fubared's picture

But its draft and development, draft and development...............
Problem is all our North Competition are acquiring talent, good talent via the draft and free agency. This year, draft and development may sink this team. Too may guys are not developing and are just average, not playmakers is in most of our defensive backfield.

4thand1's picture

They also pick higher in the draft every year..........DUH. you suck.

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

I predict James Jones gets a Standing Ovation on Saturday, & WELL DESERVED. LVT

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

I predict James Jones gets a Standing Ovation on Friday, & WELL DESERVED!! LVT

Icebowler's picture

Don't be shocked if Perry gets traded to a 4-3 team before the final cuts. I'd like to see us acquire a veteran T/G backup to replace Barclay if Ted can find one.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

That's not a bad idea. I'm sure Perry would be fine with it. I'd even take a mid draft pick.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I'm not saying get rid of Bradford,but I'm also not saying he's a lock. Either he HAS to be showing "something" in camp/practice to the coaches or he HAS to REALLY stand out in these last few preseason games (and not against the scrubs).

I know an NFL season is long and no one knows when Injuries will occur.

I'm thinking back to that (playoff) 49ers loss and picturing Mulumba limping trying to catch Kap on a clutch 3rd down.

SMH -- UGH. We need more than just 1-2 QB hunters.

Stroh's picture

The way I see it is, if he was doing more in practice he would be getting a lot more playing time in the preseason and we wouldn't be having this discussion about Bradford having to show something at the last minute. I haven't read that he's made any plays in practice, but for example I have heard Elliot making some plays in practice (as well as games).

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The rule change that expanded the number of PS spots also changed eligibility standards, meaning that Mulumba, Banjo, Stoneburner, and Lane Taylor are all eligible now for the PS. Not sure if this changes your thinking, COW, as to your predictions for the 53 man roster and PS. Source:

http://www.packersnews.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/insidersblog/2014/08...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I guess I would have to think about trying to keep Banjo on PS because he is a nice little player, good on STs, and adequate in the field, if not having much of a ceiling (and maybe Stoneburner as opposed to Perillo, too - coaches decision in my book). It might well be that these players would get scooped up by another team, or the player might think another team is a better fit for them. For example, Dorsey might think that going with another team might be better than being the 7th (or 8th WR when Abbrederis comes back next year).

Allan Murphy's picture

their is still two weeks preseason left things happen .

Jeff Hayes's picture

That's right Allan and things will happen its football. All couch GM's crack me up I bet most of them never been to a practice to watch these young men play, so how can they evaluate them? Must be from what they read! Bottom line is Ted and Mike know what their doing and they will keep the best players for the future of this team and some times that may mean someone that is not performing well at the moment but they see potential from them down the road. That means letting go of players that are performing well but are injury prone and a high risk to the team. Its the way things are done plain and simple!

Jeff Hayes's picture

I like how everyone just gives up on Bradford smfh! How can you all form an opinion with him taking less than 20 snaps in 2 games? I say play the kid for at least a half and let him perform some then make a opinion on his play but until I see him fall flat on his face I think the young man should be treated like a 4th round draft pick!!! As for Hubbard if he would stop thinking he is God's gift to football and get his head out of the clouds then maybe he will start playing football. If anyone gets cut it will be him.

COW's picture

My reasoning is this...

He must be pretty crappy in practice to have only earned 20 snaps in 2 games.

GoldFinger's picture

I do agree with Cow on this one. Hate to say it and he needs to really show something tomorrow but it appears to me that Bradford could be another Jamal "Too Small" Reynolds. Great in college but he's getting eaten up by bigger guys in the NFL. I hope he proves me wrong. Tomorrow is his last time to prove it.

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