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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 (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RCPackerFan'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.

RCPackerFan'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.

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.

Evan's picture

I think...yeah, I agree completely.

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

RCPackerFan'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.

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.)

Evan's picture

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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