Change of Coordinators, Philosophy Doesn't Faze Packers' Kentrell Brice

The Green Bay Packers didn't address the safety position via last month's draft, and that's probably because the in-house players on the roster didn't give them a reason to.

Outside of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett—and with rookie Josh Jones playing almost exclusively in the box as a linebacker—the Packers relied heavily on Kentrell Brice as an interchangeable asset in 2017.

Prior to being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury in November, Brice played six games and registered three defended passes and an interception—the first of his regular-season career—as a second-year undrafted defensive back out of Louisiana Tech.

Relying on his health isn't going to make-or-break the Packers' secondary in Brice's third season, however, with Burnett now in Pittsburgh and Jones' comfort levels evidently right where they need to be in the box as opposed to strong safety, Brice's presence would seem critical.

"I've just been focusing on myself," Brice said to Zachary Jacobson of CheeseheadTV.com on Friday. "I'm just trying to make myself an all-around player, whether it's covering a receiver, lining up in the box or playing deep, so whatever I'm asked to do, I can do it with no problem."

Brice embodied the exact definition of "all-around" in 2017, playing in his primary safety position, in the box as a linebacker and even as a nickel cornerback in the slot. He was a subtle "do-it-all" utility player who offered instinct and IQ far superior to most undrafted safeties of his caliber.

Since being part of the Packers' post-draft undrafted free agent haul in May 2016, Brice's abilities have been put to the test in former defensive coordinator Dom Capers' system. His successor, Mike Pettine, will now get a chance to see what he has in Green Bay's defensive backfield.

"I'm extremely excited. I've seen things that he's done before with the Jets' defense, with the Cleveland Browns' defense. I've seen things he's done watching on film every day, from the schematic things they've done. They create a lot of turnovers, they play very well.

"It's very exciting to be able to come into something new -- to buy into it -- and to try and elevate your game more and more."

The sudden shift in philosophy—or, maybe not so sudden after Capers' nine-year tenure in Green Bay—is nothing new to Brice, whose coordinator experience in college was nowhere near the realm of consistent or familiar.

In Brice's four collegiate seasons with the Bulldogs, he played under four different coordinators. One was fired after his freshman season while his sophomore and junior year coordinators left to pursue other jobs, leaving Brice's safeties coach to be promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015.

The lack of continuity could be a significant reason as to why Brice went undrafted, even despite his daunting Pro Day numbers.

His 4.4 40-yard dash, 42-inch vertical jump and 4.4 20-yard shuttle time have all translated into extended playing time at the professional level, regardless of where his draft stock landed him.

At the NFL's annual spring meetings last month, coach Mike McCarthy said that Brice is expected to compete for a starting job and potentially even handle communication duties, a responsibility that was carried out by Burnett last season.

Other than the fact that playing for Capers in 2017 marked the first time Brice served under the same coordinator for more than a single year since 2012, the hiring of Pettine offers an outlook into the future -- a modernized future. A modernized future that players—including Brice—are truly elated for.

"I feel the energy in the room because it's something new and you're always excited about something new," Brice said. "If you're not excited about something new that has its rewards that come with it once you buy into it, then I feel like something would be wrong with that. We're all excited about that.

"We all know it's a competition we're going to be in -- and we all embrace competition. ... We just want to continue to upgrade and continue to get better and better."

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (12)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 12, 2018 at 12:07 am

I like Brice and he's got the capabilities needed of the position. But if he abandons his responsibilities in coverage even 1/3 as much in 2018 as he did in 2017, I expect he will not be a Packer in 2019.

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Tundraboy's picture

May 12, 2018 at 01:13 am

Brief and to the point.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 12, 2018 at 02:15 am

bring the wood Kentrell!

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TheVOR's picture

May 12, 2018 at 08:21 am

Its what I like about this player, we haven't seen a willing to hit like this since Chuck Cecil. That hit he laid on Cole Beasley was a monster. Was a bit unfortunate with a slight head clash.

Not sure how they're going to enforce this new rule. Case in point was that hit on Beasley, Brice made a very athletic play to even get back into position, being a bit off balance, and made that play. If you watch both players, they both semi unintentionally clashed helmets. Brice was clearly trying to hit him with a shoulder, but because of player movement and positioning, what resulted was something a little different.

Really like Brice, decent player, he'll fit in this defense well.

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MITM's picture

May 13, 2018 at 01:48 am

Im too young to to remember Chuck Cecil, but ive seen a few of his hits on youtube. As long as I have been watching though we have been pretty starved of big hitter, not that its a necessity at all- but it certainly is nice to have a tone setter.

Ive really never seen any Packer lay a hit like Brice did on Beasley. Sharper was a good hitter, Desmond Bishop was a big hitter, Atari Bigby. Rooting for Brice to stick around.

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MITM's picture

May 13, 2018 at 09:00 am

Stop giving me thumbs down DAD

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Coldworld's picture

May 13, 2018 at 03:51 pm

Bigby kept getting injured in part because of his style. I do wonder whether Bryce can sustain his physical style as a starter, should he become one

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MITM's picture

May 13, 2018 at 09:22 pm

Yea that is true, and Brice is a much slighter build than Bigby was as well. You really dont see many, if any safeties Brice's size that can unleash on someone the way he can. Its a gift

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dobber's picture

May 15, 2018 at 09:26 am

I think you hit on a good point: players will have to figure out how to be physical without taking foolish penalties, and without endangering their own earning power (read: fines and suspensions) and ability to stay on the field. They need to do this in an era where tackling is as poor as it has ever been. If anything, I worry that we'll end up seeing good, physical football players end up playing tentatively, making mistakes, and further diminishing the quality of on-field play.

I think we've seen the end of the true enforcer in the NFL. It's really been legislated out of football...which is sad. Fast is the new physical: defenders need to play fast. Not really new, but the lay-the-wood plays we love to see are going to be fewer and further between.

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Charlu19's picture

May 13, 2018 at 03:48 am

Cole Beasley had his CD release party today at my place of employment and had a highlight vignette playing on a loop for an hour leading up to it. One of the plays was where Brice just lit him up and crushed his soul. It made me happy to be a Packer fan even when surrounded by Zeke Elliott, Dak Prescott, David Irving, Dez Bryant cheering on their boy. It made me laugh. Oh, Travis Frederick was there as well, but I still don't think of him as a Cowboy. He's too cool for that.

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Chris Vachio's picture

May 13, 2018 at 07:34 pm

To be fair, everyone in the back end of the defense abandoned their coverage responsibilities last year with alarming regularity. I like Brice's attitude and skills. Whether with him or someone else, I think we'll be in good hands.

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dobber's picture

May 15, 2018 at 09:29 am

It seemed to me that virtually no one was ever really sure about what they should be doing. Whether that was lack of preparedness, communication, leadership...who knows? We still can't seem to figure out what happened on that infamous TD in the Bears game that led to Randall's benching...even with PLAYERS and COACHES commenting on it, no one can agree.

It's gotta get better than this...

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