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Cory's Corner: Ted Thompson is gambling on Carl Bradford

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Cory's Corner: Ted Thompson is gambling on Carl Bradford

Carl Bradford is shaping up to be an enigma wrapped up in a riddle and tied with a mystery.

The Packers drafted Bradford in the fourth round in 2014 with the hopes that Bradford would be able to use his high-energy as an edge rusher.

That never happened. In fact, he never gave the coaching staff enough confidence to play him at all last year.

So, that elicited a change. Bradford will now be playing inside linebacker with hopes of grasping the position and its concepts just to get on the field.

“Right now, just to know the defense inside and out,” said Bradford. "That's my main thing and main focus, to get this defense down like the back of my hand. Then it will fall in place from there.”

There’s also the tiny hurdle of trying to outplay guys like Clay Matthews, Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan. Matthews may have only played 28.5 percent of the time at inside linebacker last year but he totaled 8½ sacks. Barrington started seven games last year at inside linebacker and showed promise. Then there’s Ryan, who was drafted in the fourth round from Michigan, but has the same look and tendencies of a young A.J. Hawk.

This is Bradford’s last stand. It was proven that he couldn’t play outside linebacker. He couldn’t generate enough of a pass rush, rendering his play futile.

But inside linebacker and outside linebacker aren’t the same. Inside linebacker is played between the ears. You’re expected to be the quarterback of the defense by knowing formations and lineups while also throwing your hat in the middle and preventing a consistent running game.

However, outside linebacker is played with instincts. Know your opponent and understand how to beat him. It’s more of a seek and destroy position.

That may be a tough transition for a guy that luckily found a spot on the team last year.

If not for general manager Ted Thompson throwing his mid-round pick a life raft with one of the last spots on the 53-man roster, Bradford would probably be having the same battle with a different team.

“The inside linebackers make the play,” said Bradford before the 2015 draft. “They try to get the whole defense hyped up. With my attitude and how I play on the field it fits in perfect with getting the defense together and going to get three-and-outs. When I play with that fire, it’s something where I don’t even realize it. It just clicks. And that position allows me to be in charge basically of the defense and have those guys feed off my energy.”

Having energy is great. It can be infectious on a defense — especially when you’ll be asked to be a leader. But it doesn’t do much good if you don’t have the mental part down.

He’s got to study game tape with defensive coordinator Dom Capers by trying to understand opponents’ tendencies.

Thompson took a chance by not only retaining Bradford when it was aware that he couldn’t play the position that he was drafted for. But then deciding to make 2014 a redshirt year was an interesting move.

Bradford has similar measurables to recently retired 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. A lack of size doesn’t stand in the way of a huge heart.

But if Bradford cannot figure it out, Thompson’s gamble will be a bust. 


Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Guisado's picture

Cory, thanks for the article. Bradford is going to be one of the more interesting players this camp. Because he's such an unknown. As I recall Bradford's move to inside actually came in week 4 of the preseason last year. It was so clear after 3 weeks that he wasn't going to be a NFL OLB, that he had to be moved to justify a spot on the 53. So he had a full season to learn ILB. In the final weeks of the season, they had some opportunities to get him reps but didn't. They continued to give those to Barrington, who took good advantage. But TT didn't add real depth to the ILB position. So, that suggests he expects Bradford to make that next step in spite of his lack of playing time. We'll see. As you said, it appears to be quite a gamble, at least for those of us who don't get to watch practices.

Jeff Hayes's picture

McCarthy also stated Bradford stayed in town all year and studied during the off-season and he fully expects him to take the next step, so for him to even say that he must like what he seen from him during this time, also by Thompson waiting until the fourth round to even address the linebacker position it tells me they were not worried.

The TKstinator's picture

Thank you Cory.
Bradford is the guy I commented on yesterday in another thread. If he can blend his "hair on fire" style of play with knowing just what the heck he's doing out there, it could turn out pretty well.
If not, GB has other options at ILB.

Tarynfor12's picture

A nice article Cory and well done.

Since we have hit the time of season that is slow or at times standing still,I'll attempt to stir the pot a little with some thoughts on Carl Bradford's thoughts as posted in the article.

“The inside linebackers make the play,”
Though he has yet to do so

“They try to get the whole defense hyped up."
Perhaps eliminating the 'try to' would be convincing.

"With my attitude and how I play on the field it fits in perfect"...
Absolute unproven with self back slapping.

"When I play with that fire, it’s something where I don’t even realize it. It just clicks."
Professes inconsistency and needs a cliche' to draw attention away from it.

"And that position allows me to be in charge basically of the defense and have those guys feed off my energy.”
Even if my on switch appears broken.

I understand that positive thinking is necessary for a player,but it needs to be witnessed via the production/growth of that player and Bradford needs to put much on the field in these preseason games.
Keeping fingers crossed as always.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Taryn, you stated exactly what I was thinking while reading the article. He had a 15, which is average,on the Wonderlic, and his ability to play fast "intelligently" is what will determine whether he makes the roster or not.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Well done, Taryn, and amusing, so you get my thumbs up. At least he didn't say he had taken up yoga, martial arts, ballet, tiddlywinks, or whatever myriad of stuff that has been suggested before by other players to distract from their various underwhelming performances. Instead, he read the play book. What a great idea!

KenEllis's picture

Great article.

Could not agree more about Bradford in particular and the entire ILB crew in general being a huge question mark.

However, even though Clay may not play the position too often, Barrington lacks experience and Bradford & Ryan are unknown commodities, I still feel a lot better about the position than I did a year ago at this time.

Last year the "top" three players at ILB were Hawk, B. Jones, and Lattimore. Yuck. Not only were they terrible, but in the case of the first two they were also old and expensive.

At least there is hope with the youngsters trying to make their mark.

aaronqb's picture

Thompson redshirts players every year. It's part of the draft and develop process. The question is whether he redshirted the right guys. TT put Jumal Rolle on the practice squad and Rolle was subsequently nabbed by the Texans where he got 3 INTs last year. It would have been nice to have Rolle in the mix this year.

Time will tell if keeping Bradford was the right move.

Nick Perry's picture

TT should have kept Rolle and put Goodson on the PS. Rolle got snatched up after showing something in the preseason. I really doubt Goodson would have been claimed off the PS last year after his preseason showing.

Jersey Al's picture


100% agree with that Nick. However, our secondary is in fine shape and it doesn't matter much at this point.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Goodson actually contributed on Special Teams. I don't recall Bradford getting in the field in that sad mess in spite of his body type.

BRinMilwaukee's picture

The only reason Bradford is in a Packers uniform is because we invested a 4th round pick on the guy. If he'd have been an UFA, he'd have been long gone. I like that he stayed around in the off-season. It shows commitment.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The only reason(s) Bradford is still here are due to his 4th rd draft status and that GB played him out of position. IMO, of course. We shall see if he can play ILB this year. Thanks, the great, sometimes goofy, reynoldo.

Handsback's picture

I may be wrong but isn't Harrison from the Steelers the same size as Bradford? It took him 3 to 4 years to make it work. Right now I could see Palmer playing ahead of Bradford. It may take some added speed/strength development for Bradford to become the starter.

Oppy's picture

"Size" isn't the question- in Carl Bradford's case, arm length was the metric that the GB coaches think proved to be his hurdle to playing OLB at the NFL level.

What is Harrison's wingspan in comparison to Bradford's?

PackerAaron's picture

Good stuff Cory.

One note - Bradford actually made the switch to ILB at the end of camp last year and looked pretty decent in the limited time we got to see him. Why the coaches didn't make the switch sooner is beyond me.

But I absolutely agree with your overall take.

Cory Jennerjohn's picture

Thanks Aaron.

RCPackerFan's picture

I don't know why they waited so long to make the switch either. It shouldn't have taken till the final week to see he was going to be a better fit at ILB then OLB.
Actually during the draft a lot of scouts projected Bradford to ILB. They said he would be a more natural fit there then OLB in the NFL. In the 1 week he played at ILB he looked a lot better then he did the 3 weeks at OLB.

He will be interesting to watch this year.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Full Disclosure: I loved the Bradford pick (but I never thought he could play OLB - I assumed he would be moved to ILB). It is not unusual for TT to redshirt a player. The scouts all said that Bradford played with exceptional energy, "like his hair was on fire." That is a good thing, not a negative. That said, all of Cory's comments are true except one: Bradford's measurables are better than Borland's.

Ht:Wt/Arm: 40:, 20: 10: Rep Vert Broad shuttle 3 cone
6'1" 250 30.25 4.71 2.7 1.66 23 37.5 122 4.30 7.25
5'11" 248 29.25 4.78 2.7 1.65 27 31.0 114 4.27 7.18

What do measurables mean? More than a warm bucket of piss but they don't come close to meaning that the prospect will be able to play in the NFL. I will find out in September if I have to eat internet crow over my support for drafting Bradford ( good grief, I hope it doesn't come earlier!).

Suggestion to Cheesehead: at some point re-run Mike's (IIRC) article on which measurables have any predictive qualities of success in the NFL. Great article.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I've been looking high and low for James Harrison's combine results.

Idiot Fan's picture

I believe that Harrison bounced around on a couple different PS's (including twice on the Steelers', I think) before becoming good. There's a decent chance that he wasn't invited to the combine.

DrealynWilliams's picture

That makes sense. I just wanted to compare the results and size between them two.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Good luck with finding measurables on James Harrison. The Pittsburgh blog couldn't find any either. Here is the link to that blog:

DrealynWilliams's picture

I find it funny how some of you expect such immediate results from late round picks.

Geoff Ackley's picture

Late round? Since when is the fourth round a late round? LOL!

RCPackerFan's picture

There used to be this term with the draft they used. What was it. Oh yeah. 'Draft and Develop'. Way to many forget the 'and Develop' part.

Not every player is ready to come in and start immediately. And that includes all picks.

Perfect example. Aaron Rodgers. He was not very good his rookie year. It took him about 2-3 years before he developed.

Different players develop at different rates. Way to many people are way to quick to call a player a bust after his rookie year. Hell a lot are ready to call a player a bust before the preseason games are finished.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

TT essentially red-shirted Janis, Goodson, and Bradford last year. IR saved TT from having to decide on a few more. Personally, I'd say if 2 out of 3 turn out to be roster-worthy this year, that would be a very good %.

Too early to say about 2015. Seems likely that TT will give Hundley a red shirt year though.

greengold's picture had Carl Bradford ranked as the #4 LB in the entire 2014 draft, and the #52nd ranked player regardless of position out of over 2000 players.

I watched Carl Bradford during his years at ASU, my alma matter, and this guy is phenomenal. He has a game that is most similar to Clay Matthews. Relentless. All-out. Very high instincts. Incredible power. Able to tackle, pressure, sack and cover. His numbers were on par or better than all of the top 5 ILB prospects in the 2015 draft.

The redshirt year was necessary. Dom wanted him to know his defense. I think he starts at ILB in 2015, and fans will love him. He's the Tasmanian devil in the middle of our D. He will make a ton of plays.

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