Kentrell Brice Will See Expanded Role in Packers Secondary

Kentrell Brice is ready to play a much bigger role for the Packers defense in 2017. 

Throughout the offseason, the Green Bay Packers have focused on improving their secondary, but one player that will make a bigger impact in the defensive backfield this season is Kentrell Brice.

Brice came to the Packers as a rookie free agent last offseason and immediately opened the eyes of the coaching staff with his size, speed and knack for hard hitting.

A big focus has been revamping the team’s nickel defense, especially with the selection of Josh Jones, but Brice, another versatile DB, will also play a role in the Packers new-look nickel and dime packages.

There is no doubt, based on personnel moves and direct quotes from head coach Mike McCarthy, as well as others on the coaching staff, that there is a new plan for sub packages. No longer, will Green Bay try to hide run-stopping linebackers on obvious passing downs.

That means that guys like Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez will likely see their playing time decrease, which will open the door for guys like Brice to play a more significant role.

The biggest change the Packers appear ready to make is at inside linebacker in obvious passing situations. Jones, the second-round pick from N.C. State has both the size and speed to be a sub-package linebacker, as does Morgan Burnett, who saw snaps at linebacker a season ago.

Green Bay is making a conscious effort to get more defensive backs on the field and with the direction of today’s NFL, it’s a smart move to make.

The key though, is finding defensive backs that are big enough and physical enough to hold up against the run, while also being able to match up in coverage against tight ends, receivers and running backs.

In Jones, Burnett and in my opinion, Brice, the Packers have those kinds of players. And in my estimation, there will be plenty of times this season when we will see Green Bay deploy four safeties on the field.

It would not be a surprise at all to see Jones and Burnett lined up as inside linebackers frequently in the nickel defense, especially in passing situations. That should lead to Brice seeing more snaps as a traditional safety, where he would play alongside Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Last season, Brice played in all 16 games and started one. He finished with 16 tackles, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. He also proved to be an effective player on special teams and should be a core player in the kicking game again in 2017. 

However, the second-year man from Louisiana Tech should see more snaps from scrimmage. He is 5-11, 200 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.4. He’s also a physical player and in addition to playing safety, could also see time in a big nickel package as Micah Hyde did in the past.

Damarious Randall, if he doesn’t start outside, will likely be the top slot corner. However, the rotation could be similar to the way it was when the Packers still had Casey Hayward and Hyde.

Hayward was stronger in coverage and tended to play the nickel spot in passing situations. Hyde, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. He’s a great tackler and knows how to find the ball, but always struggled in coverage. Therefore, he would play nickel on early downs, offering run support. 

Brice and Randall could be used in much the same way. Randall is obviously the better cover guy, but Brice offers the kind of physicality that the Packers have lacked in recent years. Thus, he can help in the run game without being a huge liability in coverage.

The one thing we know for sure, is that the secondary has undergone some big changes and one of those changes will be the safeties playing a bigger role and not just on third downs, but first and second as well.

Jones, Burnett and Clinton-Dix are the three that will make the biggest impact, but Brice will have a role too and here’s guessing that the second-year pro will play it quite well.  

 

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Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Comments (30)

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ShanghaiKid's picture

June 08, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I'm excited to see what he can with game experience from last year, and an off-season to work on his craft. The guy can lay the wood. The overall speed on D would increase significantly If he, King, and Jones can see the field regularly. A lot of ifs, but also a lot of potential.

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TheVOR's picture

June 11, 2017 at 10:32 am

Look, you nailed it. Nobody has laid the wood like this dude since Chuck Cecil, the assasin. I can't wait to see this dude play this year. The biggest concern with a player like this is him concussing himself! Dude hits like a freight train, and I love watching it. Big hits like that take players (mentally) out of the game. Love this player potential. He's a wrecking machine!

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dobber's picture

June 11, 2017 at 10:40 am

Chuck Cecil couldn't play in today's NFL. Look at Calvin Pryor: he's in that same vein, and he can't cover enough to let his physical play work on the field. The changes in rules have put enforcers on the bench unless they can run and cover...and even then, they'd better be careful. Cecil would be an ST player in today's NFL and not much more.

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stockholder's picture

June 08, 2017 at 01:00 pm

Very Nice article. The more talent in the secondary, The better. I hope he can continue the jump.

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BPEARSON21's picture

June 08, 2017 at 01:23 pm

Our secondary is an absolute dumpster fire. I don't understand why people are so terrified to admit it.

I hope more than anything in this world I'm wrong but come on... we're talking about needing an impact year from guys like Kentrell Brice and Damarious Randall... just think about that for a second.

It's absolutely nothing personal against any of our defensive guys but lets not be afraid to call a spade a spade. TT and Capers don't walk on water it's not unfair to judge what they've done defensively over the course of the last 7-8 years. You look at the numbers and can't help but just shake your head.

It's our job as die hard fans to call it how we see it, not just salivate at every pick/move management makes.

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Finwiz's picture

June 08, 2017 at 01:52 pm

They're afraid because there's a large contingent of Packer fans that won't admit their teams deficiencies and see things as they are. There's also a big portion of modern day football fans that think offense and big stats are all that matters and defense isn't important. Sad but true.

You are correct - I've been shaking my head about this defense for the better part of 10 years with the exception of a couple.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

June 08, 2017 at 02:39 pm

BPEARSON21: The Packers' secondary WAS a dumpster fire last season - how many Packers fans are terrified to admit that?. This season two players who weren't on the team last year have a good chance to be the starting CBs: King and House. You may think neither is an improvement over Gunter but if that's the case, I think you're the one ignoring reality.

As for needing an impact from Brice and Randall, I expect the "usual" scheme on passing downs to include King, House, and Randall at nickel back; Ryan and Jones at ILB; and Burnett and Clinton-Dix at safety. If Randall can't handle nickel duties there are alternatives in Rollins, or perhaps Jones with another safety filling in at ILB on passing downs. You may think Randall and Rollins' sophomore seasons are a better reflection of their talents than their rookie seasons. At the very least I think a reasonable fan would say the jury is out on both since both were affected by injuries last season. I expect one of the two to bounce back strongly but that too is just speculation at this point. Even so, except for injury, I think it's likely every CB I've mentioned will be an upgrade from Gunter who served as the #1 CB last season.

As to how the D has performed over the past 6 seasons, clearly either Thompson's ability to acquire talent or Capers' ability to use that talent (or some combination of the two) have been to blame. But I find it interesting you include the last "7-8 years" when judging them: 8 years ago the D finished 7th in scoring and 2nd in yards surrendered; 7 years ago it finished 2nd in scoring and 5th in yards surrendered. All I'm saying is there's no need to exaggerate on either side.

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BPEARSON21's picture

June 08, 2017 at 03:34 pm

Okay, fair enough. Lets do this: Based off of ESPN total defensive rankings (just so you can go fact check me if you'd like) from 2009-2016 the Packers accrued a total average of the 15.875 best defense in the league (so I won't round up to 16 even though I should). Now if you take away the 2009 and 2010 defensive seasons (where we ranked 2nd and 5th which is great) we averaged as the 20th best defense in the league from 2011-2016. I will just never be impressed or express confidence in a 20th ranked defense. And I will continue to dispute the way we go about things defensively until that changes because I think it's fair to critique such a glaring weakness and not just give the ol' "ahh we'll get them next year boys" speech.

This is all semantics but if you want to get picky about my "7-8" years comment I just wanted to break it down for you.

I don't want to exaggerate anything but being on average the 20th best defense team in the league for the past 6 years is pretty miserable whether you want to believe it or not. And no I don't think a few rookies (even though I really do like them a lot) and a veteran (whom I also really like) will put us over the hump.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

June 08, 2017 at 11:08 pm

BPEARSON21: "And no I don't think a few rookies (even though I really do like them a lot) and a veteran (whom I also really like) will put us over the hump."

You didn't post anything about 'getting over the hump'. You posted (present tense) "Our secondary is an absolute dumpster fire." I’m proposing the addition of players (who you like) changes that, so that "impact" is not needed from Brice and Randall. And the jury is still out on Randall and Rollins. I'll bet the 2017-2018 secondary of the Packers will not be fairly characterized as a "dumpster fire" - not even close. I think the problem this season will likely be lack of depth at OLB, not the secondary.

As to the stats on the Packers' defense, if it wasn't clear I agree the D has been mostly bad, sometimes horrible, for the past six seasons. I was just pointing out that the D was plenty good enough in 2009 and 2010, years you included in 'shaking your head at'.

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chugwater's picture

June 09, 2017 at 05:55 pm

Thread Summary...

B21: This defense has been bad for 7-8 years.

DT: They were good in 2009 and 2010.

B21: *Cherry picks new timeframe to fit preconceived point of view.*. The defense has been bad for 5-6 years.

Yes, we all know 2011, 2012, and 2013 were bad years defensively. That's immaterial now. They were good enough in 2 of the last 3 years to win a SB, but offense and/or special teams couldn't perform up to expectations.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

June 08, 2017 at 04:42 pm

No rational fan would disagree that our D has been atrocious since the SB run. There have been A LOT of questionable to borderline awful picks on that side of the ball by TT since the SB. However, they are FINALLY starting to inject speed in the second level. And that's what gives fans like me hope.

Shields and Tramon were pretty good corners in the league for a while and they were both UDFA. So it's not unprecedented for UDFA to make an impact in GB.

And really based on last year, there's statistically almost no possible way the secondary can perform worse. Lowest QBR against a starting corner was well over 100. Most fans would be shocked if the outcome was worse than last season.

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croatpackfan's picture

June 09, 2017 at 06:41 am

I will disagree... Go, watch again our D in 2014, especially second part of the season. When our offense stalled, D kept Packers in the games... Despite total meltdown of the D in 2014 NFCCG that D brought us to over time, not O. Do you remember 2 FG and not TD, how many 3 and outs when Packers D brought back ball in Aaron hands? Even at score 19 to 7 Packers D intercepted Wilson (4th interception) and only less tha 5 minutes to the end of the game, what Packers O did? Lacy -4 (1st down), Lacy -2 (2nd down), Lacy 2 yards (3rd down), Mashtay punts 30 yards... After Seahawks TD, Packers ST gave them ball for another shot. Seattle scored TD, not FG like Packers did on the last possesion of the game...
So, do not blame D for some big loses...

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chugwater's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:05 am

These are the blanket statements that are most frustrating. Over generalizations that portray reality as something different than it is.

2011-2013: Yes, poor drafting on defensive side of ball. Really hurt the secondary.

2014: As Croat has stated, that defense most definitely could have supported a SB win had the offense and special teams played to their expectations in NFCCG. (Also held NE to 21 points in November Reg season game.)

2015: Offense sputtered mid season after a 6-0 start. Defense held up in playoff loss vs ARZ. Offense couldn't score with depleted WR group.

2016: Secondary played awfully.

So the truth is we had decent defensive play in the last 2 out of 3 years.

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:23 am

Since the dreadful 2011 season when the Packers finished last in total defense, they've been 11th once, 15th twice, 22nd once and 25th once (not in that order). This argues a defensive team that's been mostly mediocre, occasionally good (top 1/3), and sometimes bad.

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chugwater's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:54 am

I agree with your point...to a point. While total defense does provide some measure of effectiveness, it doesn't tell the whole story. Teams can improve as the season goes on. They're not necessarily the same in January as they are in September.

If the offense had averaged scoring 28 points in the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, something most would expect from the way this team is built, we would have another SB ring or two now. The stats averaged over an entire season won't show that.

That's why I get a little cranky when I read statements that call for TT/DC to be fired, or defense has been bad for X number of years, or my favorite, 'can't win a super bowl with this defense'.

(Not referring to you specifically Dobber. I think you have perspective.)

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

June 08, 2017 at 01:56 pm

Speed, speed, and more speed--with size as well!

After trying to build a secondary with small, slow (outside of Shields) "real football players," Ted has finally realized it's a huge field out there, where you'll get torched all day if you can't fly.

Ted's a very good GM, but it's shocking how long it took him to get this.

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BPEARSON21's picture

June 08, 2017 at 02:00 pm

Good point, I agree 100%.

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Christopher Gennaro's picture

June 08, 2017 at 02:52 pm

LOVED LOVED the Brice signing when it happened, there are many comments I can make to illustrate this, but one word can simplify this decision GOOD.

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zeke's picture

June 09, 2017 at 12:50 am

Because the NFL Network is a bunch of homers who are afraid of being called out in the comment section of an internet fan site. Everyone knows this.

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zeke's picture

June 09, 2017 at 11:45 am

<sarcasm font>

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Lphill's picture

June 08, 2017 at 04:40 pm

Obviously The Packers realized the deficiencies in the secondary and drafted accordingly , I don't think it's unreasonable to expect more from Brice and for Randall to rebound from an injury laden season, I expect the secondary to be much improved and bringing back House also adds to the improvement . Let's see how things develop before we write them off , with this offense you don't need the number 1 defense , anything in the top ten will be good enough and not unrealistic.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

June 08, 2017 at 04:56 pm

My constant response to every article salivating over our defensive players is that Capers is till the DC and until he is booted there's little chance, even with more quality players, that our defense will greatly improve. He'll continue to scheme poorly like rush two allowing QB's all day or give up huge open spaces in the middle of the field on 3rd and long. Is there any Packer fan who isn't already conditioned to knowing that 3rd or 4th and long will result in a completion. We have better defensive players, but Capers is still the problem.

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PatrickGB's picture

June 08, 2017 at 05:07 pm

Brice can hit well. But can he cover well from the back end of the defense? Perhaps. With growth in the playbook and experience, I think he can. I expect the secondary to improve this year.

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slit's picture

June 08, 2017 at 11:51 pm

"I expect the secondary to improve this year"- way to go out on a limb. . .

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 08, 2017 at 06:27 pm

Brice is an intriguing player. He does need to improve his coverage, but there is plenty of physical ability to work with. If his coverage ability doesn't improve, it might not be a huge liability, but it would be good-sized.

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Allan Murphy's picture

June 08, 2017 at 08:20 pm

Camp will tell us who want it more .

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chugwater's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:39 am

Deleted entry...

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:30 am

I've always liked Brice. I like that he plays fast and physical. But if you watch him both in last preseason and during regular season games on defense, he really looks like a downhill box safety or deep CF type. Maybe that's just his acclimating to the pro game (or even that it was all he was asked to do), but he struggled when asked to do much more than that. I think his future is as a part-time/sub-package player or spot-starter on defense, and fixture on ST (no one played more ST snaps last season than Brice).

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 10, 2017 at 03:08 pm

I like Brice, too, and I do expect him to have an increased role this season, at least early. After that, I really don't know how the pecking order will eventually shake out. One would assume that GB will drop Burnett more often into the hybrid ILB spot and insert Brice into the SS spot, but perhaps Josh Jones just takes over the hybrid ILB role completely, or displaces Brice at SS? Or perhaps it takes Jones a while for the light to come on (though he's my draft crush, mental lapses are his chief concern). I think Jones' best position might be FS, but obviously he isn't playing there barring injury.

Brice figures to be the Hyde type as Brice had some issues in coverage last season. I hope he has worked on his coverage. I am not so sure that Jones couldn't act as the slot CB if we were caught with big safety package on the field as well. Have to wait to see who displays which abilities and in what measure.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 09, 2017 at 02:54 pm

Physically, Brice has a lot in common with Nick Collins. If he can make solid strides over his next few years, he could become a true impact player.

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