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Mike McCarthy: S Kentrell Brice Could Compete for Starting Job in 2018

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Mike McCarthy: S Kentrell Brice Could Compete for Starting Job in 2018

-- The draft could be swarming with talent at the safety position; enough to even help stock up the back end of the Green Bay Packers' defense.

They'd need the support now more than ever after losing strong safety Morgan Burnett in free agency, eventually seeing him sign a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If they choose to forego the draft and stick to the talent they have stashed currently on their roster, coach Mike McCarthy believes Kentrell Brice, one of the Packers' four safeties, may be able to provide a solution as he enters his third season.

"I look for him to fight for a starting position," McCarthy said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando on Tuesday.

Brice ended the 2017 season on injured reserve, being placed on the list in early November due to a severe ankle injury. Him being swapped to injured reserve was the move that would eventually open the door to activating last year's 108th overall pick, Vince Biegel, to the roster as a corresponding transaction.

McCarthy noted that Bice had been back in the team's building working out with his sights set on a rebound this coming season. With Burnett out of the picture, that may be even more likely.

Brice, a free safety and listed on the depth chart below Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, can play in the box as an inside linebacker -- as he typically did in former defensive coordinator Dom Capers' "nitro" package -- or in the slot as a cornerback. 

He was implemented all over the field last season, but his two primary positions were free safety and strong safety. Given Clinton-Dix is the primary starter at Brice's natural position, a transition to strong safety may be in his future where he'd either compete with second-year safety Josh Jones for a starting job or for snaps on a rotational basis.

Jones may fill Burnett's previous role as an in-the-box safety where he can play up in the teeth of the defense and help in run support. It all boils down to where new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wants to deploy his versatile weaponry. The options are endless.

Whichever they may choose, making sure Jones is ready to shoulder the responsibilities sans Burnett is vital.

McCarthy opened up at the meeting and said that the staff "probably tried to do too much" with Jones last year. The goal now is to start him in the safety room and cycle him through different packages.

If the Packers go with the former in certain packages, that'd leave Brice more than enough opportunities at strong safety where he could play on the back end or come down to shadow the slot receiver.

All options are on the table for the Packers, who also aren't ruled out of trading up in the first round from their 14th overall pick to select Florida State's Derwin James. James would offer the Packers an immediate impact playmaker on defense whose strength is rushing the passer as much as it is holding up in coverage.

Marwin Evans is the only other strong safety on the roster behind Jones, and Jones is only entering his second season. There's no guarantee any sense of momentum can carry over into his sophomore NFL season and he'll become a defensive stalemate.

In the six games he played last season, Brice started three of them and tallied an interception, 17 tackles -- matching his total from 2016 -- and three passes defensed. However, he has some work to do with his coverage ability -- unlike his tackling prowess -- before becoming the next Packers' undrafted defensive back success story.


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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (59) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

dobber's picture

Based on the arguments we'd heard prior to his going on IR, Brice might be better off in the box and playing downhill than playing a deep CF as a S. His straight-line speed is good, but his change-of-direction metrics were not. I don't know how long he'll hold up playing downhill at 5'11" 195 lbs, but his speed will be an asset.

4thand1's picture

Capers asked young guys to do too much in IMO. Hell the veterans seemed confused in his system. Mostly the last few years guys were out of position and took bad angles. Not sure if it was bad coaching or being confused. The speed of the game in the NFL is what they always talk about with rookies having to adjust. We have a lot of young guys in the defensive backfield and will get younger after the draft. Hopefully Brice will prosper under Pettine .

worztik's picture

4th... I think that being “confused” and “bad coaching” are one in the same in a Crappers defense!!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Yeah, I'd like to blame Brice for being out of position so much. But I won't. If I see these guys out of position and bickering as much under Pettine I will be shocked.

Oppy's picture

I would think you'd need more COD ability the closer to the ball you play, not the further away.

In the box: When the target changes direction 10-20 feet in front of you, you have less time to react, and your angle of attack can deviate to a wide degree from your original heading to make the play.

From deep center field: When your target changes direction 20-45 feet in front of you, you have more time to react and only have to change your angle of approach incrementally to get to the new point of contact.

Think of a cone shaped arc originating from the defender's chest, spreading out wider as it gets further away from him. Now consider a ball carrier's movement within that arc at various distances. Furthest away from the defender, the ball carrier would have to travel much further left or right to reach the edge of the defender's COD cone. Closer to the defender, a ball carrier would have to only take a step or two in order to reach the limits of the defenders COD.

I don't know if I described what I mean well, but I tried. lol.

Oppy's picture

Maybe best said, I don't believe safeties typically get picks, pass break ups, or tackles because of their COD, it's usually their speed and angle of approach (vision) that gets them between the QB and the WR or to the ball carrier. They play from the backfield facing the LOS almost exclusively unless manned up on a WR.

I like Kentrell Brice. He had a down year in 2017, but his speed and aggression are impressive. Man, he's a rocket. Big range.

flackcatcher's picture

Or McCarthy might be talking out of his backside on Brice. As others have said. 'This is Pettine's defense'. Look at how Perry and Whitt were both moved out. (Yes Whitt is still in GB, but not at his old job. A move up or out is still unknown at this point.) Brice may fit into the new scheme, but his inability to play within the scheme last year caused a major incident on the field. And caused him to benched before he was injured and IR. Brice's physical ability is not the issue here. It's his mental game that is problem here. To put it bluntly, does he have the brains to play football at this level. Jury is still out on that.

dobber's picture

I think the argument was that Whitt's move to "passing game coordinator" was a promotion. Someone will have to fill the blanks in here. They did hire a "secondary coach". They no longer have a CB or S coach.

flackcatcher's picture

Like you, I'm waiting to see how things shakes out on this coaching staff. Over the last four years MM has been doing some odd things with his position coaches. Mostly trying to up their resumes I guess, and while it still flies under the radar these days, minority hiring in coaching and front office staffs is still a major issue inside the NFL.

dblbogey's picture

Minority hiring a problem? When we get to the point where we can just hire the most qualified candidate without worrying about their race, and when African-Americans become just Americans again, let me know. I don't consider myself German/Irish American, just American. I'm not concerned that only 20% of the NBA is white and I don't believe racial quotas accomplish anything beyond discriminating against more qualified people from jobs in the name of diversity.

flackcatcher's picture

Look, I stated a plain fact. Nothing more, nothing less. The NFL is a private entertainment organization that has the need to relate to its public. All its public. MM assistant coaching positions over the recent past was strange. Giving NFL policy, I wondered if that was part of issue MM had to deal with. Nothing more, nothing less.

OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

It seems like both Brice and Jones are looked at more as LBs than deep safeties. They are young and need development so we can't write them off; however, it appears we need either an all around SS like Derwin James or we are going to have to creative with a CB to play deep safety, perhaps someone who doesn't have great change of direction skills. This could be a CB on the roster or perhaps a late round CB like Holton Hill from Texas or Harris from Illinois State. Curious to see how this team develops.

Lare's picture

The way HHCD played last season (particularly at the end) someone else may be an improvement at FS also.

4thand1's picture

I'm hoping Dix mailed it in when a lot of other players did too. The season was over, why get hurt? If Dix takes another backwards step it will suck to our backfield. What I mean is I hope he just isn't that bad.

ShanghaiKid's picture

Hard to look at his performance and not at least wonder. I feel there were questions regarding Dix’s play last year well before it was time to mail it in.

stockholder's picture

I think this tips the packers hand. Off the board; Derwin James. vita vea is not meeting with packers. Looks like the target is a CB! Ward won't be there. Take Landry over Davenport. But they won't. The better scenario is to trade down now. I believe Leighton Vander Esch maybe their target #2.

worztik's picture

Not necessarily Stock... there have been a few guys that the Pack drafted that hadn’t even spoken to reps from the team! Not an ideal strategy in my mind but, at least they didn’t tip their hand... just sayin’...

stockholder's picture

True, but not really with Brice coming to the front. And most were after the second round. I heard they love Esh. Alexander is above Jackson at CB now. I DON'T SEE THEM TRADING UP UNTIL LATER.

EdsLaces's picture

Landry over Davenport alll dayyyy. His bend is nuts..

stockholder's picture

He's just as much work! has him as one trick pony. Won't start until he develops moves and hands. Does have the high ceiling if he can. So He won't start. Don't you want a starter?

dobber's picture

"Don't you want a starter?"

I want the guy with the highest ceiling at #14. If you can get a high floor at the same time, that would be great.

Rak47's picture

I wouldn't put much stock in writers evaluations of players other than to get a general idea. I would take Landry over Davenport or Jackson hands down. Landry played well as a freshman at BC and was expected to do big things as a sophmore and he didn't disappoint... "After regularly contributing through his freshman year (11 tackles, 1.5 for loss in 13 games), the powerful end took over as the regular starter the last nine games of his sophomore year, garnering honorable mention All-ACC honors (15.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles). He took the next step in 2016, finishing in the top five nationally with 22 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, and seven forced fumbles. Landry started 12 of 13 games played and received multiple All-American honors as well as first-team All-ACC notice for his play. In a bit of a surprise, Landry returned to use his quickness off the line, change of direction skills, and supreme hustle for B.C. in his senior year instead of going to the NFL. His numbers dipped a bit in 2017, as he played in just nine games due to an ankle injury. Landry still earned third-team All-ACC recognition with 38 stops, 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and two pass break ups. That's production at a high level in a quality conference. Projections on Davenport are based on his length and athleticism. But interestingly enough Landry tested better at combine and has longer arms.

Bear's picture


Harold Landry, OLB/DE, Boston College
Height: 6-2. Weight: 252. Arm: 32.88.
40 Time: 4.64.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.
3/25/18: Multiple teams sources told me that Landry belongs on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. They labeled his senior year tape as not impressive. His run defense was poor, and he looked disinterested in making an effort in the ground game at times. Landry had a big drop in his pass-rush production year over year and put together some ugly games in run defense. Teams that run a 4-3 defense have concerns about Landry holding up on the edge because he is very undersized to be a base end. Multiple teams have told me they have Landry graded as a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, there aren't 32 players who merit first-round grades, so some second-round talents will go on Thursday night, and Landry has a shot at being one of those players given the pass-rush ability he displayed in 2016.

In 2017, Landry had 38 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two passes broken up. The senior missed a few games with an ankle injury late in the year.

Landry was a liability versus the run against the Fighting Irish, recording only one tackle while Notre Dame ran for seven touchdowns and had two players exceed 200 yards rushing. On the vast majority of his plays, Landry went against a freshman right tackle, yet was ineffective. Landry also lost his few reps against Mike McGlinchey, plus got rag dolled by Quenton Nelson. It was an ugly performance for Landry. He was slightly better against Clemson, although still underwhelming.

Read more:

Finwiz's picture

Scratch Landry from the list of potentials at No. 14.
Not good - sounds like Jayron Elliot 2.0.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I'd trade down in Round 1, adding our 3rd to get a 1st and 2nd.

Bert's picture

I would only trade down in RD 1 if there isn't a high value player available at #14. No sense passing on an impact player just to add more "just OK" players to the already "just OK" roster.

Rak47's picture

Definitely depends on who's available at 14. looking at many mocks, and two of the most recent by Greg Zierlein, and Chad Rueter have the Packers taking Minkah Fitzpatrick at 14. If Fitzpatrick, James, Ward, Chubb, Edmunds,Landry, or Vea are available you have to pull the trigger and stay pat. But if you're looking to improve team speed then stay away from Josh Jackson and his 4.56 40yd time. Davenport coming from UTSA is far from a sure thing and more than likely a project based on his athletic upside.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I wonder if Vea is meeting with anyone past Washington at #13.

dobber's picture

I bet he's taking any visit offered.

4thand1's picture

Gute will really earn his wings in this draft. Will he trade down? Will he trade up with 12 picks at the Packers disposal?

stockholder's picture

I say trade down if they get a second too.

Lare's picture

I could see moving down in the 1st round, but then back up into rounds 2, 3 & 4. I don't see any way they draft 12 players.

dobber's picture

Look at the Patriots (shudder) over the years. They've drafted 9+ players many times during their ongoing run of dominance. They've hit 12 picks twice in the last 8 drafts. I don't see anything wrong with using picks as ammunition to move up, but I don't see anything wrong with using 12 picks, especially on a team that so many of us are saying is talent deprived. With a new GM who might not be so married to TTs players and picks (see ya, Damarious Randall), this could be a significant roster turnover year. They could use all 12...they might end up with MORE than 12.

Spock's picture

dobber, I had to give you a "thumbs up" just for the "(shudder)" after the Patriots mention. That made me laugh.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Move Jones to LB immediately.

OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

I'm on board with this. Hate to give up on him at Safety just yet, but think he could be a hell of a LB. It appears to be the new mold, at very least in nickel package or on 3rd down

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I don't consider it giving up. I consider it unleashing a lightning fast hitting machine behind an excellent line and next to our defensive QB, Martinez.

Burnett was a hybrid, but Jones seems far more like the LB-first, 225 pounders we're seeing on several teams these days. Wasting him in deep coverage just seems crazy, given how he performed far, far better up close to the line last season.

Finwiz's picture

You can't move Jones to LB at his weight and stature. He will be hurt in 2-3 games, if not sooner.

The Nitro package was "grasping at straws" by Capers in desperation mode. It was a flawed, cheap gimmick philosophy.

4thand1's picture

Nitro, Physco, I'll bet Pettine took this defensive playbook , tossed in the fox river after he burned it, and took a huge dump on it.

OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

Deon Jones in Atlanta is the same size and a pro bowl caliber LB. So was Shaq Thompson in Carolina and Mark Barron for the Rams...

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I disagree. As OnWisconsin points out, several LB's are performing tremendously at Jones's size.

Besides, Jones's speed and hitting would be great next to our defensive QB, Martinez. And Jones looked far, far better up close to the line last year than he did covering deep as a safety (sheesh, what a waste of his talent that was).

No, while Jones can become a good safety due to his enormous skillset, I wouldn't waste a single down with him there.

Finwiz's picture

Then just draft a 'dern player that actually played LINEBACKER in college, and not a player (Jones) that played safety.

I've had enough of these ridiculous player position conversions the last few years. They rarely, if ever, work, especially for GB.

snowdog's picture

Edmunds all day .

Oppy's picture

There was nothing flawed, cheap or gimmicky about "Nitro" except for the name.

It wasn't nearly as innovative as the media made it out to be, either.

Subbing a safety in to play LB on downs where you want to shut down the mid to deep pass but also have to account for run support is not nearly as far out there as people made it out to be.

But when you call it "Nitro", people go apeshit.

PatrickGB's picture

Before we move guys around like Capers did, lets see what they can do at their current positions.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Agreed, but Jones's natural position is linebacker. His productivity last year was far, far better when played in the front 7.

This guy belongs close to the line. Put him there. Leave him there.

Oppy's picture

He's 210 lbs.
Typically, NFL linebackers range from around 235-265 lbs. (High end being reserved to true 3-4 OLB types)

You don't want to see Josh Jones trying to shed a guard or work through a full back.

This guy is a safety.

Finwiz's picture

No kidding, heh? I'm not sure what press briefing people are reading to classify this guy as a linebacker. He's NOT a LB, he's a safety.

If he lines up as a starting LB in base defense to start the year, I'll come on here and genuflect to all the savants that predicted it. Then disappear for 3 months. Not worried

dobber's picture

They hired Pettine to make chicken salad out of chicken...stuff. I would argue that the last thing they want to do is handcuff him by forcing him to stick to positional assignments that have not given good results.

Spock's picture

PatrickGB, My current position is sitting upright on a desk chair with my left leg up on a stool. Of course, that's subject to change if I move around. (Okay, I couldn't help myself. TK hasn't made many puns/jokes lately, sigh. I was trying to be a 'wit' here, but I'm probably 'only half right'). :)

nostradanus's picture

Im sure Pettine has studied these guys game film from 2017 season & pre-season and the 2016 season, inside and out. He know exactly what he needs personal wise to implement his Defense and I'm sure he will have plenty of input on draft & remaining free agents out there that will becoming available after the draft and during training camp cuts. McCarthy vowed to get this Defense fixed and I believe him (this time). Mccarthy had been burned way too many times by not firing Capers sooner, they have a plan, I'm excited about it and can't wait to see what they do in the month's moving forward.
They are not done yet boys! Go Pack!

4thand1's picture

Su'a Cravens just signed with the Broncos after sitting out a year with concussion related symptoms. Has anyone kicked the tires on Sam Shields?

Lare's picture

Shields signed with the Rams.

4thand1's picture

Oh yeah

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Sign Tre Boston. Move HHCD to SS. If he doesn't like it, trade HHCD (helps pay for Boston). Brice was bad. Maybe he can improve but it isn't a winning strategy to assume UDFAs will turn into quality starters.

Since '61's picture

I don't see Brice and HHCD as an effective backend for the Packers defense and I don't think it will be an improvement over Burnett and HHCD. We need to get better not stay even or regress.

First, does HHCD show up in 2018 or is he off to another planet again like he was in 2017. If 2017 was a fluke for HHCD then get a fresh pair of legs with good speed to play back there and cover. Too often our safeties arrive too late to make a play on the ball and then make matters worse by missing the tackle. I don't know if Brice is the answer but I don't think he is fast enough. We could also use some depth back there if HHCD does not come of his 2017 fog. Thanks, Since '61

flackcatcher's picture

I think you mean, 'not quick enough' '61. Brice time out in the low 4.3 for pro scouts. But as dobber pointed out his lateral movement was a slow when timed in the cones. My problem with Brice is his football IQ. Maybe Capers defense was too hard to understand for him. Burnett and Dix were good in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Watching Dix last year, his first without Burnett playing beside him did expose Dix. Did his play decline, was it a function of his changing role in Capers scheme, or did all the injuries take it toll on his play as well. I don't know. But the Packers are gambling that last year was the exception and not the rule. They better be right, because right now there is no one else they can rely on.

HankScorpio's picture

Oh course Brice can compete for a starting job.

One starting Safety will be playing in Pittsburgh next year.

The other carries a $6 mil cap charge and played like crap last year. Overpaid and underperforming is not a recipe for job security in the NFL. I am among the masses that hope Pettine can turn HHCD around. But I don't discount the possibility that he will be a cap casualty at final cuts.

Free agent's picture

I’d like to see Eric Reid in Yellow & Green. Hard hitter and flys to the ball. Has some injury concerns, but he has a chip on his shoulder for not being signed early in Free Agency. If the NFL would just keep the camera on the singer and the flag during the National Anthem they would solve the problem of players sitting and kneeling during the Anthem. I firmly believe in standing and being hat free during the National Anthem. Time to be silent and respectful.

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