NFL Combine Dispatch: Carl Bradford an Option at Inside Linebacker

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said of Bradford, "He needs to take that big jump. This is a big offseason for him."

Green Bay Packers linebacker Carl Bradford—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Carl Bradford—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

INDIANAPOLIS—Last year at this time, safety was the obvious position of need on the Green Bay Packers roster.

But after selecting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the NFL Draft combined with solid play from starter Morgan Burnett, safety has been solidified.

It's now inside linebacker that's taken precedence in Green Bay following the 2014 season.

"Definitely, I think the inside linebacker position could probably be compared to where we were last year at the safety position," said head coach Mike McCarthy at the Combine. "Obviously we had a number of moving parts there. So we’ll see what this process that we go through as far as player acquisition, how that affects it.

"I like the step Sam Barrington made. I thought he made a huge step and that’s what you look for once again. He’s a second-year player who needed to take a big step, and Sam did that."

It's appropriate that McCarthy mentioned Barrington, because that's exactly what the Packers need from Carl Bradford in 2015: a player that can take a big step from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL.

Barrington went from playing in just seven games as a rookie, primarily on special teams, and ending his season on injured reserve to becoming a starter on the Packers defense in his second year. The improvement he made was remarkable, playing in 14 games, starting seven and making 53 tackles.

Getting subpar play from A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, the Packers needed new blood at the position, and Barrington provided it. Now they'll see if Bradford can join him.

If you need a refresher, Bradford was a fourth round draft pick of the Packers in 2014, an outside linebacker from Arizona State.

Green Bay gave Bradford every opportunity to prove himself on the outside last season. The experiment lasted all the way up to the final week of training camp when he was moved to the inside, a position he played only sparingly while with the Sun Devils.

In college, Bradford could get away with his 6-1 height, but the NFL was a different animal. He didn't have the length and long arms to hold his own on the line of scrimmage.

During the Packers' final preseason game, Bradford lined up at inside linebacker and performed admirably. But the coaching staff couldn't yet trust him for the infinitely more meaningful regular season. There was still a lot to learn and understandably, the transition would take time.

Not wanting to expose him to waivers, the Packers stashed Bradford on the 53-man roster for what amounted to a redshirt year at the professional level. He ended up being the only player on the season-opening roster that wasn't on the gameday active roster for a single game.

In years past, players like Bradford would eventually get their opportunity when injuries would occur. For the first time in years, however, the Packers stayed largely healthy, placing only four players on injured reserve during the course of the regular season.

"Carl Bradford, he got better as the year went on," said McCarthy. "I think as you look at our football team, it's obviously one of the best things we've done as far as our health, so we're a healthy football team. Some of the younger guys, guys who were inactive early in the year really didn't get the opportunities late in the year. He needs to take that big jump. This is a big offseason for him, and we look for him to take the jump that historically our first-year players have, going into their second year and throughout their second season."

Jamil Douglas, an offensive lineman from Arizona State invited to the Combine, sees that step forward coming for Bradford.

He may be biased, but if there's anyone that knows Bradford, it's Douglas. The two were friends, teammates, actually roommates while in Tempe, Ariz.

"I was actually just talking to him before I came down here," said Douglas. "He's like a brother to me. We've talked throughout his first year in the NFL. I expect great things from him."

Seeing as Bradford's been through the ringer that is the NFL Combine before, he's passed some insight along to Douglas. He's also let the offensive lineman know that once Douglas makes the NFL, the work isn't over. Bradford can speak from personal experience.

"We talk all the time about what's different from college to the NFL," said Douglas. "He tells me everyone's good. There's no slacking in the NFL. He's working hard this offseason to be a factor for that team."

With the Packers releasing Brad Jones on Friday, there's now one less obstacle between Bradford seeing meaningful playing time in 2015. A.J. Hawk could be next on the chopping block, although nothing is imminent.

It also makes sense that the Packers would want to continue utilizing Clay Matthews in a hybrid role, taking advantage of match-ups. As long as Matthews isn't playing inside linebacker full-time, there's an opening for Bradford.

The NFL Draft, however, is the big unknown. Should the Packers spend a first round draft choice at the position, it isn't likely that player will be sitting on the sidelines, although you can never be sure. Nick Perry and Datone Jones are both first round picks that have yet to become full-time starters on the Packers defense.

However things play out, there will be an opportunity for Bradford in 2015. Now he just has to take advantage of it.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (16)

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barutanseijin's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:13 pm

This guy will be lucky to get a second NFL contract. Guys who don't get on the field don't tend to stick around long. And that goes doubly for guys who can't get past the likes of AJ Hawk & Brad Jones.

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BradHTX's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:23 pm

Nobody thought Hawk and Jones would be as bad as they turned out to be this season. So to say he "couldn't get past the likes of" them isn't really fair.

But half your point is already moot: Brad Jones was just released, so Bradford is past him.

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barutanseijin's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:56 pm

It'll be moot if Bradford gets on the field in 2015. He could be gone tomorrow. And even if he does, who is to say Bradford survives cutdowns? All we know is that despite bathetic ILB play in GB this year, Bradford couldn't get on the field. Remember AJ Hawk penguining after Kyle Rudolph? Well Carl Bradford apparently couldn't beat that. Doesn't say much for him.

If you don't like my phrasing, take a look through Pro Football Reference with attention to guys who played little or not at all their first years. Most of them never get a second deal. I'm sure some of that has to do with entrenched veterans, favoritism, naked pix and what have you, but a lot of it is because these guys just aren't that good.

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pooch's picture

February 20, 2015 at 05:03 pm

Of course Barriginton or Bishop didn't play 1st year

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lmills's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:32 pm

Lets wait until later into this year to start making these types of statements. He was a rookie that switched to a completely new position and the end of training camp. He had no time to learn the position in training camp or preseason. Give him the offseason to at least prove he does/doesn't belong before talking about 2nd contracts and not making it in the NFL.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 20, 2015 at 05:22 pm

Many players more or less wash out in their first year. It's not a great sign that he was never active but it's not the end of the world, either. You just can't be sure until they go through an entire NFL offseason or two.

I think how aggressive the Packers are in going after ILB will tell a whole bunch about what they think of Bradford. It they are active in FA or jump early in the draft, it may well be a sign Bradford is not long for the NFL. But if they take their normal measured approach to FA and address other needs early in the draft, I have to believe they have seen enough of Bradford to think he might be able to help on the field in 2015.

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NitschkeFan's picture

February 20, 2015 at 05:49 pm

For now Bradford is a low cost option, worth keeping through training camp and see if he makes progress at ILB. Packers have nothing to lose in keeping him and talking him up.

Janis never saw the field either. Coach talks him up but what can you really say about a guy who couldn't get in more than a few snaps for an entire season? Not even on one of the worst special teams squads in the NFL.

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omega's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:27 pm

Did you sneak in the line about GB releasing Brad Jones today? I havn't seen any reports or rumors anywhere.

EDIT: just looked at twitter and saw nagler and such talking about it.

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BradHTX's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:27 pm

Packers announced it this afternoon. Heard it on radio, and APC has an article already. I'm sure Brian is furiously typing CHTV's take on it as we speak.

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BradHTX's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:27 pm

Packers announced it this afternoon. Heard it on radio, and APC has an article already. I'm sure Brian is furiously typing CHTV's take on it as we speak.

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pooch's picture

February 20, 2015 at 04:59 pm

What nothing here yet on the release of Brad Jones yet???

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pooch's picture

February 20, 2015 at 05:04 pm

no mind mentioned

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The TKstinator's picture

February 21, 2015 at 10:44 am

Good size for ILB. Reputation as being a very aggressive player. Coach him up, turn him loose, see what he can do. He's got an opportunity. Time will tell.
If no ILB merits being selected at #30, TT will most definitely go elsewhere. Reaching because of need is a bad mistake.

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Zola Davis's picture

February 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm

I waited for Brad Jones to be released, before making my prediction, here is my prediction. Hawk will be a Packer next year. He is widely considered to be average, and is the brains of the LB corp. While I'd like to see him take a pay cut, I believe that a lower level team would snatch him up at his current price to be a solid veteran presence in a lockerroom and making calls in the defense. He can still do that in GB, but in a backup role to help the younger players learn to make the calls and to be adequate backup if a starter gets hurt. Meanwhile, the Pack will draft an ILB early on at #30 or trade-down (trade-ups in the first round are too costly). At that point #1 would be annointed starter and need to learn fast. Hawk, Barrington, Bradford, Thomas, possibly a later round pick and others would provide competition and fall-back options if #1 doesn't work out. Hawk brings more to the table than Jones did.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 21, 2015 at 04:29 pm

Only the coaches know how Bradford is progressing as an ILB. Bradford is a good athlete, (best broad jump, and 37.5 vert at the combine) with what I saw as pretty good hips, but short arms (30.25"), and only decent speed (4.76 forty, 7.30 3-cone - 7.03 at his pro day). His athletic ability does not preclude him from being an above average ILB, but we will have to wait to see what we've got in him.

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Tundraboy's picture

February 24, 2015 at 04:04 pm

Agree. There was no way MM was going to risk throwing Bradford into the fire last year at a new position, and he was not going to start benching Jones AND Hawk. In general, MM almost always eases players in, even if they show ability ability, with the only two exceptions I can think of being Hayward and Lacy.. So we will not know anything about Bradford for some time.

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