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Not "Too Vicious for the NFL," but Kentrell Brice is Leaving an Impression

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Not "Too Vicious for the NFL," but Kentrell Brice is Leaving an Impression

Few safeties in today's NFL can ring the bell of an opposing player hard enough to leave an impression. Even fewer undrafted safeties can do the same thing. 

In Green Bay, the Packers may have found their reincarnated Chuck Cecil.

Like Cecil, undrafted safety Kentrell Brice has a knack for hitting the ball-carrier — hard. As evidenced by his crushing hit on Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley on a third-and-four pass completion late in the second quarter of an NFC Divisional playoff game, Brice packs a punch. A punch strong enough to flip the five-foot-eight Beasley upside down.

Brice was doing this as far back as his collegiate days at Louisiana Tech. As a Bulldog, Brice's junior year was recapped with a team-leading 86 tackles and four forced fumbles. A year later in his final performance before turning pro, Brice put together a string of 13 starts with 60 tackles by the end of the campaign. He finished his career at Louisiana Tech with three total interceptions as well, all three coming in his final two years.

Brice offers textbook form in tackling, rather than leading with the crown of one's helmet, Brice narrows his shoulders and drives his weight into his target. He impressed mightily at his only audition for watchful NFL scouts was at Louisiana Tech's Pro Day, where he stunned spectators with a 4.3 40-yard dash and a 42-inch vertical. Consequently, Brice went undrafted.

Instead, he was scooped up in a pool of 19 undrafted players signed by the Packers in May in the week following the NFL Draft. His second opportunity to showcase his talents came three months later in the Packers' first preseason game against the Browns. He recorded six tackles total during his 47-snap night, making his case as to why the Packers should carry a fifth — eventually six — safety on the roster. Between Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde and Chris Banjo, the front-four was solidified. It was down to Brice, Marwin Evans and Jermaine Whitehead. 

Evans and Brice would make the cut, whereas Whitehead was soon to be stashed on the Packers' practice squad.

Brice's 2016 campaign wasn't much to fawn over, as he only played 25.3 percent of defensive snaps all season. He often saw work on the back-end of the secondary whenever Burnett would play up in the box as an extra inside linebacker. By the end of the season, Brice had one start under his belt, but just 17 tackles. He did, however, participate in all 16 games in some way, shape or form.

One of those ways was on special teams, where he provided special teams coordinator Ron Zook a servicable gunner in punt coverage. Brice played the most special teams snaps of all of the Packers defensive backs, putting together 297 (67.0 percent) snaps as opposed to his 261 on defense — the second-lowest of the team's safeties.

Displayed by his low snap counts on defense — which says a lot considering defensive coordinator Dom Capers enjoys working through the rotation and incorporating a multitude of different alignments and schemes, Brice still has a lot to learn. As a safety, your instinctive ability has to be to cover properly and to make plays where they have to be made. In Brice's case, he seems to have the playmaking part down, but unfortunately, his coverage skill and understanding of Capers' defense leaves a lot to be desired.

As Cecil was once doing in a Packers uniform before his departure after a 1992 Pro Bowl season, Brice leaves his mark on the field. When given his opportunity to see the field, as he was in extended fashion once Burnett was lost for the remainder of the aforementioned playoff game against the Cowboys, Brice led the team with seven tackles. He played a rare career-high 52 defensive snaps in Dallas, but with Burnett entering the final year of a four-year $24.7 million dollar deal, that may end up being a common practice for Brice.

Brice has yet to be deemed "too vicious for the NFL" like Cecil once was and it's likely he never will, but if safeties coach Darren Perry continues to study the impressive finding of Brice, there's a chance he can be groomed to be an eventual role player in Green Bay.

__________________________

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 (12) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

Love the kids hits, he can bring it and I would be surprised if he was not on the team next year.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Depending on whom is added through the draft and free agency, I'll be mildly surprised if Brice isn't a STARTER in the dime and probably nickel, next year.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I always make the Johnnie Gray (one of my all-time Packer favorites) and Nick Collins comparisons to Brice. I think he'll eventually be a Packer's starter for a number of years.
Gray hit hard, tackled well, always seemed to be in on the play, and was very athletic, but wasn't great at intercepting. I think Gray moved better laterally, but Brice has faster straight-line speed, more like Collins. He reminds me of Gray and/or Collins all the time.

TheVOR's picture

Well, they played in different era's. In fact many of todays rules were changed because of Chuck Cecil. Chuck made up for his inability to cover, by focusing on being at the player, the moment after the ball arrived, and he'd hit them high, or in the head. He knocked out multiple WR's.

I really like Brice, he's playing within the rule set, but he's a very nasty hard hitting football player. They need to keep working with this player to become better in coverage. I think both players mentioned here could really hit, but Brice is a bit more complete in my books, in that he's a vicious tackler in general. GB needs that. Cecil was an upper body head shot artist who destroyed you with perfect timing. Brice just brings it, he's a vicious tackler, who will continue to get better in coverage. Really like Brice. Some guys you can just see "it". Brice has "IT". He's a hard hitting/tacking FB Player.

Lphill's picture

Atari Bigby had a similar style , hard hitting and wrapped up , Brice is a keeper we just need him on the field more.

Christopher Frey's picture

His bone jarring hits really stand out but so does when he is out of position.

Looking forward to watching him take that next step in football awareness.

marpag1's picture

The "big hit" is probably the most overrated part of any defender's game. Nine times out of ten, "big hits" aren't even the ones that hurt you, and they accomplish nothing more than a simple tackle would have.

Everyone talks about Brice's big hit against Dallas in the divisional game. All I know is that Beasley jumped right back up after getting 18 yards and a huge first down, and he looked a lot happier after the hit than he did before it.

But you do have to love Brice's reckless, violent aggression, and that he's very fast, he's strong, and "plays heavy." He's probably the most athletically gifted of any of the GB safeties. But this year he clearly wasn't as good as Burnett or Dix, and that's because he was obviously thinking too much, he was hesitant and his reactions weren't good enough or quick enough. He was OK for a rookie.

His niche last year was playing safety in the nickel when Burnett moved to the hybrid ILB position. I think the Packers did it that way because Brice's head was swimming just trying to learn the safety spot, and Burnett, who is a real student of the game, could handle the increased assignments.

In the future, I don't see that Brice will beat out either Burnett or Dix as the flat-out starter. But if I'm the Packers, I might be working right now to flip the script on what was done last year. Next year, it should be BRICE who lines up as hybrid ILB. I think Brice's greater strength and physicality make him a better choice for that. And then you can leave the headier, more assignment-sure Burnett to cover the back end at FS.

marpag1's picture

That's certainly possible, DPF. But my guess would be that the Packers might extend Burnett 3 or 4 years to a pretty reasonable contract. Personally, I see Burnett as "average plus" - he's maybe as high as 20 out of 64 starting safeties, and he doesn't really have upside left. But he's very reliable, very professional, keeps himself in shape and is great in the locker room. I don't see him and the Packers parting ways, although it certainly could happen.

Another thing to consider here is whether or not the Packers let Hyde walk. That would obviously shake things up too.

Since '61's picture

I like Brice's aggressiveness and how he delivers hits. He needs more experience but I would like to see more of Brice's aggressiveness from the rest of the Packers defense. In addition to our weaknesses at CB and pass rush the Packers defense needs to play more physically with a nasty attitude. Our defenders need to be better at fighting off blocks, pass rush, pass coverage and tackling. a few more players with Brice's attitude wouldn't hurt. Thanks, Since '61

sonomaca's picture

So, if the Packers have an opportunity to draft an outstanding safety early, should they pass?

stockholder's picture

Last year I thought the packers should have taken a safety. Kid played great in camp and made the most of his opportunity. We like the big hits. But I like the speed. 4.3 with speed, is the better way to go.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

My draft crush was Justin Simmons last year in the 3rd, and he was available, but we picked Fackrell, with whom I was okay. I thought Simmons could replace Hyde completely, and as an excellent tackler, could back up both Dix and Burnett, and even play some press CB. Simmons did not beat out Denver's Darian Stewart, an 8 year veteran and solid FS (ranked 8th best safety by PFF in 2015), but Simmons did play 256 snaps and had 2 INTs. Simmons was really the only guy that I clearly liked a lot better than Fackrell, but others might have been Prosise, who went 2 picks after GB took Fackrell, but I had Prosise as a 4th rounder. There were several guys available instead of Fackrell: Billings, Vannett and Higbee, Ridgeway, too.

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