Steady Production will Determine Bradford's Future with the Packers

Carl Bradford enters a crucial year that could either prove as a stepping stone or disaster for the third-year linebacker.

There isn't any doubt that Carl Bradford possesses talent. Entering his third year in the league and with the Packers, he may be finally showing it.

Coming off a solid weekly camp performance and translating those results into the Packers' first preseason game against the Browns, the hype is well-justified.

"I think he's really stepped up and taken the challenge," said assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley of the newly-converted inside linebacker. "When it goes back to the losing the weight, changing his habits, changing his routine, changing his mindset of how he's approaching everything. He's had an approach where he's going to figure it out."

Originally drafted on the edge as an outside linebacker and flirting with obscurity in his rookie year, linebackers coach Winston Moss soon transitioned Bradford to the inside. Still unable to grasp the concept of the position and an evident fundamental disadvantage in coverage, the front office soon began Bradford's next transition — to the practice squad.

However, entering 2016, Bradford's physicality has been highlighted as he gets accustomed to his new inside position.

It was clear why the Packers initially kept Bradford as an edge-rusher. Strength, big body, the ability to blow up a play. That was showcased in Friday night's game where Bradford obliterated the Browns' Rannell Hall on an intermediate pass, forcing an incompletion. It was one of many highlights from the game that included Bradford flying sideline-to-sideline en route to a three-tackle performance with the limited snaps he saw. 

Bradford's spot miles from solidified, which is just about what second-year inside linebacker Joe Thomas can say as well. Thomas goes into 2016 where he typically served as the last resort dime linebacker the year before. Not a knock on his coverage ability — something Bradford has presumably worked excessively at improving in his own game.

Young, hungry inside talent of Derrick Matthews and Beniquez Brown also wait in the wing. Both patiently waiting to leave their mark and turn some heads with three preseason games remaining on the team's schedule.

Like sharks inhaling the aroma of blood in the water, the premature linebackers at the bottom of the depth chart may just provide Bradford a sense of motivation. With more to prove now than ever, Bradford could be entering his last-ditch effort at finding success with the Packers.

Those three remaining preseason games also give Bradford an opportunity to prove as a model of consistency for the coaches. Coaches like McCurley, whose eyes remained peeled on the linebacking corps, including Bradford.

"We've seen (his explosiveness) times before. But I would definitely say this past game, he put it together snap after snap, which is really the challenge for him... Like I've told him, he's got to take it day-to-day now. He has to show up every day with that mindset and compete the way he did this past week."

Bradford's future with the team hinges on the upcoming slate of games that lead the Packers into the regular season. Minimal availability will be accessible on the roster that, by that time, will be shortened to 53 players. Keeping five inside linebackers would be a rarity considering recent years, but it'll likely come down to the competition between Thomas and Bradford.

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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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Comments (19)

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Since '61's picture

August 17, 2016 at 01:31 pm

If Bradford can play consistently as he did against the Browns he can go a long way to helping solidify the Packers ILB situation. If he can't or doesn't play consistently it's time to move on. Thanks, Since '61

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DrealynWilliams's picture

August 17, 2016 at 02:50 pm

I believe he's still a good pass rusher. He just might not be as good coming from the outside, but it's something you can never have enough of in the league (DLs and LBs). I hope he continues to get more comfortable reading, reacting and relying more on his instincts . He definitely showed that in the Browns game.

Might be best suited for heavy pass rush packages for now??

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The TKstinator's picture

August 17, 2016 at 02:48 pm

When GB drafted him, the description was that he "played like his hair was on fire". If he is familiar enough with his assignments and the scheme to the point that he can get back to playing like that, he's got a shot. I'll take a guy at ILB who runs a 4.7 but is quick and decisive over a guy who runs a 4.5 but is hesitant and "thinks too much" any day of the week.
And twice on Sunday.

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BamaPackFan's picture

August 17, 2016 at 03:01 pm

Thomas and Bradford both played well against the Browns. I just like the aggression I saw from Bradford a bit more. He really seems to like blowing people up. So far, I'm pulling for him. However, the article is correct, he must show consistency.

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Handsback's picture

August 17, 2016 at 03:38 pm

Bradford and Barrington are two thumpers, Thomas and Martinez are the chase and cover guys. Ryan does a little of both. Let's see after 3 pre-season games how they look before determining roster positions.

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Turophile's picture

August 17, 2016 at 03:44 pm

Ryan and Barrington listed as starters, Thomas and Martinez listed as the 2s, (Beniquez) Brown and Bradford as the 3's.

No first round picks here, but that looks to be a solid group now..............it's a while since I could say that.

What will their positions be on the depth chart in time ? I have absolutely no idea who will end up as the best two, maybe there will not even be a best two, just guys put in according to what the defense requires.

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al bundy's picture

August 17, 2016 at 04:36 pm

I dont care. Seems we spend a lot of time on guys waiting to develop under ted dumb draft and devel ideas. How about we get 1 2 3 pi ks who can play on dy one like the vikes. They are loaded.

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The TKstinator's picture

August 17, 2016 at 06:16 pm

Goodell wants you for questioning.

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Nick Perry's picture

August 17, 2016 at 09:12 pm

Seems you're pretty "Loaded" too. Besides, when you draft in the Top 10 you should nail the draft. Then again with ALL those top picks they still haven't done SQUAT!!

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GVPacker's picture

August 18, 2016 at 10:43 am

Hey Al do you upvote your own post's or does your dog Buck do it for you?

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L's picture

August 18, 2016 at 09:22 am

Even if he's not able to put himself into the true bubble group vying for a spot on the 53-man roster at final cut-downs (which I think his performance to this point has) he could still be in good position to earn a spot on the Practice Squad as he's got 1 year of eligibility left I believe.

The main bubble guys IMO fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster:

X WR Jeff Janis (INJ & no PS eligibility)
X WR Trevor Davis
DE, DT Christian Ringo
TE Kennard Backmann
Will and Mike ILB Joe Thomas (no PS eligibility)
Mike and Will ILB Carl Bradford
OG, OT Josh Walker
OG, OT Don Barclay (no PS eligibility)
OG, C Lane Taylor
CB, Slotback Robertson Daniel
CB, Slotback Josh Hawkins
CB Makinton Dorleant
SS, FS Kentrell Brice
RB John Crockett
RB Brandon Burks

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 17, 2016 at 09:59 pm

L, nice list. Some might add Price, but I think he is a candidate for the PS, not the 53. He is a DT, and we've got Daniels, Guion, Pennel and Clark who are DTs, with Clark, Pennel and Guion who can play NT. Too many ahead of him.

BRADFORD

He was my draft crush (as an ILB from the get go).
I had him targeted for the 3rd round.
I am hopelessly biased.
I like to be right.
So, I won't post endlessly in his favor.
I'll just quietly root for him.
But if Thomas or Brown look better, so be it.

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croatpackfan's picture

August 18, 2016 at 03:11 am

I think Bradford problem is not his talent, but his butt head. If he solved that, we will see more from him at the new position, and I'm sure, he will, finally become regular 53 guy!

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dobber's picture

August 17, 2016 at 06:25 pm

..and on a different note:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000686632/article/jordy-nelson-knee...

Best...news...of...camp...

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dobber's picture

August 17, 2016 at 06:34 pm

...and while they haven't played a meaningful game, yet, it appears that Cow-strodamus's crystal udder might need a tune-up.

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Tundraboy's picture

August 17, 2016 at 07:57 pm

Crystal udder! Loved that.

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lucky953's picture

August 17, 2016 at 07:15 pm

In an interview from last season, Bradford himself didn't understand where his intensity went. Perhaps it was just a lack of confidence. If so, we may yet see a guy who consistently plays attacking defense. If it's something else, like ambivalence about getting hurt, or a secret passion for some other profession, then he'll be cut and the Packers will move on.

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Handsback's picture

August 18, 2016 at 07:53 am

TT said something a few weeks ago that bears repeating. At least in my mind it was pretty eye opening. He was saying TC pushes players to their brink in all personal levels from conditioning, mental and an athletic standpoint. The first two I always understood, but pushing a guy from an athletic standpoint opened my eyes to why players like Bradford and Janis have these difficulties in performing. The reality is that they take a player that has the desire and drive but not the body type or maybe the athletic ability and start molding them into their position. It pushes a person into over compensating in another area and sometimes they get injured or mentally tap out. It’s hard to imagine that a player in college that has performed at a great to very good level at OLB couldn’t do the same at the ILB level in the pros.
The issue is always square peg in a round hole. We think, or maybe just me, that very few college guys have to adjust from being a square peg. I think the reality is the opposite…most college guys coming into the pros are square pegs and have to become round. TC and all of the mini-camps are designed to mold these kids into their pro positions.
So to me that explains why the Packers and other teams are patient with players that have to make that transition. If they see the capability, they have to be patient and see if they will ever become solid round pegs. I see Bradford and Janis being pushed and molded into those round pegs, but it takes time. I think for Bradford he needed to change his body (less weight, quicker feet) and mental thinking. For Janis, who is not dumb and scored highest on Wonderlic than any WR on the Packers, it’s an athletic change. Body control at full speed while making sure your distance is on the money isn’t something he’s blessed with. Oh and don’t forget you may need to change your route depending on the defense.
To me now, I think it’s almost a minor miracle when teams find a rookie and say “wow this guy gets it already” which explains why round pegs are hard to find. To me an example of a round peg is Geronimo Allison. Sorry for the rambling….maybe too much coffee!

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DrealynWilliams's picture

August 18, 2016 at 01:39 pm

If it comes down to Thomas, Bradford or Brown -- I'm hoping Bradford shows more in these last few preseason games. I don't think Brown has much of a chance and the only advantage Thomas has over Bradford is his speed.

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