We’ve all been making a big deal about inside linebacker Jake Ryan, who the Green Bay Packers drafted in the fourth round. We’re also more than sold on the idea of leaving Clay Matthews’ primary position as inside linebacker. Then there’s Sam Barrington, who snatched a starting role in the middle last season and we all assume is the only certainty to start there this season.
But let’s not totally write off Carl Bradford just yet.
Yes, Bradford was a total non-factor as a rookie. Yes, the Packers misused him until the eve of the regular season.
This guy was a player though. In three seasons at ASU, Bradford had 154 tackles, including 43 for loss and 21.5 sacks. The problem was, he played a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position in college. Bradford is too small (6-1, 250) to play on the defensive line in the pros and most scouts said his arms (30.5 inches) were too short to play outside linebacker. He couldn’t get off the blocks of massive NFL tackles was the general line of thinking.
All of those scouts — and it was a majority — suggested Bradford’s position in the pros was at inside linebacker.
The Packers thought they knew better, however. They put Bradford outside for the duration of training camp and the results were exactly as so many of those scouts predicted. He couldn’t get off blocks and made literally no impact at all.
Based upon his performance alone, Bradford should not have made the Packers roster. But you don’t cut someone you just drafted in the fourth round.
So Green Bay acquiesced to the popular line of thinking on the eve of the regular season and moved Bradford inside and kept him on the roster. Predictably, he didn’t play a single down for the team in 2014.
And why would he? He was thrown into a new position days before the season began.
But now Bradford has a year in the system and at the inside linebacker position.
If his confidence isn’t totally shot due to the Packers mismanagement, then this guy should have as good a shot as anyone at starting this season.
A year ago, we were looking at Bradford as potentially the type of playmaking inside linebacker the Packers haven’t had since Desmond Bishop was healthy.
It appears he’ll get every chance to prove that to be the case this summer.