Ah, the good old jump. The year a player finally figures it out and comes into his own. Who is making the jump for the Green Bay Packers? Why, safety Kentrell Brice, if you ask coach Mike McCarthy.
Brice, a former undrafted free agent, is entering his third NFL season. Unfortunately, his second season was largely lost because of an ankle injury. Brice played in just six games in 2017.
However, the Packers were using him regularly before he went down. Brice had 23 tackles and three passes defended in his six games.
That noted, it’s safe to say, like the rest of the secondary, Brice’s play was uneven. Pro Football Focus gave him a 40 overall rating, a far cry from the Minnesota Vikings Harrison Smith’s 97.
So Brice has some work to do. McCarthy says he’s doing it.
“Kentrell’s doing an excellent job,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s definitely had one of the best offseason programs (on the team). The thing that goes unnoticed is his communication skills. I love the way he plays. The ability to get past the injury. Be here the whole time. Having the whole dose of the strength and conditioning program. But you can see, he’s really comfortable out there, with the adjustments and the communications.”
This is the part where we point out that a lot of guys have had great offseason programs in the past and then done jack during the actual season. Jeff Janis, anyone?
But here it comes.
“I would definitely be shocked if we’re not sitting here after the season thinking that he’s taken a big jump, because I’ve seen it throughout the offseason,” McCarthy said.
It appears Brice actually has a chance to be a starter this season, since the Packers sold Morgan Burnett down the river.
It looks like he will battle it out with second-year pro Josh Jones to start next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Packers have tended to favor draft picks, especially high ones like Jones (second round), in the past in these competitions.
Jones had 71 tackles, two sacks and an interception while playing in all 16 games in 2017. That looks good for a rookie on paper, but Jones was known more for mental lapses than making plays.
In other words, Jones will have to make a jump in 2018 as well. From everything we’ve heard, Brice is much better at the mental part of the game and communication than Jones. But you’re not spending a second-round pick on a guy that didn’t bring something athletically.
It will be interesting to see how this plays, especially because we know Clinton-Dix isn’t any good at communication either. Most likely, there is plenty of playing time for both.