Kentrell Brice enters the second preseason game looking to prove that he’s worthy of a larger role. Spending most of his inaugural season as a special teams player, the rookie managed to make plays, crucial to his chances at remaining a Packer for years to come. Brice produced at least one tackle in all but four games last season, an impressive feat in a minor role.
Due to injuries last season, the undrafted rookie found himself on the field during the final weeks of the Packers incredible run. The Louisiana Tech alum was a pleasant surprise, covering lots of ground on the field, as well as hitting the ball carrier with more energy than any other player on the Green Bay roster.
The Packers are a “program” team, as Head Coach Mike McCarthy eluded to at his press conference to open training camp. Tim Van Vooren of fox6now.com transcripts, “Programs win championships. I never thought that, sell the farm and be a one-year wonder. I mean we’ve never, that’s not the way we’re going to do it here. That’s been clear cut. I mean, you see the way we do business. That’s not our philosophy, so we’ve built a program and we keep invested in that program. We keep bringing in the younger players and you just got to keep growing,” Mike McCarthy, Packers head coach said.”
Brice will be given his chance to rise up the depth chart in Green Bay, it is the Packers way. Undrafted rookies are beloved by the current regime more than any team in the league. Helping the team sign some of the most talented undrafted rookies available each year.
As they do, the Packers believed in the talent of the Brice, who was not invited to the combine, but showed his impressive athleticism at Louisiana Tech’s pro day.
In the team’s first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Brice was being used in the team’s new Nitro/Sooner packages, allowing him to attack the line from the front seven. On two occasions, the defensive line opened a gap for the second year hybrid to explode through. In both situations, he certainly exploded through the gap, but was unable to bring the ball carrier down, failing to wrap up.
One of his biggest weaknesses is his inconsistency wrapping the ball carrier to the ground. He consistently sides for the big hit, and as fun as that can be, finding a balance would go a long way to be reliable as a hybrid safety linebacker.
The preseason opener didn’t give Packer nation too large of a sample size, as he injured his finger early in the game.
With a technique change, he has all the tools to fit into that role. He’s similar in size to both Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones, and may be the most athletic of the three. His explosiveness could lead to the big plays the defense has been so desperate for in years past.
In many ways, the Packers creation of the hybrid position is the best thing that could have happened to the 23 year old. There were a lot of players ahead of him for playing time at safety. Now he’s sitting behind just two players, both of whom will spend time in the traditional safety role. And as a depth chart note, I believe Brice entered the Eagles game before Jones in the Nitro/Sooner. It’s possible the team views him as the backup to Burnett, but I have to imagine the team wants Josh Jones on the field.
The biggest thing he can do in Washington to help his stock is help with the run game. The Packers depth at outside linebacker is limited, they could struggle with the run this year if the down linemen aren’t fantastic.
Kentrell Brice is the right kind of question mark this preseason. Already having a role on the team that he succeeds in, the 23 year old is in position to break his way into the defensive back rotation. If he doesn’t show enough in the next three games, he simply returns to his special teams role, eyeing next season.