Grading the Packers Rookies: Preseason Week 3

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With game 3 out of the way, a lot of serious grading and analysis can start; while teams likely play a lot of vanilla offense and defense in the 1st two preseason games, game 3 is traditionally a warm-up for the starters and as such a full game plan will be on display.  On the flip side, with such a loaded team as the Packers, a lot of the drafted rookies saw a drop in their snaps and thus were harder to grade.  Overall, rookies drafted in the premium rounds likely already have their spots locked down while lower drafted rookies will have to wait to game 4 to really make an impression.

Round 1, Pick 21: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (B- grade, B grade overall) - After 3 games, my impression is that Clinton-Dix has had a solid albeit unspectacular preseason; while he hasn’t made any flash plays or made his presence known on the football field, it does look like he has a steady command of the defense and doesn’t look out of place with the 1st team defense.  One thing that does make grading him harder is that he essentially hasn’t been able to showcase his pass defense skills since most teams in the preseason aren’t looking to put their players in harms way by calling long passing players where a deep safety would actually be part of the defense.  Overall, I think the Packers must be happy with Clinton-Dix’s development; hopefully he can take that next step and go from being a part of the defense to being a key to the defense.

Round 2, Pick 53: Davante Adams (C  grade, B grade overall) - Adams did not have a good game against the Raiders; his technique looked a little sloppy and as a result he wasn’t getting open as consistently as he was in the previous two preseason games.  Some of his poor production can be associated to some poor throws, but he did miss a great pass from Matt Flynn where he didn’t secure the pass and then was hit by ex-Packer Brandian Ross.  At this point its become pretty apparent that Adams isn’t going to be in the mix at wide receiver early in the season; at no point was Adams in at the expense of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb or Jarrett Boykin; with the Packers showing a big preference towards the hurry-up offense in the 311 set, Adams likely is the first man up should any of the big 3 WRs get hurt but much like recent Packers rookie wide receivers probably doesn’t get to contribute much his rookie year.

Round 3, Pick 85: Khyri Thornton (C grade, C- grade overall) - Thronton is pretty much still a one trick pony, if he can’t get you on the straight bullrush he’s pretty much walled off from the rest of the play.  While that’s maybe not the worse thing in the world on running plays, I don’t think the Packers can ever justify putting him in on a passing play, which severely limits his chances of getting on the field.  One interesting thing I have noticed is that the Packers lined Thornton about half a yard back from the line of scrimmage for the first time all preseason; I’m not DL guru, but maybe this gives Thornton a half step to get going before engaging the blocker.  For such a reported strong and stout defensive linemen, Thornton often had trouble generating a lot of push against the Raiders offensive line, which is unfortunate since he showed great push against the Rams.  At this point, I can see Thornton being one of the regulars on the game day inactive lists; his draft status almost guarantees a spot on the team but he isn’t going to be playing much special teams and is still too raw to contribute to the defense.

Round 3, Pick 98: Richard Rodgers (C grade, B- grade overall) - Rodgers had a pretty up and down game; his blocking against the Raiders was considerably worse than in previous preseason games, especially on one occasion where he allowed Sio Moore to bullrush him up the A gap and into a Aaron Rodgers sack.  There were also a couple of occasions on running plays where he was blown up and resulted in some of Eddie Lacy’s negative carries.  On the plus side, Aaron Rodgers is looking towards Richard Rodgers way, which is a big sign on confidence in the offense.  While he isn’t the fastest after he catches the ball, he has enough size to carry defenders before getting down.  Overall, Rodgers is the Packers new John Kuhn, with worse blocking and better receiving; presumably Rodgers can improve as a blocker with more practice and overall will be a more versatile offensive utility player.

Round 4, Pick 121: Carl Bradford (C+grade, D+ grade overall) - Bradford got the most playing time against the Raiders, actually logging in the most snaps by any outside linebacker.  The result?  A relatively quiet outing.  Bradford didn’t get close to the quarterback but was able to show some of his athleticism and pass rushing ability against the Raiders 1st team, which is a good sign.  From a physical standpoint, Bradford is a speed rusher at this point and does show some good bend but like Thornton needs to become more multifaceted and get some secondary moves under his belt before he can really start contributing.  Again, Bradford is an enigma, if he played this many snaps in the other two preseason games I would assume that he’s just a 4th round rookie learning the ropes who probably hasn’t figured it all out.  But after playing 19 snaps over 2 games and then 24 in the 3rd preseason game (which is the most important), I have to conclude that there is something else factoring into his playing time.   Perhaps one explanation is that Bradford does appear a lot more comfortable from a 3-point DE stance, where he played most of his college career, so its possible that the transition from hybrid DE/OLB to full time OLB in a 3-4 has been a tough switch for him.

Round 4, Pick 161: Corey Linsley (A- grade, B+ grade overall) - Many people have been crying that the sky is falling with the injury to starting center JC Tretter, but in reality I don’t think his loss is as great as many fans have made it out to be.  Linsley  has been having a quietly productive preseason and was actually grading higher than Tretter; of course Tretter was going up against the 1st team defense while Linsley was going up against the 2nd but Linsley did get to play some time against the Raiders 1st team defense and still showed well.  Linsley is a considerably better run blocker while its a wash as to who is a better pass blocker, hopefully Lang, Sitton and Aaron Rodgers can help him in the passing game while Linsley might actually help out Lacy.  Linsley likely starts the season as the center and could have a David Bakhtiari like rookie campaign, not great but certainly promising enough for the future.

Round 6, Pick 197: Demitri Goodson (D grade, C grade overall) - Goodson showed pretty much the same snap shot of his ability as the last two games; he has great physical ability with the speed to match but is overmatched from a mental and technical aspects of the game.  In particular Goodson still has a penchant of getting lost when a receiver starts his break, often leading to grabbing or getting tangled up with the receiver, both of which result in penalties.   The cornerback roster is actually one of the deepest on the team and I don’t think he is very high up on the special teams depth chart as well.  Overall, Goodson would be better served by spending a year or two on the practice squad to mature before being able to contribute to the team.

Round 7, Pick 236: Jeff Janis (C- Grade, C Grade overall) -  Last week there was quite a bit of criticism on my grading of Janis, who I felt shouldn’t be praised just for catching one spectacular touchdown.  Against the Raiders, Janis was again largely average; again his route running isn’t as crisp as Adams nor did he make good use of his impressive size.  While none of the other wide receivers looking to secure the WR5/6 slot did much to separate themselves from the pack, I still don’t feel Janis is a lock to make the roster after the Raiders game.  My guess is that while Janis does make the team, but he is one of the last players to do so.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • David Hofstedt

    Bradford will be interesting to watch against KC. It would be great if he showed up with a strong game at ILB, a position the Packers could use some depth.

    • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

      Not likely – ILB is a seriously complex position and he’s never played it. But his physical makeup screams ILB (and not OLB).

      I’d ideally like to see Bradford, Thornton and Goodson on the practice squad. I don’t think TT trades Perry, but it’s a possibility – maybe for a TE?

      If any of the top 3 WRs go down with Bostick out early in the year, the pass offense will be severely handicapped. Adams and Janis aren’t ready, and White/Gillett are not NFL bodies.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        Bradford did play some ILB in college, but it was almost exclusively as a A-gap blitzer ala Desmond Bishop; whether or not he actually knew the position in college is up for debate.

        As for the PS, i highly doubt Thornton will be exposed to the PS. Keep in mind the guy who would have to cut Thornton also is the one who drafted him in the 3rd round, so there’s no way he gives up on a player that quickly. Bradford is sort of a 50-50 proposition; on one hand not many 4th round picks get cut and picked up on the PS, but it has happened before but its rare. Finally for Goodson, he’s an ideal PS candidate: lower round draft pick, great physical attributes but lacks technique and more mental refinement and finally he’s unlikely to have picked up much attention with such an up and down preseason.

        Also unlikely that Perry gets traded, he’s still on his rookie contract as a 1st round pick and is at worse great depth. Considering when he’s been played in the preseason, my assumption is the Packers think he’s at worse their 4th best OLB (behind Matthews and Peppers, equal to Neal).

        Finally for the top 3 WRs, I wouldn’t worry too much as long as Rodgers is behind center. Packers fans have been worried every year and yet Rodgers will make just about any WR look brilliant; the Packers survived without Jennings, Jones, Cobb, and Driver for large stretches throughout Rodgers career and he’s made guys like Jarrett Boykin and James Jones look like borderline WR1 at times.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      His physical make up points towards ILB, but it might be too little too late for Bradford to pick up ILB after not playing nor practicing it in camp. Perhaps he might have had a chance if the Packers had swapped him right at the get go, but they do have pretty good depth at ILB with Barrington and Lattimore.

  • Sheboygan Point

    As interesting as this series is, I feel like it would be even better if it focused on all of the bubble players, at the very least, adding the udfa prospects. I’m thinking one of Bradford/Mulumba/Palmer makes it. I’m guessing Mulumba.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I had initially thought about including all rookies, but the article would really really long. Also, a lot of the UDFAs are just guys that no one ever notices and that makes it an uninteresting read as well. Do you really want to know how well Jordan McCray performed in Tennessee? There is going to be one or two under the radar guys who make a big splash like Elliot this year but there are way more UDFAs get maybe 6 snaps a game, which makes it tough to really grade them.

  • Thegreatreynoldo

    Strangely enough, I generally agree with your written comments, but not as much with the grades. I think Dix and Adams are meeting expectations: 1st rounder who looks like the game isn’t too big for him (good instincts, fluid hips and back pedal), and both will contribute and/or start sometime this season. But the grades are too high for a 3rd rounder who won’t see the field much, if at all, a 4th who is on the bubble (yes, I loved this pick when made), and a 6th who isn’t even on the bubble. BTW, Linsley is a 5th round pick, not a 4th.

    Sometimes MM is too stubborn and too loyal. Bradford screams ILB. Hyde screamed Safety/inside slot CB last year. Coaches know more than I do, so I assume that they were seeing aspects of the players’ abilities that I don’t.