Bradford looks like a steal on paper. A starter for Arizona State the last two years, Bradford started every game, registering more than 40 tackles for a loss, the fourth most nationally, with 40.5 sacks over that time. Add in six forced fumbles, 10 pass deflections, and 21.5 sacks to go with 2 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions and you’ve got a prospect with real potenial.
This set of statistics makes Bradford sound like a diamond in the rough. It also seems as if Clay found his partner. Not only do we have a rushing specialist, but he claims to have worked hard on his pass coverage skills to boost his worth for the draft. Bradford is more than willing to make adjustments or changes to satisfy any demands the NFL will pose in his career.
One of the most dynamic defensive units in pro football is taking shape. This unit was not always on the top of NFL listings. Most recently, this unit gave up more yardage than any of the past teams it has put on the field over the last nine decades.
Yes, that is almost a century. Sadly, it’s true.
In looking for the trends of today’s football, as well as the talent that is the best out there when given the opportunity to take such talent in the NFL drafting system, the Packers, under the authority of longtime talent scout, Ted Thompson, who now injects himself into the draft procedure.
Ted Thompson also brought in Dom Capers, a talented coach with a history of some very good teams that just did not have the talent we see coming from the draft year. Capers is known to put together units that play beyond their potential, making average talents into great talents.
However, his can only go so far. An unkempt defensive unit needs solid players. Having too little talent as we saw last season, after an injury here an injury there … before you know it, injuries everywhere, until there is no more compensating, which is what masters of their game do. It’s all a matter of having the other players pick up slack that others would have done if healthy. It can only be stretched so far. Last season it went beyond far enough to compensate well enough.
Capers deserves his due. When healthy, he CAN put out a good defense, if he has talent to work with. Under the 2013 Band-Aid crew, they faltered. One with a cast limping out must be covered for by another limping out in two casts. It’s funny here on paper, but when it’s real, it’s no laughing matter. Mike McCarthy’s investment in a company that specializes in tracking team injuries is a positive step. This can get awfully expensive - with the expense being in losing quality players that contribute to winning championships, and that is what the game is all about.
Over the past two seasons or so, and even more so after playoff losses, the “boo-birds” come out to cry. These are the guys that do not know football very well and place blame on those who do not reflect the actual problem or loss. We hear it all the time on teams trying to build.
Capers just didn’t have the talent on the field, and with every change of personnel comes a different chemistry among the team. Too many changes will change the outcome of the unit, which will not be what it was to begin with.
This is the reason most teams go through cycles of winning years and losing. The hardest thing to do is manage to keep winning through changes and keep the chemistry one of togetherness. All too often one very talented player with a bad attitude toward others or just positions of authority inflicts enough damage in the team chemistry to throw off what could have been a great team.
We shall see once the season begins just how much the change in talent on the defensive roster affects the win-loss columns of the Packers, and in particular the defense. The bottom line goes something like that wise old saying about horses.
It goes like this: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force the horse to drink.” That is like saying you can coach a player to win, but you can’t coach the player to play. We will see what a coach like Dom Capers does with this group. I am looking forward to seeing a modern era defense.