Packers Deep Dive -- Second Round Pick Javon Bullard

After landing arguably the top linebacker in the NFL Draft in Edgerrin Cooper, the Green Bay Packers used their other second-round pick to select one of the best all-around safeties in the class in Javon Bullard.

The Georgia product may stand just shy of 5-foot-11 and 200 lbs, but the former Bulldog defensive captain packs a punch with his small frame. Bullard is a heat-seeking missile in the secondary, and his versatility at the position will offer Jeff Haffley's new defense plenty of flexibility.

In 22 starts at Georgia, Bullard recorded 102 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, and eight pass breakups. In his sophomore season, Bullard made his mark as Georgia's starting nickel corner--he even earned the 2023 National Championship MVP when he intercepted two of Max Duggan's passes.

Going into the draft I was already a big fan of Bullard's game. However, for this piece, I reviewed six games from Bullard's 2022 season (Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, LSU, TCU) and seven games from 2023 (Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn), and I gained a new appreciation of him.

Bullard is an exciting player to watch, and I can't wait to see him in a Packers uniform this fall. Here are my film observations of what he brings to Green Bay's roster.

Traits to Love and What Javon Bullard Brings to the Packers

1) Impressive Range -- Bullard is a great blend of speed and football instincts. This makes him a very rangy defender who can quickly cover ground and make plays all over the field. This first clip is from the Kentucky game, and it's a prime example of the range Bullard possesses as a run defender. When the ball is snapped Bullard is lined up in the middle of the field as a deep safety. However, watch how fast he covers ground to tackle the ball carrier, Ray Davis, who is a talented tailback in his own right.

Bullard takes a great angle to the tailback, making the stop short of the first down. These type of plays frequently show up in Bullard's film. However, his range is also on display in the passing game.

In this next clip from the Missouri game it is hard to tell on the television broadcast because he's off-camera, but in the All-22 film, it shows him running from between the hashes once the ball is released. He gets to the sideline in a flash to knock the receiver out of bounds and prevent an even bigger gain from occurring. It is an impressive demonstration of his acceleration and closing speed. The play also demonstrates his physicality.

Bullard's ability to cover ground over the top of a defense or run sideline-to-sideline to tackle ball carriers makes him a highly effective safety. He also provides a last line of defense, which is invaluable in a secondary. In this next clip from the Florida game, Bullard catches the running back near the sideline before he's able to score. It is this kind of touchdown-saving play that any coach would love from their post safety.

Bullard's range is a combination of physical speed, high effort, and quick processing. This, alone, would already make an immediate impact on the Packers' defense.

2) Physical Against the Run -- While it's great Bullard is a rangy defender with athleticism, it would mean very little if he didn't also play with physicality. Bullard is a tough player, who plays with an assertiveness against the run that really pops on tape. In this next clip from the Ole Miss game, Bullard wastes no time coming downhill to fill the alley and make the stop. Once he sees the play is "run", he goes.

This play also demonstrates Bullard's consistently good tackling, which helps make him a reliable run defender. He is also a very good alley defender, which is important for a deep safety. He needs to read the play progression and come downhill to fill against the run. Bullard is outstanding at this.

While Bullard is not only a fearless run defender, he is also very good at holding his ground against blocks and working his way to the ball carrier. In this next clip from the Missouri game, Bullard is lined up just outside of the tight end as a second-level defender. Watch how he punches and uses his hands to keep the blocker away from his body, while he also stretches the play out to then make the tackle near the sideline.

This is fantastic technique. He keeps his outside shoulder free, while his hips point to the open field, allowing him to disengage from the blocker and make the tackle. It is rare to see a safety already this good at holding the point of attack against tight ends or bigger receivers, and this shows up on his film over and over again. He is excellent at holding his ground against blocks on the perimeter.

He also plays physically and brings some punishment at the contact point. In this next clip, Bullard plays with reckless abandon as he brings down the Alabama tailback.

It is easy to admire the tenacity Bullard plays with. The Packers could use more physicality on defense and hair-on-fire pursuit against the run. Bullard gives Green Bay a reliable run defender in the middle of their defense who can also set the tone on that side of the ball.

3) Click-and-Close Processing -- As if it hasn't been evident already in the previous clips, Bullard's ability to quickly diagnose plays and close on the ball stands out. It's a great example of when athleticism and high football intelligence marinate together. In this clip from the Auburn game, Bullard is lined up in a two-high safety look, but the moment he sees the receiver come out of his break and the quarterback raises his arm to pass, Bullard closes on the pass and wrestles the receiver to the ground for a short gain.

This is impressive processing from Bullard. The speed at which he reads the route and gets downhill makes him a special player. There is no hesitation to his game. He trusts what he sees and plays full throttle. Similarly, in this next play from the Florida game, Bullard is also in a two-high alignment. He is in a zone drop and reading the quarterback's eyes. The moment the quarterback pulls his hand off the ball Bullard accelerates downhill to deliver a huge hit on the receiver.

In coaching, we call this "pulling the pin from the grenade." When defenders backpedal in their zone drop they are taught to read the quarterback's eyes. The moment the quarterback releases his non-throwing hand from the ball, it's like he is pulling the pin from a grenade. That is the defender's cue to plant and break on the ball. Considering this was a third-and-eight and the receiver gave away the route on his third step, Bullard was able to meet the receiver at the exact right spot on the slant and stop him short of the first down.

Bullard is a highly intelligent football player. His processing is excellent. His click-and-close ability not only allows him to break on the ball on underneath routes, but it also extends to the running game. In this play in the Ole Miss game, Bullard is patient in reading the run, but the moment the tailback bounces outside the left tackle, Bullard accelerates downhill and tackles him for a loss.

This is an excellent football play. It showcases his quick processing skills, his acceleration, and his physicality. Bullard's play speed and toughness allow him to swarm to the ball and make plays all over the field.

4) Excellent Awareness in Coverage -- All of these plays of Bullard making stops downhill are great, but they wouldn't mean anything if he couldn't hold up well in coverage. It's a passing league, and if Bullard wants to see the field as a rookie, he will need to be reliable in coverage. While he's not always perfect (we will highlight some weaknesses later), Bullard is a very instinctive player against the pass.

For example, in this clip from the Auburn game, Bullard reads the quarterback's eyes, anticipates the quick hitch, and breaks on the ball to bat the pass away.

Bullard's ability to quickly diagnose and react to plays makes him a very effective zone defender. However, while he's best at dropping in zone with his eyes to the quarterback, he can hold up in man coverage, especially against slot receivers or tight ends. He played nickel corner for a majority of the 2022 season, and his ability to lock on a receiver has carried over to his safety play.

In the game against Alabama Bullard demonstrates an ability to pick up a slot receiver on a crossing route. In this clip, Bullard lines up as a deep safety, but then closes on the receiver over the middle of the field.

Shortly after the snap, Bullard reads the route and gets on the hip of the receiver, putting Bullard in position to break up the pass.

In this next clip from the Tennessee game, it looks like Georgia is in some type of quarters-match look. This play demonstrates Bullard's reliability as a deep pass defender. He sticks with the receiver running down the seam, and he breaks up the pass in the end zone.

Like the previous clip, Bullard stays on the receiver's hip, turning and running with him downfield. This puts him in position to pop the ball out of the wideout's hands, forcing the incomplete.

Bullard's impressive awareness in coverage can also put him in position to make plays. While his resume isn't full of turnovers, he does demonstrate the ball skills on tape to record interceptions. In this play from the Ole Miss game, Bullard drops in a Cover-2 shell, and by reading the quarterback's eyes, he anticipates the throw, flips his hips, and breaks on the ball to haul in the interception.

This not only shows his impressive play anticipation, but it also showcases his athleticism to make an impressive acrobatic catch. Bullard excels in zone coverage, and while his ability as a run stopper is important, it's his dependability in coverage that will allow him to see the field as a rookie.

5) Offers Position Versatility -- While Bullard's game has many great benefits, it's perhaps his position versatility that cemented the Packers' decision to take him in the second round. Bullard already looks like a dependable post safety, but his ability to play the nickel position brings additional value to the Packers roster. Here is a clip from the Tennessee game where Bullard lined up over the slot in man coverage.

Here he breaks up a pass, anticipating the in-breaking route. However, while Keisean Nixon may be the Packers' starting nickel corner going into the season, there will be times offenses will line up with four wide receivers and Bullard may have to line up over the slot opposite of Nixon. Having a player that can play safety or nickel also gives the Packers options for who they put on the field.

Bullard can also be effective blitzing off the edge, whether it's from the nickel or as a box safety. When he played primarily nickel in 2022, Bullard recorded 3.5 sacks. This next clip is from the Peach Bowl against Ohio State. Bullard shows his burst off the edge as a blitzer, sacking the quarterback from the blindside.

Bullard also lined up off the edge on the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations. And while he lacks size, he is a tough player who can hold up in the box. In this next clip from the Florida game, Bullard lines up a few yards off the line of scrimmage as a linebacker and fills against the run to tackle the tailback.

Bullard's ability to play post safety, in the box, or at the nickel position will allow the Packers to utilize him in a variety of ways on the field. It will also allow the best four or five defensive backs to play on the field at any given time.

Areas of Improvement for the Next Level

1) Lack of Functional Strength/Size -- It is really difficult to find parts of Bullard's game that need improvement. However, while he nearly checks all of the boxes of what a team wants in a safety, his lack of size can hinder him at times. It may be the only reason he wasn't a first-round pick in the draft. It doesn't happen often, but there are occasions where Bullard gets washed out of plays or loses the collision because he played around 195 pounds.

For example, in this clip from the Auburn game Bullard meets the tailback head-on near the goal line, and the Auburn running back runs through him to score the touchdown.

Bullard is still there to attempt the tackle, but he needs a little more lead in his pencil to stop the halfback in his tracks. Playing under 200 pounds as a safety might be too light for the NFL, especially if he's asked to play in the box. Most of the time Bullard does a great job holding up against blocks in the run game, despite his size, but there are times where a little more weight or functional strength could help him hold up better in the trash. In this next clip from the Ole Miss game, Bullard gets knocked off his feet from a receiver's crack block, taking Bullard out of the play.

Despite a few negative plays, Bullard still has good strength for his size, and his smaller stature hasn't prohibited his ability to make an impact on defense. However, adding more weight may be a good idea for a player with his violent playing style to endure the long 17-game NFL season.

2) Gets Beat on Occasion in Man Coverage -- While Bullard is stellar in zone coverage, he is only adequate in man. There are times he will get beat when matched one-on-one with a slot receiver in space. On this play against Ohio State, Bullard presses the slot receiver, who is the point of the bunch set. Bullard loses the inside leverage to the slot receiver, who runs a 15-yard dagger route.

The receiver gets separation out of his break and gains the first down. Bullard's strength is not in playing press man. He is better in zone coverage where he can read the quarterback's eyes and break on the ball.

This next clip is another example of this. Bullard is playing safety, instead of nickel. When the receiver motions across the formation, Bullard moves up to match against the motioning wideout. However, Bullard misreads the receiver's route and gets turned around, giving up the reception.

It looks like Bullard was anticipating a wheel route and gets beat on the deep curl. To his credit, Bullard still runs down the receiver to make the tackle, but it does show some inconsistency in Bullard's game as a man cover defensive back.

Conclusion

Bullard was a tremendous find for the Packers at the end of the second round. It's hard to imagine why a player with this many positive attributes fell to the 58th overall pick. Green Bay certainly got one of the best safeties coming out of college. Bullard is an excellent athlete with impressive acceleration and burst. He is also highly intelligent with sharp processing skills and the physicality and toughness to punish ball carriers. Bullard should be the front runner going into training camp for the other safety position opposite of Xavier McKinney. The two of them could form quite the formidable duo in the middle of the Packers defense. However, if Evan Williams or Kitan Oladapo have strong camps and beg to get on the field or Nixon struggles at nickel, then Bullard could take over the nickel corner position as Williams or Oladapo play more safety.

(*Note on Bullard's Film: 13 games were watched for this piece. 6 of the games were All-22 coaches' film, while the others were television broadcasts. Footage from the All-22 was not allowed to be shared for this piece, so clips from the television broadcasts were used for those games instead.)

 

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4 points
 

Comments (14)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
RedRight49's picture

May 01, 2024 at 11:45 am

Excellent use of game clips to illustrate and document the attributes and skill sets Bullard brings to the Packers!

You are correct, he can process offensive plays quickly and make his play on the ball carriers or receivers.

And he arrives with a bang!

Bullard was an outstanding draft selection for the Packers!

GPG

7 points
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stockholder's picture

May 01, 2024 at 12:24 pm

It was a strong safety class.
Still - Gute had high hopes for savage too.
A first and a 3rd.
And then there was Amos.
Hopefully the 3rd try is the charm.

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Todd's picture

May 01, 2024 at 01:52 pm

Stock…I wanted to congratulate you on recently reaching 30,000 down votes. An impressive accomplishment considering you’ve posted 10.5K times. Now, doing your own upvoting is a bit narcissistic in my opinion, but still. 30,000 is something to be applauded on. Keep up the great work!

6 points
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Oppy's picture

May 01, 2024 at 08:04 pm

What does that even mean, "and then there was Amos"?
Amos was a solid FA acquisition for the Packers. They got him in his best years. They moved on when contract money didn't make sense for the age and the production. Seems like they timed it just right, since Amos played for two different clubs in 2023.

As to Savage, you were just crying tears about his loss in another post in a different article, trying to make a point that he should not have been released for new talent.

Speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

4 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 01, 2024 at 09:30 pm

performative nonsense. and people respond to it.

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splitpea1's picture

May 01, 2024 at 12:37 pm

The processing and the closing speed are what really stands out. Although he may not be as proficient in press, I'm sure we'll be playing our fair share of zone--where he can hopefully help us increase our woeful INT totals from a year ago. The tackling is also impressive; it's refreshing to see one of our safeties wrap up--we need this!

5 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 01, 2024 at 01:23 pm

If I had to guess who would be the most impactful rookie this year I'd go with Bullard. If he can start on a national championship team as a true Sophomore it makes me think he'll grasp new concepts quickly and it will show on the field.

3 points
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HawkPacker's picture

May 01, 2024 at 02:30 pm

He sure looks fast and tough. Hopefully, he can add 7 - 10 lbs and not lose any speed. He can be even better.

He is quick on his decision making. The author did not show any tape of a pass play where the QB fakes a throw to the WR to see how he handles the fake. Does he bite on the fake and then is out of the play, does he not go for the fake or does he bite on the fake but with his speed and smarts, he reacts to the fake in time to stop the pass?

I am pretty impressed with both him and Cooper the LB. They should be fun to watch and grow!

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DanDahlke's picture

May 01, 2024 at 10:43 pm

That is a great question, HawkPacker. In the games I viewed I did not see a lot of examples on film where he fell for a fake or misdirection. I did not see him biting on something underneath and then get beat over the top as a result of it. It could be out there in his film, but I did not see it in the games I viewed.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

May 01, 2024 at 07:51 pm

Dan, trying to watch these clips is really frustrating. I have no idea what to look for. If you're referring to a specific part, could you cite a time stamp? The # of the player would help, too.

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DanDahlke's picture

May 01, 2024 at 10:12 pm

Hi there, thanks for the feedback. I'm wondering if the video links aren't working for you. On my end, these are 5-7 second clips from the full video. When I hit play it just shows that one play on a loop. Is this the same for you? There is a link in the clips to play the full video, but the intention of the clips was not for the reader to have to watch the entire video. I will see if there is something on my end that is not working correctly. Bullard is #22.

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TKWorldWide's picture

May 02, 2024 at 09:26 am

You had me at “reliable tackler”!

3 points
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cdoemel's picture

May 02, 2024 at 09:37 am

Dan, excellent work. The clips worked for me. This may be asking a lot but could you do the same for Edgerrin Cooper?

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DanDahlke's picture

May 02, 2024 at 06:56 pm

Hi, I'm glad the clips worked for you and you enjoyed them : ) I would love to write a piece like this for Edgerrin Cooper, but another writer already wrote a deep dive piece on him. You could always check that out. I believe he included some highlights in the article. Each writer has their own approach to the deep dive pieces. Someone else also wrote one on Marshawn Lloyd. I love both Cooper and Lloyd. I wrote their breakdowns for the CHTV Draft Guide, so I'm very familiar with their college film. I was pumped when the Packers drafted them.

I did write a deep dive piece on Jordan Morgan, and I structured it similarly to the Bullard Deep Dive. I included clips from Morgan's college film. I am also currently working on one for Evan William, and I plan on tackling Monk and Oladapo, if I have the time, haha.

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