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Training camp player spotlight: veteran free agent Kenny Ladler, DB

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Many Redskin fans may be unaware of the talented player coming to training camp who spent the past two seasons in the CFL

Auburn v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Who is Kenny Ladler?

Kenny Ladler spent the last two seasons playing as a strong side linebacker for the Edmunton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League after his first year of professional football as a safety for the Buffalo Bills in 2014 was cut short. It seems like the hometown Edmunton paper, the Sun, is excited for Ladler and his opportunity to return to the NFL. The paper featured him in an article back in January:

While Brandon Zylstra was Edmonton’s most dangerous offensive weapon, the same could be said about Ladler on the defensive side.

With defensive captain J.C. Sherritt absent with an Achilles injury suffered in the season-opening game, Ladler became the Eskimos’ top playmaker on defence with 86 tackles, 13 more on special teams, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal.

“[Sherritt]’s a former defensive player of the year in this league. It was a challenge that I was expected to accept, and I just wanted to build off of where I was last year,” said the six-foot-one, 207-pound Ladler, a Vanderbilt product. “I wanted to help the team as much as possible by being a playmaker on the defence.

“It was a challenge that I’d be willing to accept for the rest of my pro football career.”

Though not necessarily in Edmonton.

The 25-year-old native of Stone Mountain, Ga., has been pursuing NFL opportunities of his own this off-season and not for the first time, either.

In fact, it was the two games he played during a short stint with the Buffalo Bills in 2014 that disqualified Ladler from being the shoo-in as Eskimos nominee for most outstanding rookie.

“My resume was cut short from my rookie (NFL) season,” recalled Ladler, who signed as an undrafted free agent in Buffalo and was among their final training camp cuts in 2014, before being signed to their practice squad the next day and finally getting promoted to the active roster. “I did break my forearm, so I didn’t have any tape, really, to show after that.

Ladler’s draft profile and career progression

A free safety coming out of Vanderbilt in 2014, Ladler’s NFL.com draft profile listed him at 6’0” and 207 pounds (Redskins.com lists him at 6’1” and 200 pounds). He was projected as a late round draft pick in the ‘14 draft, but ended up as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills.

Getty Images

In highlighting his strengths, NFL.com described him this way:

[Ladler has] good size, movement and flexibility. Efficient plant and drive on throws in front of him. Shows the ability to swoop downhill and support the run. Tries for the strip (forced five fumbles as a senior). Asset in the building -- terrific character. Durable and experienced. Was a 21-year-old senior. Bench-pressed 225 pounds 24 times at the combine, second-most among DBs.

As a rookie in Buffalo, Ladler played in two October games for the Bills 4th ranked defense before breaking his arm and losing the rest of his season.

In 2015, he headed north, where he signed with the Edmunton Eskimos, and for the past two years has been playing in the CFL. His team finished 12-6 in 2017, following a 10-8 campaign in 2016. The Eskimos were among the CFL’s best, qualifying for the playoffs in both seasons that Ladler played with them.

As you can see from the Sun article above, Kenny Ladler was considered to be the top defensive playmaker for his team in 2017. Below, you can see some of his 2016 highlights as a first-year player for Edmunton.

Kenny Ladler career highlights

Signed by the Redskins

Many Redskins fans are probably unaware of who Kenny Ladler is, or that he is competing for a spot on the Redskins roster for 2018. The Redskins, who have good competition in camp at defensive back, are looking for quality players with positional flexibility and special teams skills to round out the roster.

Ian Cummings, of Riggo’s Rag, wrote about Ladler a few months ago when the Redskins signed him:

Ladler’s outstanding production gained the attention of scouts in 2014, but his pedestrian athletic traits turned them away. Ladler ran a 4.70 40-yard dash, an effective death sentence for any collegiate safety’s hopes at getting drafted early. His strength, leadership, and production were his calling cards, but when it came down to draft day, Ladler wouldn’t be picked.

He was, however, highly sought after following the draft, and the Buffalo Bills brought him aboard for training camp in 2014. He would start the season on the practice squad before being elevated in October, only to be placed on injured reserve that same month. He was released after the following preseason.

In recent years, Ladler has been making a name for himself as a linebacker in the CFL, playing for the Edmonton Eskimos. After his most recent season, he decided to try out his NFL prospects once more, and the Washington Redskins subsequently inked him to a deal.

Ladler brings a solid mentality to the Redskins’ locker room, and he also played high school football with Preston Smith. Furthermore, Ladler played linebacker in the CFL, and so there is a chance he could be valuable to the Washington Redskins as a hybrid player if they decide he has what it takes to stick around.

Ladler, 25, faces a steep climb upward from this point on, but two things he prides himself on are hard work and perseverance. His career arc thus far is a testament to exactly that. For now, Ladler will join a crowded defensive back room, with the hopes of latching on and carving out a role for himself on the biggest stage. Will he be up to the challenge? He has a chance.

Kenny Ladler, with three seasons of professional football experience — two of them with a CFL playoff team — seems to have exactly the skills needed to break into the roster. He seems to be competing for a spot at free safety, pitting him against Troy Apke for the job of backing up Montae Nicholson, though he has the size and experience to possibly play linebacker in nickel packages. With his proven playmaking abilities, positional flexibility, and special teams experience, despite his lack of straight line speed Ladler is likely to take the position battle all the way to the end of training camp.

Kenny Ladler is a legitimate contender for one of the safety spots on the Redskins roster. I wouldn’t bet against him.

Poll

Rate Kenny Ladler as a veteran free agent:

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A
    (28 votes)
  • 35%
    B
    (110 votes)
  • 46%
    C
    (144 votes)
  • 7%
    D
    (23 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (2 votes)
307 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What will happen to Kenny Ladler?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    He’ll be on the Redskins active roster in 2018
    (111 votes)
  • 60%
    Back to the CFL
    (168 votes)
279 votes total Vote Now