2006 SENIOR BOWL
GAME REPORT: DEFENSE
by Colin Lindsay, GBN Editor
February 1, 2006
It Up is up then it must be down!!!… It probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the OTs struggled in last Saturday's Senior Bowl, then just maybe the DEs were pretty good. And that's just what happened in Mobile on the weekend. Indeed, Penn State DE Tamba Hali was the individual star of the game as he posted a pair of sacks, knocked down a pass and was just generally disruptive all afternoon
. Like most of the other DEs in Mobile, Hali doesn't look all that big - he measured in at 6-2, 267 - but he has a very quick first step off the snap, uses his hands effectively and is a tough target to block because he's constantly in motion from side to side. Hali also runs well, has a good closing burst and will run the play down until the whistle. Hali can also play the run, although he's not real strong at the point of attack. Instead he uses a quick lateral step to avoid the initial block and slides down the line well. In order to get off the block, though, Hali will over commit and get caught to the inside where he is easily sealed. As well, while Hali was the headliner in Mobile, on neither of his two sacks, did he actually beat an OT; on one he wasn't blocked at all and had a free run at the QB, while on the other the primary blocker was a TE. In fact, a case can be made that Virginia Tech DE Darryl Tapp
actually did a better job of separating from the OT in front of him than Hali. Tapp showed an explosive first step, and while he was more of a straight-line type rusher, also made a couple of impressive hard inside cuts off an initial outside burst. Meanwhile, Tennessee DE Parys Haralson wrapped up a fine week in Mobile with a solid outing in which like Hali and Tapp he got off the line extremely quickly and showed an array of effective spin moves, as well as good closing speed. And after something of an uneven week of practice, Elvis Dumervil of Louisville, the NCAA's leading sacker in 2005, also had his best day in Mobile in Saturday. Dumervil was something of a whirling dervish as he was constantly spinning and switching directions. Dumervil also plays so low to the ground that once he got on their inside shoulder, it was difficult for the much taller OTs to regain any leverage. Dumervil also showed a quick first step off the snap, but wasn't as fluid running in the open field than some of the other top DEs. Dumvervil is not a long strider and lacks a real closing burst. Mark Anderson of Alabama had one of the day's highlight reel films when he blew past star Virginia OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson to post a sack; Anderson also showed good range down the line to help stuff the run, however, other than that one sack, didn't make a whole lot of penetration rushing the passer. Same for Indiana DE Victor Adeyanju, who was not as quick as the other DEs and lacked much in the way of pass-rush polish. Adeyanju, though, has a quick, long first step off the snap and on a couple of occasions did get some penetration when he beat his man to the corner and dipped his shoulder to maintain leverage. The Senior Bowl also featured a couple of real tweeners at DE in Manny Lawson of North Carolina State and Florida State's Kamerion Wimbley, neither of whom is much over 240 pounds. As he did all week in Mobile, Lawson was a menace in the open field; he's a long strider who covered acres of ground when unblocked; plus Lawson seemed to have a nose for the ball. When head-to-head with an OT, though, Lawson tended to get engulfed. As such, he looked all the part of a prototype 3-4 OLB. Same for Wimbley, who showed some quickness and range, but for the most part, spent far too much time Saturday hand-fighting and head-faking and ultimately didn't make up headway upfield.
While the DEs in Mobile were generally running free much of the time, the DTs were in a real war on the inside trenches. Despite being double-teamed much of the day, Michigan's Gabe Watson was almost (impossible) to move off the line of scrimmage; Watson also showed some small area upfield quickness, although he likely will never be a prime pass rusher. Same story for squat Tennessee DT Jesse Maholena, who likes like a prototype NFL nose tackle. Like Watson, the 6-0, 311-pound Maholena was rooted to the line of scrimmage even when doubled teamed
, but didn't make much headway rushing the passer, although he does come off the snap very quickly. On the other hand, Kyle Williams of LSUgot considerable upfield penetration as he was consistently able to beat the OG off the snap into one of the gaps; Williams also uses his hands effectively and goes hard to the whistle. However, Williams wasn't as strong at the point of attack; in particular, he tended to play too high when double-teamed. There was a similar story for Oklahoma DT Dusty Dvoracek, another high-energy guy who showed some quickness off the snap and decent closing speed, but also got stood up on occasion when working inside. There was a similar story for Stanford DT Julian Jenkins, an injury replacement who showed some decent lateral quickness, but got pushed around a bit at the point of attack. Jenkins. in fact, looked something like a prototype 3-4 DE. At the same time, a little bit more was expected from Orien Harris of Miami, Babatunde Oshinowo of Stanford, and Brodrick Bunkley of Florida State, however, all had relatively quiet games, although all three were solid enough holding the point of attack. Oshinowo also showed decent lateral range along the line of scrimmage, while both Harris and Bunkley showed flashes of pass-rush potential, just not consistently.
There was a mixed bag story at LB at this year's Senior Bowl. For example, the two top-rated LBs heading into Mobile - Chad Greenway of Iowa and DeMeco Ryans of Alabama - had very quiet days.
The Hawkeyes' Greenway, who had a very good week of practice, ran well but was seldom around the ball. Ryans also showed some quickness in space, but struggled to get off blocks near the line of scrimmage and was beaten badly in coverage for a big gainer by USC TE Dominique Byrd. UTEP's Thomas Howard, another top-rated OLB, at least was more than solid in coverage, but also wasn't very physical near the line of scrimmage.
Same story for Stanford Jon Alston who had a couple of plays, but tended to get hung up in traffic when attacking the line of scimmage. And it was a bad day all around for UCLA LB Spencer Havner who got run over a couple of times by blockers, took a number of bad angles to the ball, and missed another tackle when he did get there.
On the other hand, the MLBs were generally sound. Iowa's Abdul Hodge, for example, did a nice job filling holes as he came up quickly on running plays, showed good lateral movement as he kept his feet alive and wrapped up when he found the ball carrier. Hodge, who did struggle at times in coverage during the week's practice sessions, however, did take a bad angle on the screen pass that Memphis RB DeAngelo Williams turned into one of the day's big gainers. Maryland MLB D'Qwell Jackson also did a nice job slicing through the traffic to find the ball and drove through the ball-carrier when he got there. Gerris Wilkerson also quietly had a solid day with a couple of sticks, although he also got tied up in traffic on occasion. Meanwhile, no one is going to question Alabama MLB Freddie Roach's aggressiveness after the Senior Bowl. Roach used his hands effectively to keep blockers off his legs and slid up and down the line nicely; Roach also delivered a nice pop on at least one tackle, but whiffed on three other tackles when he got there in time, but failed to wrap up.
The best LBs on the field on Saturday, though, were rather unheralded Travis Williams of Auburn and Brian Iwuh of Colorado. The 217-pound Williams, for example, did a nice job diagnosing plays, ran well to the ball and wrapped up solidly when he got there, although he did struggle at times to get off blocks in traffic. Iwuh was also very aggressive, coming off the snap with authority and beating the blockers to the point of attack on a couple of runs, plus he was around the ball in coverage. In fact, there has been some thought that Iwuh could ultimately end up safety at the next leve, although at 227 pounds probably is big enough to play LB in the pros
. Williams could also get a look as safety in the NFL, but probably lacks the agility to make that kind of move.
Given that we aren't yet on the NFL's list of recipients of the Senior Bowl game tape - we are working on it though - we had to do our evaluation off a TV tape. And unfortunately, TV coverage usually gives short shrift to the secondary so the DBs are the hardest players to evaluate. What did show up, though, was some pretty good play by the safeties. Unheralded West Virginia SS Jahmile Addae came back from an early-game injury to make plays all over the field including an interception and a nice open-field tackle on the super quick Sinorice Moss. 'All over the field' also described the play of Alabama FS Roman Harper who was one of a very few South defenders to shine on Saturday. Meanwhile, Syracuse FS Anthony Smith also came up quickly to make a solid tackle as he stuffed Memphis' DeAngelo Williams for little or no gain on a short pass, while Florida State's Pat Watkins almost had a pick.
It was a bit of a tougher go for some of the CBs. Tye Hill of Clemson, one of the stars of the week's practice session, got caught too shallow in zone coverage allowing Moss to haul in a scoring pass in the corner of the end zone; Hill also gave up some underneath completions, but did come up and put the receiver on the ground with some authority. Meanwhile, Cedric Griffen of Texas had a highlight reel diving interception in the end zone, but generally was a half step late on a number of other completions; Griffen, though, was very physical when he did get there. The Georgia duo of Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter also had a stick each, however, Kelly Jennings of Miami was guilty of giving up a little too much cushion on occasion. And Will Blackmon, perhaps a bit rusty after playing WR all year for the Eagles, was badly turned around on a TD reception by Auburn's Devin Aromashodu.