2009 Senior Bowl Game Review

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    cowboyjoe Well-Known Member

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    2009 Senior Bowl Game Review
    by Colin Lindsay, Editor and Publisher, Great Blue North Draft Report

    That’s a wrap… Another Senior Bowl is in the books after last week's game capped off activities in Mobile. And while most NFL teams place far more value on what the players do in practice than in the game itself, we still like to watch what the guys can and can‘t do in an actual game setting. At the same though, this year‘s game was tougher to evaluate than some other recent games. In particular, most of the pass plays run were screens, dump-offs and other underneath routes that really didn‘t challenge either the WRs or the defensive backs.

    Part I: The Offense:

    The all-star game format can be tough on QBs because they are working with unfamiliar receivers in an unfamiliar offense with unfamiliar coaches and seldom get enough reps to get into any kind of rhythm. Even so, pro scouts had to be very disappointed with what they saw in Mobile this year as none of the QBs looked very comfortable in the pocket. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, in particular, had a week to forget. Harrell came to Mobile looking to establish himself as the top-rated senior QB prospect for the 2009 draft, in part, by showing that he was more than a system passer, however, NFL teams left town wondering if Harrell was draftable at all. In the actual game, for example, Harrell tripped coming from under center on the game's initial play from scrimmage and went downhill from there. In the end, Harrell completed just 4 of 13 passes as he literally bounced as many as half his passes in front of the intended receiver. And even when he did get the ball to the target, it took a long time to get there as it appeared he was aiming his passes rather firing them. Indeed, Harrell had one pass picked off and should have had a second returned for a TD, but the DB couldn't hold on with nothing but grass between him and the end zone. Rhett Bomar of Sam Houston State, the other top-rated QB in Mobile, didn't fare much better in the game, but as least showed some physical tools to build on including a live arm and the mobility to escape trouble. Bomar, though, tends to throw a lot of sidearm passes and isn't always that quick on the trigger. Meanwhile, Cullen Harper of Clemson also showed a live arm at times, but wasn’t real accurate as his footwork and timing left a lot to be desired. And while tall enough, Harper has a sometimes awkward delivery with a low release point.

    In fact, a case can be made that QBs John Parker Wilson of Alabama, Pat White of West Virginia and Central Arkansas' Nathan Brown were more productive in this year's Senior Bowl than their higher rated counteparts. Wilson, for example, was able to move his team as he did a nice job escaping trouble in the pocket and showed some surprising mobility upfield. Wilson also showed adequate arm strength, although he tended to get a little antsy in the pocket and doesn't have the smoothest release. Meanwhile, White, who was named the game's MVP after hitting Ole Miss WR Mike Wallace with a well-timed 39-yard TD reception, surprised with his velocity; indeed, White got the ball downfield with decent accuracy and very little air underneath on a couple of occasions; he also displayed a nice touch throwing on the run. White, though, is still awfully slight for an NFL QB and literally disappeared in the pocket more than once when surrounded by taller defensive linemen. In the end, the most efficient passer in Mobile was Brown who completed 9 of 15 passes, although most were of the dink-and-dunk variety. Brown, though, did have a quick, compact delivery, but missed badly on a couple of throws when he did try and go downfield.

    The inconsistencies at QB made the wide receivers that much harder to grade, however, it was pretty clear that there wasn't much pure speed at the position in Mobile this year. Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias, though, was able to get open at will on both underneth routes, as well as a couple of precise stop-and-go patterns. For good measure, Iglesias also broke a tackle to get into the end zone for a score. Ohio State's Brian Robiskie also was consistently able to get open underneth most of the day and showed good hands as he did all week in practice, while Patrck Turner of USC was able to use his 6-5 frame effectively to screen off DBs on slant routes; Turner also blocked very effectively. Meanwhile, Quan Cosby of Texas and Arizona's Mike Thomas showed good quickness working out of the slot, while Ole Miss' Mike Wallace hauled in a nifty 39-yard TD reception after blowing past a CB, but later dropped a pass. On the other hand, Ramses Barden of Cal Poly again struggled to get open as he did all week in practice, although he was able to screen off a DB to haul in one on a slant.

    The all-star format has also never been particularly RB-friendly as there usually just aren‘t enough carries for any one back to get into a rhythm, but somebody forgot to tell the guys in Mobile. Indeed, a number of backs really stood out at this year’s Senior Bowl starting with Andre Brown of North Carolina State who followed up a solid week of practice with a physical game. Brown, a 224-pounder, showed a nice burst in the open field and, with a strong lower body, was tough to bring down. Brown, though, was a tad indecisive at times when the original hole was clogged up and also needs to get his pads lower when hitting the pile. Rashad Jennings of Liberty also showed some downhill power and made a couple of nice cuts to hit the seam, but also had a tendency to dance in the hole at time. Meanwhile, Virginia's Cedric Peerman also showed some power as he broke tackles of both Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing of USC on the same play, but later put the ball on the ground and isn't going to find the secondary hole very often. At the same time, Jeremiah Johnson of Oregon showed some real quickness to the outside and may find a role as a 3rd down back at the next level, while James Davis of Clemson also made a nice cut to avoid the traffic and get to the outside, but needs to turn it upfield with more authority.

    <>While there was something of a hit-and-miss quality to the skill position prospects at this year's Super Bowl, there were some very good performances by a number of complimentary players. LSU FB Quinn Johnson, for example, was a dominating lead blocker and also showed decent hands catching three passes. North Carolina State TE Anthony Hill also had a terrific game blocking as he showed good quickness, strength and technique off the snap. Same for TE Brandon Pettigew of Oklahoma State, although Pettigrew had one 'ole' block that led to a sack. Neither Pettigrew nor Hill, though, were involved in the passing game of their respective teams. Meanwhile, Syracuse FB Tony Fiammetta also put a hat on people, but wasn't as aggressive as LSU's Johnson as a lead-blocker.
    Perhaps the most interesting position in Saturday’s game was the offensive line which generally had been dominated during the week of practices. Ole Miss OT Michael Oher, the highest-rated player to participate in this year's Senior Bowl, for example, had a strong outing in the actual game. Oher was dominant run-blocking as he consistently got a great jump off the snap, established leverage, and sustained his blocks through the whistle. The athletic Oher was also able to get out and make a block in space. Oher also showed excellent feet as he consistently cut off the edge to outside pass rushers, but was a little slow at times to reverse direction and stay with a quick outside-in move. Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt also had a solid outing in the Senior Bowl game. Loadholt did play too high at times, lacks great balance and isn't going to make many blocks in space, but did demonstrate a devastating punch and got great arm extension as he was simply a long way to get around. UConn's William Beatty also showed quick feet and got decent arm extension at times, but also was beaten to the corner too often as he appeared indecisive coming off the snap. OTs Xavier Fulton of Illinois, Jason Watkins of Florida and Troy Kropog of Tulane also had their problems at times. Fulton, for example, tended to play too high and too often allowed pass rushers to get into his pads, while his footwork was also inconsistent. Meanwhile, Watkins got decent am extension, but doesn't appear to be a natural knee bender and played too high at times. Kropog, on the other hand, moved reasonably well, but wasn't all that strong at the point of attack.

    <>A number of interior offensive linemen also left their calling cards at this year's Senior Bowl game. Oregon C/G Max Unger, for example, had a particularly strong game; Unger was quick off the snap, aggressive, and execptionally light on his feet. Cal C/G Alex Mack also showed good quickness and power at the point of attack and did a nice job sliding around the pocket helping out in pass protection. And it was more of the same from Louisville C/G Eric Wood who set up well, showed good agility and aggression blocking on the move, and got a good punch and arm extension in pass protection. Alabama C Antoine Caldwell also showed excellent quickness and agility in space, but didn't always sustain blocks.

    Auburn OG Tyronne Green and unhearlded Virginia Tech C Rick Shuman didn't look quite as athletic, but were both battlers who got the job done just about every snap. Oregon State G/T Andy Levitre also worked hard, but looked stiff setting up and tended to set his feet too early. Same for Wisconsin OG Kraig Urbik who tended to play too high and gave up too much penetration, while Trevor Canfield of Cincinnati tended to lean into blocks rather driving upfield, but did have one crunching block in space when he took the feet from under USC LB Rey Maualuga. Meanwhile, LSU G/T Herman Johnson had a better game than practice week as he was able to set up and use his long arms to make himself a long, long, way around, however, the 6-8, 382-pound Johnson lacks balance and really struggled to change direction.

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