2009 Senior Bowl Game Review

Discussion in 'Draft Zone' started by cowboyjoe, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. cowboyjoe

    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 Deux: The Defense

    The story of the week of practice at the Senior Bowl in Mobile was how the dominance of the defensive line. And while the defensive fronts weren't quite as imposing in the actual game there were still a number of noteworthy performances. Boston College DT B.J. Raji, who was arguably the best player on the field over the course of the week of practice, had another strong outing in the game. Raji didn't get into the backfield as much as in practice as he was double-teamed on just about every play, but still continued to shine top ten potential as he exploded off the snap, was effective spinning out of double teams and showed good vision and lateral range to stay with the play even when facing multiple-team blocks. Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry was also very quick off the snap and was consistently able to get into the gaps; Jerry also showed excellent lateral range and closing speed coming off an effective swim move. And for a 290-pounder, Jerry did a nice job anchoring at the point of attack when double-teamed. The other DT that really stood during the Senior Bowl was undersized Mitch King of Iowa, who was generally too quick for the opposing offensive linemen to handle. Indeed, King showed more like ILB athleticism getting through the traffic and exploding into tackles. However, at just 275 pounds and probably lacking the pure speed to move outside to DE, just where King would fit on a pro roster remains something of a poser.

    Underrated Georgia DT Corey Irvin also had a solid game, although he didn't get as much upfield penetration as Raji and Jerry. Irvin though, did a nice job using his hands to shed blockers, kept his feet moving and also showed very good lateral range along the line of scrimmage. Same story for both Alex Magee of Purdue and Fili Moala of USC, although Moala did come off the snap a little high at times and lost leverage, but did work hard and was another DT who covered a lot of ground up and down the line of scrimmage as did Magee. Meanwhile, as he did all last week, Ziggy Hood of Missouri was very effective rushing the passer off a series of spin moves, but didn't anchor all that well as he tended to gets his pads too high. Ron Brace, the other big Boston College DT in Mobile also had a tendency to play too high and lost leverage at the point of attack; plus as a pure bull-rusher, Brace seldom got much penetration rushing the passer.

    One of the oher emerging story lines at this year's story line was the numer of previously unheralded players who were really able to establish themselves on the draft radar with solid weeks. That was certainly the case for Tennessee DE Robert Ayers who may have the best player in the actual Senior Bowl game itself. The 6-3, 270-pound Ayers had a very quick first step, as well as good acceleartion and closing speed; Ayers also showed the strength to maintain leverage once he turned the corner and was relentless in pursuit of the ball, although he also is a little stiff in the lower body and isn't always that fluid changing direction. On the other hand, pro scouts may have been a little disappointed in how Northern Illinois DE Larry English fared in the Senior Bowl game. English is a long-strider who did get off the snap with authority, but wasn't quite quick enough to consistently get to the edge and too often was just run off the play. English also wasn't that strong at the point of attack and ran himself out of position more than once defending the run when he was too overaggressive trying to get into the backfield.

    Meanwhile, Kyle Moore of USC showed some interesting potential. Moore is another long strider with a quick enough first step and a decent swim move, but wasn't that strong at the point of attack.Moore, though, appears to have the frame to add another 15-20 pounds and could develop into a useful 3-4 type DE at the next level. At the same time, Will Davis of Illinois and Tim Jamison of Michigan both worked hard enough, although neither got much in the way of consistent penetration. Same for tweener DEs Corey Brown of UConn and Hawaii's David Veikune, both of whom displayed high-energy motors, but lacked the strength to get off blocks, although Brown in particular, showed some nice closing speed when he did get some open field. Same for Cincinnati DE/TE Connor Barwin, who got very few reps at DE, but was able to get around the corner and apply some pressure when he did play.

    Arguably, the best LB on the field in the Senior Bowl game was MLB Scott McKillop of Pittsburgh. McKillop, who was very aggresive all evening, read the play and filled the hole very quickly, and once there really exploded into tackles. McKillop also showed good range to the sidelines and decent feet avoiding traffic, but didn't look quite as smooth or agile dropping into coverage. Another Big East LB, Tyrone McKenzie of South Florida, was also all over the field most of the night. Indeed, no LB in Mobile spent more time in the opposing backfield than McKenzie who covered a lot of ground and wrapped up nicely once he got there. For good measure, McKenzie also showed good athleticism playing in reverse and broke up a pass after breaking crisply on an underneath route. LSU Darry Beckwith also showed some athleticism dropping into coverage and knocking down a pass and then later sniffed out a screen and stuffed the play with an aggressive tackle. Beckwith has a thick lower body, moves his feet well and also did a nice job keeping blockers away from his legs, but did have a back run away from him when he was a half-step late getting to the hole on a couple of plays. Meanwhile, both Moise Fokou of Maryland and Ashlee Palmer of Ole Miss were both very quick to the ball, but both could be engulfed when forced to take on a blocker at the point of attack.

    Other than perhaps Ole Miss OT Michael Oher, the most watched player in Mobile was Southern Cal MLB Rey Maualuga. And, for the most part, Maualuga was Maualuga in both Senior Bowl practices and the game. In the game, for example, Maualuga forced a fumble, stuffed a screen with a great read and aggressive tackle, and also blew up a couple of other running plays with crunching tackles in the hole before they got started. Maualuga, though, also missed a couple of other tackles whe he overran the play. What scouts wanted to see in Mobile, though, was whether Maualuga
    could be as effective in space and playing in reverse as he was going downhill, but unfortunately didn't get that great a read in Mobile as Maualuga didn't play a lot in the latter stages of the game when the trailing North team aired it out on just about every play. Meanwhile, Maualaga's USC teammate Brian Cushing didn't make any big plays, but continued to impress scouts by doing all the little things. Cushing is a long-strider who got to the ball in a hurry and did a nice job shedding blocks and generally wrapping up, although he did slide off one tackle. Cushing also was able to stuff a couple of blockers in the hole and also was able to run with backs and TEs in coverage.

    The third USC LB in Mobile, converted DE Clay Matthews, also had some things to prove in the Senior Bowl and by most accounts improved his stock. Same for Virginia DE/OLB Clint Sintim, another LB prospect who mostly rushed the passer in college, but like Matthews was trying to show NFL teams that he was more than one dimensional. In fact, both Matthews and Sintim were strong at the point of attack, did a nice job shedding blocks and got upfield with authority, however, neither looked all that quick, instinctive or fluid when playing in space. On the other hand, neither of Ohio State OLB Marcus Freeman or California MLB Zack Follett likely did much to improve their draft prospects in the Senior Bowl. Freeman did show the speed to run ball carriers down from behind, but wasn't at all physical at the point of attack and really struggled to get off blocks. Meanwhile, Follett appeared stiff and indecisive as he didn't always find the ball and struggled to get through the traffic. Follett also took a couple of bad angles to the ball and really wasn't under control when he did attack the football.

    Because of the inconsistencies in the passing attacks of both teams in Mobile it wasn't always easy to get a read on the secondaries. That said, CB Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest likely didn't do anything to hurt his grade as the top-rated senior corner in the 2009 draft class. Smith was able to turn and run with every receiver at the Senior Bowl; Smith was also physical enough, while also breaking quickly coming out of a backpeddle. In fact, Smith had a pick-6 in his hands when he ran a better route than the receiver and jumped a Graham Harrell pass with nothing but grass in front of him, but couldn't hold on to make the catch. San Jose State speedster Coye Francies also did a nice job in coverage in the Mobile game as he had the quickness to stay with opposing receivers all over the field. Francies, though, wasn't all that physical or aggressive when tackling. UConn CB Darius Butler also had his moments, breaking up one pass in the end zone as he outbattled a bigger receiver for the ball in press coverage; Butler, though, tended to play a little soft in zone and was somewhat indecisive breaking on the ball. Meanwhile, Macho Harris of Virginia wasn't tested often, but provided some tight, physical coverage when the ball did come in his sector.

    On the other hand, CBs DeAngelo Smith of Cincinnati, Ellis Lankster of West Virgiinia, Domonique Johnson of Jackson State and Sherrod Martin of Troy all got picked to some extent or other in Mobile. Smith, for example, was able to break crisply and disrupt one underneath route, but generally gave up too much cushion and lacked the extra gear to make up lost ground. Same story for the unheralded Lankster who had the game's only interception on an underthrown ball and also delivered a crunching tackle in run support, but otherwise gave up too much cushion and allowed a number of key receptions including on a key 3rd and 16 when he was a full 5 yards off the receiver 20 yards downfield when the ball arrived for the conversion. For his part, Johnson was slow to react when the ball was in the air, while Troy's Martin looked like a classic tweener who isn't quite fast enough for the corner nor phsyical enough to play safety.

    With so few passes thrown over the middle the safeties in Mobile weren't called on to do much more than mop-up in the Senior Bowl game. Western Michigan's Louis Delmas and Derek Pegues of Mississippi State, though, were noticeable simply for how quickly they consistently got to the line of scrimmage, while Oregon's Patrick Chung delivered a couple of big hits, along with breaking up a pass over the middle and stuffing a run at the goal line with a solid open field tackle. Will Moore of Missouri also tried to be aggressive, but took a couple of bad angles to the ball that resulted in missed tackles, while Notre Dame's David Bruton also missed a tackle in the open field and got picked on when he tried to cover slot receivers.

    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.

    Return to the Great Blue North Draft Report.
  2. DaBoys4Life

    DaBoys4Life Benched

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    Nice post.
  3. cowboyjoe

    cowboyjoe Well-Known Member

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    thanks DaBoys

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