Posted by Walter
Day 2 - 1/23
Just finished watching the NFL Network's coverage of Day 2 of the Senior Bowl practices, which means I got my first look at the South squad. The coverage was a full 2 hours today and since most of the offensive and defensive installation was yesterday, I have a lot more observations about specific players.
But first, some general observations about the South Squad:
- The quarterback situation for the South Squad is far worse than the North. Whereas the North squad boasts first round talents like Drew Stanton and Troy Smith, the South squad has only Chris Leak, Jordan Palmer and Kevin Kolb. Not to take anything away from those guys, but the North passers are far better, and this may affect the South WR/TE play somewhat. Just something to keep in mind.
- One glaring theme during the South practice today was the overall dominance of the South offensive lineman. In both individual drills and team situations, the defensive lineman were constantly overmatched by their, tougher, stronger offensive counterparts. Some defensive lineman looked OK, but as a group they just do not appear to be very physical at all, while the South offensive lineman appear to be a nasty, smart, physical bunch. I will be very interested to watch them play against some of the more physically imposing defensive lineman from the North squad like Victor Abiamiri, Adam Carriker, Lamar Woodley, and Amobi Okoye. These should be the best matchups during the Senior Bowl game itself.
- Kevin Kolb is by FAR the best quarterback prospect on the South roster. He threw the ball very accurately today, and, perhaps more importantly, showed the ability to throw a tight spiral which consistently cut through what was a strong Mobile wind. Another important development for Kolb was how comfortable he looked operating out of the 5 and 7 step drop, something he never had to do in college (where he operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun). Kolb's footwork looked fine, and he consistently threw accurate balls in rythm. Overall, he had an excellent performance all day.
- Other than Kolb the South QB's struggled. Jordan Palmer looked very top heavy and immobile in his drop, and his footwork was sloppy. His ball fluttered in the wind. His arm strength did not look as good as advertised. Chris Leak has similar problems with the wind. His arm just isn't strong enough, although he does throw a pretty ball when it comes out right.
- The two most dominating performances I saw during the practice came from offensive lineman. Texas guard Justin Blalock was nothing short of awesome in one on one drills. He absolutely ate up Quentin Moses working as a tackle, and showed extremely quick feet for a guard. Blalock projects as a guard but he showed ability to step outside if necessary.
- The other dominating performance came from USC Center Ryan Kalil. Though somewhat undersized, Kalil held his ground against every defensive lineman thrown at him. He showed outstanding footwork, and makes up for his lack of size by playing with unparalelled leverage. Kalil dominated NC State defensive tackle Tank Tyler twice in one on one drills, and several times during the team period.
- Much like the quarterback situation, the wideouts on the South roster really aren't anything special. There were really only two guys who stood out, and both did so because of their physical play rather than speed. First was Dallas Baker who showed solid ability to beat press coverage at the line, and excellent route running skills. He caught several balls.
- The second was Dawyne Bowe, who at 222 lbs. was the most physical wideout all day. He caught several balls over the middle because of excellent body control and toughness, although he looked shaky on deep, vertical routes, dropping a sure TD from Kevin Kolb. Bowe is establishing himself as perhaps strictly a possession type reciever, but overall he was the most impressive player on the field.
- Joe Staley was maddeningly inconsistent, showing outstanding balance and ability one play, but getting overpowered the next. In one matchup against Texas End Tim Crowder, Staley displayed picture perfect pass blocking ability and looked like a potential franchise left tackle. However, he was beaten with simple swim moves several times after that.
- The group of defensive backs is pedestrian at best. Like I said, the South WR group is physical but not incredibly athletic, and the defensive backs had trouble all day. NC State's AJ Davis was consistently the worst player. He flashed the ability and willingness to be physical with bigger wideouts, but his hips are very stiff which prevents him from breaking on balls.
- Texas' Aaron Ross was clearly the best defensive back on the South squad. Though some balls were completed against him, Ross displayed other-worldly footwork, and change of direction speed. What was strange was that initially I wrote down that Ross had great ability but appeared afraid to be physical, but then on one play he absolutely ended a pass route at the line with a jarring jam. I loved what I saw from Ross today, and although he isn't as polished as Leon Hall, may have more potential.
- Ross' teammate, Mike Griffin did not impress. He showed solid recognition skills and the ability to break on several balls (crucial for a safety), but he looked lost in man coverage. Griffin's hips were stiff in man coverage, and he is way too high in his back pedal. He isn't big enough to play the strong safety spot, so he is going to have to show the ability to cover slot WR (a necessary skill for the free safety). He needs to work on bending at his knees and keeping his weight over his feet in his backpedal.
- Brandon Merriweather looked great in man coverage. He has great feet, and very fluid hips. He plays a lot like a cornerback and I wouldn't be shocked to see him playing that position in the NFL.
- Auburn CB David Irons was a mystery all day. I have stated that I think Irons projects best as a cover 2 corner, in the mold of Ronde Barber, and he did very little to dispel those thoughts today. Irons looked slow in man coverage (which he is) and was forced to play overly physical resulting in what would have been at least one illegal contact penalty. Irons was beaten deep by Johnny Lee Higgins (who can absolutely fly) once, but he also almost picked off a simple out pattern by using outstanding anticipation. Overall it was an up and down day for Irons, but it seemed like I was noticing him every time he was in a drill. Oveall Irons has been somewhat of a revelation, though he has made some mistakes.
- As I said, for the most part the South defensive line was awful. But I did see two exceptions. First was Miss. St. tackle Antonio Johnson who looked extremely explosive, and used his hands extremely well. He beat Tim Duckworth on a monster spin move, but what was most impressive was Johnson's use of multiple pass rush moves. I cannot emphasize how impressive he was using his hands.
- The second exception was Oklahoma St. tackle Ryan McBean. McBean showed up to the Senior Bowl somewhat slimmed down, but was still very powerful in one on one drills. McBean also looked very quick on inside moves, dominating TN tackle Aaron Sears on one occasion. McBean was outstanding today, and showed the potential to possibly play the defensive end position in a 3-4 scheme.
- The worst defensive player for the South was NC State tackle Tank Tyler. Tyler was nothing short of awful, looking disinterested at times. Ryan Kalil handled Tyler on every occasion despite being outweighed by nearly 20 pounds, and Tyler was even dominated by Clemson center Dustin Fry who was by far the least imposing South offensive lineman. Tyler was awful all day and showed absolutely no explosion against either the run or pass.