The North team continued with its second and final practice in full pads on Wednesday. It was the final opportunity for many of the players to show their physicality and willingness to step into and fight through contact. This was a very clean practice for the most part and while a couple players earned the spotlight for the first time today, much remained quite the same with some of the same guys impressing.
I mentioned yesterday that the North teamís starting job was Tony Pikeís to lose and that the other two would have to step up if they wanted to have a shot. Dan LeFevour did just that through a good portion of practice. He was in rhythm, dropping passes in over the top in one-on-one WR/DB drills and translated his confidence into the team portion of practice. He looked to be delivering balls on target earlier today, showing better anticipation and a little more zip on the football. Sean Canfield also improved upon his disappointing practice in Tuesday. He showed the best anticipation and timing of the quarterbacks, all while making some difficult passes to the sideline. His best pass of the day came on a corner route, dropping the ball in just before the sideline. Like that pass, he consistently threw a tight spiral and placing the ball in precise locations. Tony Pike had just an average day, not making too many throws that wowed anyone, or many that disappointed.
While the trend this week has been to mention Blount and Bell, today it was Lonyae Miller that caught my eye. Miller, the back-up to Ryan Mathews, a top 3 back in this class, showed great speed around the corner at his size. He caught the ball well out of the backfield and bounced plays to the outside with ease. As mentioned yesterday, heís shown some major deficiencies in pass protection, but he could turn into a nice back-up in the NFL if he improves in that area. Joique Bell continued to impress, but today it was his hands. Heís a natural runner with the ball in his hands and someone Iíd love to watch college tape of his to see if his superb week translates to live game action. Saturday could prove to be a huge day for him. LeGarrette Blount doesnít appear to be the natural pass catcher that Miller or Bell are, but heís the best pure runner of this unit. Rashawn Jackson also looked good catching the ball in the flat and smoothly transitioning upfield.
Itís time we start talking about pass catchers with Ed Dickson to emphasize how good of a week he is truly having. You could count on one hand the number of significant errors heís made this week. Dickson can get down the field rather quickly and catch nearly any pass thrown in his direction, including passes thrown to him in traffic. Iíd like to see Dickson bulk up and get a better look at him as an inline blocker. Jacoby Ford has also really showed some things I hadnít expected. His football speed doesnít seem to be on the level of Dexter McCluster, another smaller player on the other team, but I like his route-running. He sometimes stays a little too high in his cuts, but itís an area in which heís ahead of where I thought heíd be this week. I loved the go route he ran in one-on-one drills today. After he gained a step on a defender, he turned it a bit inside to cut off the corner and also create a large window to the sideline for the quarterback to fit the ball. Marshawn Gilyard picked up exactly where he left off on Tuesday making a couple nice plays, finding separation with quick footwork. Heís not a physical receiver and may be best suited for the slot at the next level. Taylor Price also had a nice day, making several nice catches along the sidelines. In comparison to guys like Price, Ford, and Gilyard, Danario Alexander is very slow-footed and looks heavy in and out of cuts. He doesnít get much separation, though is sometimes able to use his body well. Alexander is sure-handed, but just may not have the foot speed to succeed at the next level.
I was quick to dismiss Ed Wang over the first two days, but heís a player who really made a huge leap today. He showed good footwork and did a nice job trading off defenders in the stunt pick-up drill. Wang could be an interesting developmental prospect who could be worth a late round selection. Playing next to him in stunt pick-ups was Mike Iupati who looked even better trading off defenders without losing balance or ground. Today was a much better day for him overall with better footwork and the ability to fight defenders to the finish. Matt Tennant has also been an impressive interior lineman here at senior bowl. He doesnít have the elite tools, but is a pure fighter in the box. Heís the type of prospect that plays smart and gives defensive linemen fits through the end. Utahís Zane Beadles is a prospect trending downward. Beadles doesnít have the footwork or balance to play in space at tackle. This week, defensive linemen havenít had much trouble going around or going right through him in one-on-one drills. Vladimir Ducasse struggled some today, especially against some of the faster linemen. Heís struggled a bit to adapt to the faster pace of play and the more talented athletes heís faced this week.
Collectively, the defensive line has gotten the better of the offensive line each day. Alex Carringtonís emergence as a difficult match-up for any offensive tackle, due to his strength, size, and speed, has helped that development over the week. He puts tackles on their heels right off the snap and generates a lot of power to go right through them. His explosiveness for a 280 pounder is extraordinary and a pleasure to watch. Brandon Graham has also been lights out all week. He has by far the fastest first step and can make tackles pay for one false movement or the slightest loss of balance. In team drills, Graham was a little too aggressive, getting caught crashing down the line of scrimmage while vacating a large gap to his outside on bootlegs and misdirections. Jared Odrick has been a tough task for offensive linemen all week too. His quick first step stood out today on a number of occasions and his relentlessness in playing through the whistle showed up on every play. In the team period, he showed the ability to shoot gaps and disrupt plays in the backfield. Austen Lane is also an interesting specimen; heís long with longer arms and plays with good suddenness.
Among linebackers, Phillip Dillard from Nebraska and A.J. Edds from Iowa both stood out in the team portion of practice. Theyíre both players who donít look that great in individual drills and in space, but when you put them in game situations, they excel. Edds has good size, instincts, and the ability to fight off blocks. Daryl Washington had his ups and downs. He used his athleticism to make plays in coverage and flow to the sideline, but he was also beat up a little by tight ends. Washington could really benefit from a Tampa 2 scheme at the next level.
While corners have made money this week on both squads, today the North teamís safeties stepped up their play. Leading the charge was Nebraskaís Larry Asante. The highlight of his day came on a play in the 7 on 7ís where he lit Garrett Graham up on a post route, something defensive coaches will secretly appreciate. He doesnít have elite man coverage skills, as heís shown this whole week, but he does a nice job of keeping play in front of him. Maryland safety Terrell Skinner looked great today as well. He does a nice job of closing on the ball and finishing plays. Having watched him in the past, heís also not afraid to get physical. Kyle McCarthy hasnít really stood out for much of the week, but made some nice breaks on the football in deep coverage today. SydíQuan Thompson did more of what we know of him. He was beat deep a little, but made some great players closer to the line of scrimmage. Kyle Wilson continued to do his thing. Iíve been raving about him for both practices and today was no different. Monday still remained his best overall practice though.
This concluded the final day for the North team in pads. The team will move back to shorts tomorrow with more emphasis on technique over physicality. The practices should be the cleanest weíve seen this week, which enables scouts to measure how well players are thinking and reacting on the field more than anything else. The NFL Network will cover the North team practice once again from 12:00-1:00PM.
Continue to Wednesday's South practice recap -->