There’s a reason so many NFL scouts socialize during practices each day: they get to watch the practice footage later that evening. Or the next week. Or whenever they want to.
Every year I learn more in the few hours watching practice tape than sitting in the stands or on the field each day. Luckily that film session started early this year, with a three hour look on Wednesday. I will attempt to separate my scattered thoughts into certain categories.
Understanding your style or best practice, in any profession, is a must. This is absolutely the case for pass rushers. Too often “power” or “explosive” collegiate pass rushers attempt to win as speed and flexible disruptors. These players’ best chance for success is working through their opponent, but instead said players repeatedly try to work around offensive linemen. It ends in failure in the NFL.
Georgia EDGE Jordan Jenkins is having this identity crisis during Senior Bowl week. Jenkins profiles as a power or bull rusher, but I repeatedly saw the Georgia product attempt to win with fancy footwork and counter moves. It did not work. Illinois DL Jihad Ward showed an understanding of how to use his length, elongating his frame by pressing only with his inside arm. However, Ward later tried spins and moves associated with much smaller edge rushers. Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins can seemingly pull off any move, and it was humorous to watch a few of his counterparts attempt spin moves after Rankins won with his own on multiple occasions. Clemson’s D.J. Reader, a late add, absolutely understands his best approach: straight line power. Success followed.
Michigan State C Jack Allen is having a great week. Allen handled his 1 on 1 repetitions against Austin Johnson, sitting and anchor in just a few steps against a super powerful interior player. Later in team work, Allen displayed awareness as the play called for a double to his left side. However, Allen realized his left guard secured an individual block and seamlessly switched to helping his right guard, who lost on the snap. This prevented instant pressure, which would have blown up the play. I consider Allen an early NFL starter.
Two corners caught my attention when reviewing 1 on 1s. LSU’s Jalen Mills ran multiple routes for the receiver he was facing in a single session. Mills recognized the outside breaking sideline route, planted, closed and undercut both routes with enough time for the ball to hit him in the chest. Extended arms were not even necessary. Mills did the same thing on a shorter comeback route. Sure, in a game offensive coordinators might attempt a double move with Mills being so aggressive, but with help over top a corner might take the risk. No other corner consistently beat receivers to the spot like Mills did. Auburn’s Jonathan Jones was the other corner to disrupt the catch point. His athleticism to click and close is evident.
Temple DL Matt Ioannidis won multiple 1 on 1 reps on day 1, which surprised me. After reviewing them, Ioannidis crossed over multiple gaps on a few occasions, something that would not be possible with a unit of five linemen moving in unison off the snap. This is a common occurrence and another reason why the drill is set up for the defensive players to win.
Alabama RB Kenyan Drake might be the worst pass protector I’ve seen at this event in some time. There was not a single snap where Drake brought his hands on first contact. Could this limit his passing down availability? Meanwhile Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington was the most competitive, bringing his hands and feet to occupy his opponent through counter moves.
Nick Vannett’s first day was not as impressive as first thought. Vannett allowed catches to be contested when it was not necessary. The tight end at the size advantage in many situations, but instead of using his frame or arms to create separation, he allowed smaller defensive backs to make his job more difficult. Those defensive backs were K.J. Dillon, Miles Killebrew and Darian Thompson). Matt Waldman made this observation before I did.
Stanford T Kyle Murphy, a player I liked off his games, is really struggling this week. But consider that Murphy is moving to the right side after spending the entire season on the left. His footwork, hand use, balance, weight distribution, etc. is all flipped. Murphy is not moving his feet on first contact and easily being beat around the edge. Perhaps this is one reason why.