Ducks

Mirabal cautions NFL from making Penei Sewell 'Justin Herbert all over again'

Ducks

For the second consecutive year, an Oregon Duck is expected to go in the top-ten of the NFL Draft.

Last offseason it was Justin Herbert, who was taken sixth overall by the Los Angeles Chargers and had the greatest statistical rookie season for a player at his position in league history. However, the soon-to-be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was unjustly heavily scrutinized throughout the draft process.

Now, Oregon Ducks offensive line coach Alex Mirabal fears the same may be happening to Penei Sewell.

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"It's crazy because NFL Draft comes around and all these scouts and teams want to do is look at guys' shortcomings rather than what they put on tape," Mirabal said during Saturday's media session.

I would trust what they put on tape because if not, Justin Herbert's going to happen all over again for all those teams who bypassed Justin.... I believe the same thing with Penei. 

Alex Mirabal on Penei Sewell

For years, Penei Sewell has been called a generational tackle prospect but mock drafts in recent weeks have him slipping, sometimes to as low as No. 13 where he would be reunited with Herbert in Los Angeles. 

Northwestern's Rashawn Slater and Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw have received buzz from numerous draft experts and anonymous scouts, with some even rating one or both of them over the 2019 Outland Trophy winner. 

For the Ducks offensive line coach, that looks like heresy based on what the Oregon coaching staff witnessed for two seasons. 

 

"He's the best offensive lineman in the country," Mirabal proclaimed. "I don't care what anybody says.

"Am I biased? Yeah, I'm biased but I'm biased not because he played for us at Oregon. I'm biased because I got to see him every day. I felt the same way last year about Justin Herbert. Was I biased because he played for us? Yes. But I was really biased because I got to see Herbert every day. Or I got to see Sewell every day so I know what his greatness is."

In fact, Mirabal thinks it's insane Sewell is going to slip beyond the New York Jets at No. 2.

"[Sewell] and Trevor Lawrence are the best players in the country, hands down, and then you can fight for whoever you want at third. I don't care if you need a quarterback. You need a quarterback? You better take a darn left tackle who's gonna protect him."

If Cincinnati selects a skill position player and passes on Sewell at No. 5, someone may need to check on Mirabal (and pray for Joe Burrow's health). 

"His power and his hips are unbelievable," added Mirabal. "What elevates him from a great player to an elite player is he's got a sixth sense. He sees things. He feels things that others can't."

Want an example? 

For Mirabal, the game against Stanford in 2018 sticks out. It was Penei Sewell's true freshman season. He was starting at 18-years old in the Pac-12 and hosting Stanford was the Ducks' first premier game of not just the season, but the Mario Cristobal era. 

Rather than get stressed by the moment, Sewell rose above it and made a play Mirabal still remembers.

"Going back to the Stanford game, we're down there towards the students and we're on the 25-yard line," he recalls. 

"We run an end-around to [Jaylon] Redd and [Sewell] goes in there... He's supposed to knock the three-technique over, go to the backside backer. Well, there's no three-technique and I'm like 'Oh my gosh. What's going to happen now?' And they bring a cross blitz.

"He takes the first linebacker and tosses him. Takes the second linebacker and runs him through the endzone."

Here is the play in question (warning Ducks fans: the play may invoke bad memories because of what followed).

"When I asked him on the sideline, said 'Hey, man how'd you see that?' He said 'Coach I just did,', it's just one of those deals, which is what makes him what he is."

That type of talent has been undeniable ever since Sewell stepped onto Oregon's campus as a student before winning the starting left tackle job during training camp.

"When a kid puts it on film, the other players see it too," said Mirabal. "When Penei Sewell came in here in 2018, there were five returning starters... We're like, 'Man how are we gonna break this news?' They were like 'Yeah coach, we see it on film.'"

 

The next season, Oregon had a Joe Moore Award finalist offensive line with multiple future 2020 NFL Draft picks starting, but it was Sewell who led them.

"I know in 2019 we had all those great offensive linemen in Throck, Warmack, Aiello, Hanson, and Lemieux and on game day, it was Sewell's team. They knew it and they respected it," Mirabal explained. 

"Someone is going to be really, really lucky when they get him," he added. "Whatever team and offensive line coach takes him is going to be blessed."

Penei Sewell will learn where he will be lining up this fall during Day 1 on the NFL Draft scheduled for Thursday, April 29th at 5:00 p.m. PT.