North Team Practice
This morning’s North team practice was filled with excitement and energy from the players and coaches. As usual, Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon led the charge on this, keeping his team mates fired up after every big hit. Lots of cheers and yelling from the players throughout practice as their intensity remained high. I saw numerous head coaches this morning, including Ravens HC John Harbaugh, Seahawks HC Pete Carroll, Steelers HC Mike Tomlin, Bucs HC Raheem Morris, Rams HC Steve Spagnolo, Falcons HC Mike Smith and 49ers HC Mike Singletary.
There were a few additions to the roster: Cory Jackson, Maryland FB, Thomas Welch, Vanderbilt OT, and Donald Jones, WR Youngstown State.
I started the practice by watching the defensive linemen drills. There were several scouts from the Saints, Redskins, Jaguars, rams and Eagles watching as well as Rams HC Steve Spagnolo, Falcons HC Mike Smith and Bengals DC Mike Zimmer. As usual, Brandon Graham looked terrific. He was really flashing his speed and athleticism in the bag drills. Austen Lane struggled early. He really seems raw as a pass rusher, but does have the physical tools to play the position. Jared Odrick and Tyson Alualu struggled with their footwork, looking out of control at times. They made up for it later in team drills though, looking tough in the trenches.
Turning my attention to the linebackers, Sean Weatherspoon looks very good, as usual. Something I hadn’t noticed before in teams drills is that the North is playing Spoon at MLB, and he seems to be doing very well. Donald Butler of Washington has a tendency to get a little high when back pedaling for coverage, but had a solid day overall. Koa Misi displayed pretty good footwork at the linebacker spot for a guy that was a full time defensive end at Utah. TCU OLB Daryl Washington has impressed me. He’s all over the field in coverage, displaying speed that is good enough to run with most tight ends and running backs. Washington is also a physical player, always getting a nice pop on the ball carrier.
Here are some other notes from this morning’s North Practice:
Sean Weatherspoon was playing very fast and was moving from sideline to sideline with ease. He did have some problems in his drops (not getting back fast enough) and let a few balls get over his head because of this. He also got inside Vladamir Ducasse on one running play and anchored well. Weatherspoon was playing MLB in the Lions Staffs 4-3 defense. He played pretty well and he might have a future there.
Tony Pike had a disapointing morning. He was late on a few balls, one that ending up getting intercepted by Chris Cook (Virginia) on a pass to Mardy Gilyard. He looked very awkward on his rollouts and most of the balls he threw on the run were down at the receivers knees.
Syd’Quan Thompson had an up and down day. Sometimes he stayed right in the receivers hip pocket in coverage, other times he was left behind. Syd was beat deep by Pitt TE Dorin Dickerson today, something that cannot happen at the next level.
Brandon Ghee has a solid performance today. He made several good plays on the ball and was rarely out of position in coverage. Ghee did have one play where he tried to wrap up Dorin Dickerson around the head and Dickerson just stuck his head down and ran right by him. He needs to tackle lower, especially on someone with the strength and body control of Dickerson.
Danario Alexander had an outstanding day running routes. He seems crisp in his route running and really worked the middle of the field well. Danario also showed some physicality by fighting defensive backs for the ball, and usually winning. He ran some of the best routes of the day and got separation deep, which is something that was questioned before this week. He also has great body control and knows how to shield the defender from the ball. He is making himself a lot of money this week and is a legitimate 2nd round pick right now.
Chris Cook had a very good day in coverage. He’s showing that he’s a physical defensive back that will stick his head in on tackles and fight for the ball. During team drills, he read Tony Pike like a book and jumped an out route pass to Mardy Gilyard, intercepting it with ease.
Dorin Dickerson had one of the best days out there. When passes come near him he just clamps down on the ball, snagging it out of the air. Dickerson also had a fantastic over the shoulder catch on a deep pass from Tony Pike, in which he beat Syd’Quan Thompson.
Jacoby Ford had a nice day of practice and he’s showing that he may be a versatile receiving threat. He caught passes all over the field, including a nice deep pass from Tony Pike.
LeGarrette Blount had another strong outing. He’s really playing well out there when he runs between the tackles. First contact just will not bring this guy down. He looked quick on his feet and was patient but quick through the hole. He ran less upright than we’re used to seeing, which is a good sign.
In team drills, Brandon Graham was impressive again. He’s continuing his trend from college of always being in the backfield as he’s just too quick for most of the North team blockers.
Ed Dickson was also impressive today as a receiver/route runner. He showed outstanding body control on a few tough catches.
Mardy Gilyard didn’t have too many catches this morning, but he ways always going 100% and was giving a good effort blocking down the field.
Mike Iupati had a good practice and showed great quickness in short areas. On one play he pulled offensive right and completely took two defenders out of the play.
Joique Bell caught several passes from out of the backfield today, showing sure hands and quickness to the outside. Bell also has a nice juke move while in open space.
Sean Canfield placed a beautiful ball over the head of Brandon Graham who was in coverage on the play. He didn’t take too many snaps today, but overall he impressed.
Vladimir Ducasse was moved around the offensive line today, and we saw him pull from the left tackle position. Ducasse had the speed to get all the way back to the right side and block down field for the ball carrier.
Both Rashawn Jackson and Cory Jackson had good days at FB. They were physical, made some good blocks and even caught some balls out of the backfield.
Zoltan Mesko didn’t have his best day. But it’s ok, he has the coolest name in the world. Some of his punts were just straight line drives and he didn’t have many long kicks. He did manage to get some good hangtime, however.
Thomas Welch, on his first day, had a pretty good practice. A lot of tall guys can struggle with leverage but he has good knee bend and really gets under the defender. He could be someone to watch for in the coming days.
Tyson Alualu plays like a little kid out there, but in a good way. He is very energetic and always pumped up. He packs a very powerful punch.
Speaking of energetic, North Carolina’s Cam Thomas really does enjoy yelling. I’m almost worried he isn’t breathing enough out there and that he might collapse. He grunts and screams before during and after the play. He seems to have strong hands, but he isn’t very quick or fast. Might have potential as a NT.
As for what teams were talking to players after practice today, we observed the following:
Houston Texans: Thomas Welch, Mike Iupati, Lonyae Miller
Cleveland Browns: Kurt Coleman, Thomas Welch
New York Jets: Mike Windt
Baltimore Ravens: Syd’Quan Thompson, Joique Bell
Kansas City Chiefs: Syd’Quan Thompson
Detroit Lions: AJ Edds (were working Edds out as a long snapper off to the side – I know they’re coaching but this was odd to me)
Atlanta Falcons: Donald Jones
St. Louis Rams: Mike Neal, Sean Weatherspoon
Washington Redskins: Austen Lane
Jacksonville Jaguars: Vladimir Ducasse
Oakland Raiders: Phillip Dillard
South Team Practice
When we arrived at South practice today, the first person I spotted was New York Jets HC Rex Ryan. Moments later, Rex was joined by his brother, the Browns DC Rob Ryan. Talk about an interesting pair to watch!
The South practice didn’t seem nearly as up tempo as the this morning’s North team. The intensity was lacking but the talent wasn’t. Here are some players notes from the practice.
Kentucky CB Trevard Lindley still looks lost out there. He’s running with the first team but it just appears like he doesn’t care in drills. He’s been caught not paying attention by the coaches, so I have to question his concentration and work ethic. Lindley certainly has all the skills you could ask for but hasn’t lived up to my expectations so far this week.
Perrish Cox had a terrific day. He looked very smooth in his footwork during defensive back drills, had an effective jam in the press coverage drills and was making plays during team drills. Cox picked off two passes in a row from his former team mate, Zac Robinson.
Shay Hodge was impressive as a wide receiver. He’s not the fastest player, but he seems to be doing all the little things right. Hodge also has sure hands and good body control when going up for off target passes. Hodge was also the best wide receiver today at getting off the line in press coverage, fighting through the jam with ease.
Javier Arenas and Nate Allen both excelled in the press coverage drills today. Though Allen is a safety, his jam at the line is very effective. Arenas stays in the hip pocket of most receivers during man coverage.
Florida WR Riley Cooper wasn’t nearly as impressive today. He has a very, very hard time getting off of press coverage and creating separation today. Cooper’s hot streak clearly leveled off and he’s looking more and more like a possession receiver.
Terrence Cody still looks like an immovable object, keeping single blockers and double teams in their place at the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t get much penetration, but he certainly clogs up the holes.
Geno Atkins had another solid day rushing the passer, as did Troy’s Cameron Sheffield. Both were in the backfield consistently in pass rush drills.
George Selvie looked a little better to me today, especially at the point of attack. He’s playing with better leverage, keeping his hips low and exploding up and into the blocker with his arms extended. In one particular drills, Selvie bull rushed Tennessee’s Charles Scott, planting him on his back.
Auburn’s Antonio Coleman had a sick inside move today on Selvish Capers, shooting directly to the backfield in pass rush drills. On the very next play, Capers responded with a pancake block on Coleman.
Ole Miss’ John Jerry was playing a lot at left tackle today and his footwork for the position is not the best. He was slow in his kick slides, getting beat by the outside pass rush consistently. Jerry was beat by CJ Wilson on several occasions during drills.
Ciron Black looked much better playing right tackle than left. Footwork just isn’t there for the left side.
Georgia defensive lineman Jeff Owens looked pretty good in pass rushing drills. Owens has a nice swim move and was able to get by Arkansas G Mitch Petrus twice in a row.
Lamarr Houston was also showing off a nice swim move, leaving Eric Larsen back at the line of scrimmage. Houston had some concentration issues, jumping off sides three times in a row from not watching the ball.
JD Walton really impressed me as a blocker today. He did a solid job against Lamarr Houston and even Dan Williams. Walton plays with a lot of strength and while he’ll get a little high in his blocks, he does a good job with hand placement on the rusher.
Kicker Leigh Tiffin was somewhat inaccurate. He missed a few easy field goals in the special team drills today. However, his pre-practice kickoffs were powerful.
West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown had a pretty good day. He’s a little raw as a passer but has tremendous physical abilities. His passes will get off target at times but he’s showing a strong arm with decent mechanics. Brown is also a pretty mobile guy, but he’s going to be a developmental type.
Zac Robinson had a rough day throwing the ball looking very off target at times. As we said earlier, he threw two interceptions in a row to Perrish Cox in team drills.
Tim Tebow actually looked pretty decent today. There were no real issues with snaps and his deep passes are still looking pretty, though they tend to get a bit too much air under them. Tebow is still struggling to speed up his delivery, but does a solid job of throwing on the run from outside of the pocket.
Once again, Dexter McCluster was dominate on the field, looking just as explosive as he has all week. Dexter even took some direct snaps in a “Wild Cat” formation, looking even more versatile. This will certainly help McCluster’s stock and what a better team to be coached by this week than the Dolphins.
After practice, we kept an eye out for what teams were talking to players on the field. With all the fan fare there, less scouts actually came onto the field after practice than usual. It’s also pretty common for scouts to start leaving Mobile tonight and tomorrow as most of the intense scouting is complete.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kurt Coleman, John Conner
Baltimore Ravens: Javier Arenas, Mitch Petrus, Roddrick Muckelroy
Oakland Raiders: Antonio Coleman
San Diego Chargers: Roddrick Muckelroy
St. Louis Rams: Morgan Cox
Jacksonville Jaguars: Shay Hodge
New York Jets: Joe Webb
San Fransisco 49ers: Jeff Byers
Dallas Cowboys: Roddrick Muckelroy
North team practice starts tomorrow morning at 9:30 CST. Tomorrow is the last day in pads for players, so it’s one of the last chances they have to make a good impression on scouts.
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