It’s here already. The final day of practices for the 2018 Senior Bowl. Kickoff for the game is Saturday. We’ll be back home by then, not sticking around to cover the game (most people don’t). Like yesterday, we’ll start by jotting down some notes from what I saw in the film room from yesterday’s practice and then talk about what went down Thursday.
Before we do, want to thank our sponsor for the week. Touring Plans has been a great partner to Steelers Depot over the years. If you’re booking a Disney trip, definitely go through those guys.
Couple brief Steelers’ related notes. Only saw three Steelers’ scouts out here today though of course, I may have missed some others. Just weren’t the usual throng of scouts high up in the visiting side bleachers like usual. I saw Mark Bruener, Phil Kriedler, and Rick Reiprish, senior assistant to the college scouting department and former director of scouting for the New Orleans Saints.
Kevin Colbert was also on-hand today, always seemingly able to magically appear on the field in the middle of practice. By my count, that’s 12 Steelers’ personnel who were in Mobile this weekend.
From an injury standpoint, Clemson ILB Dorian O’Daniel has been ruled out for the game with a rib injury. Miami’s Chad Thomas has been dealing with a groin strain and will not play either. Bummer on O’Daniel – was excited to see him.
From yesterday’s All-22.
– ILB Nick DeLuca had one rep that really impressed me yesterday. Pin/pull scheme where he took on the pulling guarding in space, shed him, and made the tackle all the way to the ground. You’re not getting the best athlete with him, though not a terrible one either, but I liked the physicality, hand usage, and finish.
– Mike McCray has been a disappointment. Knew he wasn’t a strong athlete but still getting exposed in space. Even vs the run, some weird stuff has been happening. I don’t know if he was reading the wrong key or what but on a Lead Dive with the FB, McCray stepped out of the hole and “caught” the fullback instead of driving into the lane and being the attacker. I liked some of his Michigan tape but I think we’re talking about a Day Three guy.
– QB Tanner Lee has to work on his footwork. Went back and watched the bad miss he had to Cedrick Wilson, throwing behind him on an out/corner. Lee’s front foot was pointed to where Wilson was at on the throw, not where Wilson was going to end up. That’s why the pass fell behind.
– Didn’t always get to see it live but on tape, NC State DT Justin Jones is really impressive. Violent hands, proper placement, his bull rush is effective. But he moves well for his size and even throws in a spin move that honestly, is pretty effective. Especially when he looks to counter back to the inside if the guard is trying to seal him upfield. He had a good week.
– Washington State OG Cole Madison looked a little better today but he’s having trouble dropping his hips to be able to anchor against power rushes. Constantly driven back. I think his base is a little too wide, too.
– Rutgers’ OLB Kemoko Turay has received some buzz this week. I see why. Quick first step and able to flatten and corner around the edge. Combines that with active hands and the ability to stay clean.
– But I really like Wisconsin’s Garrett Dooley when it comes to edge rushers. He’s got a pass rush plan and rarely out of the play. One example. Tried to win the edge against Tyrell Crosby (who is having a good week) but couldn’t. Arm over counter to the inside to beat him. On another rep vs tight ends, he faked former teammate Troy Fumagalli outside and then chopped his hands down to beat him clean inside. Heady player.
– Need to keep watching BYU ILB Fred Warner. Works through the trash well and a good athlete. Quick to diagnose, has range to cover the field on perimeter runs.
– Tight end Tyler Conklin has to slow down too much coming out of his breaks. Tried running a ten yard out versus safety Kyzir White. Had a chance to win but needed to slow down too much at the top, letting White reroute him and get back on top of the route for the incompletion.
– Lot of talk in big media circles about Marcus Davenport. Heard today was better but he’s been inconsistent this week, and that’s my being generous. Pad level, effort, and intensity to play the run are all in question. Not looking like someone who deserves to be a Top 15 pick.
– Rewatched Hawaii safety Trayvon Henderson’s INT. Great instincts. From opposite hash, broke on the ball right before the QB threw it. Stayed on top of the route and was able to take advantage of a poorly thrown pass. He’s one to remember.
– CB Michael Joseph will have some reps where he looks lost but when he’s in-phase and can play the ball, he does a great job of finishing. Weber State’s Taron Johnson has man coverage ability but needs to do a better job of staying on the route as the WR breaks. If he can work on it, a speed turn would really help him recover. But he has some tools.
And in press man, he has to get his hands and feet in-sync. Lost power on one punch because he opened his hips as he shot his hands.
Ok, let’s get to today’s work.
– Penn State safety Marcus Allen broke up a pass on his first rep but after that, had trouble driving on the football at the break point. Gives up too much space as the WR/TE cuts. He’s gotta be a zone safety playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
– Trayvon Henderson did a really good job in one-on-one drills with one exception versus Mike Gesicki. But he got Gesicki the first time. Tight end tries to run a post (with Henderson having outside leverage). Henderson undercut the route, tipped the ball up with h is right hand and then brought it back down for the INT.
Shows patience in his pedal, not guessing, and smothered Gesicki again on a corner route. Finally, had a strong initial press working on Durham Smythe and though Smythe pulled him down and got away at the end, the safety had won the rep.
– Don’t forget about Oklahoma FB Dimitri Flowers, even though the Steelers aren’t in the market for the position. More than just a blocker. Good hands and ability to find the football. Made a one-handed catch earlier in the week. Today, he dusted a linebacker upfield (I think it was The Citadel’s Myles Pierce) for a score and on another, managed to haul in a fade despite blanket coverage from Brown’s Dewey Jarvis. Sure they’ll run a boot to him once or twice this weekend.
– Gesicki had a really good couple of reps. Beat Henderson and Kyzir White on the same moves. Outside stem, get the safety to bite, cross their face and burst away at the top.
– Still, I thought White had a good day. What I like best about his game is his ability to get his head around in man coverage while remaining in-phase with the receiver. Pinned to Fumagelli’s inside hip on a corner route for the second time this week, making the throw too tough on the QB, who put it over both their heads.
-Corners made plays in the first team session. Michael Joseph, again, that never-say-never mentality, ripped the ball out from Allen Lazard after the receiver caught a slant. Taron Johnson broke up a slant for Jaleel Scott and Isaac Yiadom used his length and vert to break up a deep ball from Baker Mayfield to Cedrick Wilson Jr.
– Turay is an active pass rusher but he’s gotta be able to keep his balance through the corner. Too many times he got a step but couldn’t keep his footing and wound up being buried in the ground.
– Justin Jones had a nice push/pull on Scott Quessenberry in one rep during OL/DL. In team, he stacked and then shedded Madison as the back tried to bounce it off the guard’s hip. One of the week’s big risers.
– Thought Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had a nice day of practice. In team, he ripped inside of Pitt’s Brian O’Neill and them swam over Maine’s Jamil Demby in one-on-ones.
– Haven’t seen a lot out of JaMarcus King this week. But he broke up a back corner fade to Wilson in team work. Michael Joseph had another breakup in this session, too.
– I didn’t study Josh Allen as intently but he made one strong throw in the back of the end zone to Wilson for a touchdown. Stuck it in a tight window.
– Allen Lazard isn’t going to create much space but he caught practically everything today. Ended the week on a high note.
– And Durham Smythe is a pretty poor athlete but as he showed on tape, continues to make difficult, combative catches. A guy you can rely on.
– Texans’ coach to ILB Tre Williams as they were going through pass rushing drills. “Come on Tre! Get out of the phone booth.”
– Same coach preaching to everyone but starting with Uchenna Nwosu. “You gotta burst at the last bag,” as each linebacker would club the bag and then turn the corner and move the opposite direction.
– Alabama cornerback Levi Wallace had a really tough day. Won a final rep against DJ Chark but beyond that, had a tough time. Needs to be more disciplined with his eyes. He’s watching the receiver’s eyes, which are always deceptive. When the receiver makes his cut, he’s almost always behind.
Lost to Byron Pringle and Tre’Quan Smith twice. The second against Smith was really bad. Smith cut on a slant and Wallace’s feet never moved. Matador coverage.
– Conversely, one guy I didn’t know much about had an impressive day. Oklahoma State WR Marcell Ateman has a big frame and strong hands. Dominated in red zone drills. In one rep, CB Siran Lake was draped all over him trying to punch the ball out but Ateman ripped the ball out and away while keeping his feet in bounds.
– James Washington, the other OSU WR (though the better prospect) showed excellent body control to contort his body for a throw to his back shoulder, spinning around to finish the catch and tap his feet in bounds while working against Murray State corner D’montre Wade. By pretty much every account, including this one, he had a great week.
– It was a lollipop throw, I think the QB got his arm hit as he released, but Virginia’s Quin Blanding had an impressive diving interception right before the ball hit the ground.
– Virginia DT Andrew Brown is a high-upside guy. Stacked a couple of positive plays in OL/DL team work today. First one, he scrapped over the top to make a wrap-up tackle. On the next, he shot his gap, got through, and finished it by tossing the OL down. Finally, he got his outside arm free and he and the LB filled the gap as the back made his cut.
– Offensive linemen were moving around today. Saw OT Alex Cappa get kicked to LG.
– Maybe not as good as Day One but M.J. Stewart is an aggressive corner who plays inside and out. Like his effort working through the trash on screens and takes good angles to the football. If the Steelers look corner, he’s gotta be on their radar.
– In a two-minute drill, just too many checkdowns from Troy QB Brandon Silvers. They weren’t bad decisions but at some point, you gotta try to push the ball downfield. To be fair, he did once, but the Ian Thomas double-caught, giving Kameron Kelly enough time to knock it away.
Heads up, for tomorrow, we’ll have a winners/losers list to recap the week. Dave and I are doing a podcast later tonight (out for Friday morning) where we’ll have plenty to discuss about what went down in Mobile, too.