We are off and running here in Las Vegas for the 97th edition of the East-West Shrine Bowl.
After a great start to the practice week yesterday, we traveled to the UNLV Fertitta Football Complex for the second consecutive day of shrine bowl practices. Today, the roles were flipped, with the West team squad kicking things off first at 8:15 AM, all of which can be found in Josh Carney’s report on the site. Below, I’ll be walking you through my primary observations and takeaways from the East squad’s practice, where certain names have begun to separate themselves from the pack in an effort to improve their draft stock.
- Things kicked off with individual positional drills once team stretches had concluded, allowing me to focus in on some of the refined movement skills of the East squad’s defensive backs for the second consecutive practice.
- Shaun Jolly and Jermaine Waller have consistently stood out as the most refined technicians at the cornerback spot in their baseline movement skills(pedals/breaks/crossover run/transitions ect.), while Quentin Lake and Juanyeh Thomas continue to stand out among the safety’s for their explosive athleticism, impressive hip fluidity, and ability to move like cornerbacks, an uncommon trait for players of their size and position. Kansas State’s Russ Yeast, although far smaller in stature than his counterparts in Lake and Thomas, also has cornerback-like movement skills despite his label as a safety, leading me to think that he might require a full time transition to the Nickel at the next level to maximize his skillset.
UCLA S Quentin Lake in man coverage and BINGO. Very nice. pic.twitter.com/DdwLUCTSHP
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) January 29, 2022
- Reed Blankenship and Dallis Flowers both tend to struggle in baseline movement drills. Blankenship, a tackling machine at Middle Tennessee State, has a tendency to stay too high in his pedal and drive, limiting his ability to transition quickly out of his breaks, likely explaining his struggles thus far in 1v1s. Flowers, on the other hand, appears to lack lateral quickness which limits his ability to be explosive and efficient in his transitions and breaks. That being said, Flowers rebounded and had a nice day in the team sessions after struggling in 1v1s, standing out as having the best high point ability in the East group outside of Boston College’s Brandon Sebastian, who similarly contested the football well downfield in both 1v1s and the later team sessions.
- I was briefly able to check out the WR individual drills, where it was once again clear and evident how effortlessly Tulsa’s Josh Johnson can change directions, making him a lethal route runner on short and intermediate routes, particularly on stop routes, where he continued to victimize defensive backs for the second consecutive practice. His effortless ability to release off of the line of scrimmage and gain separation at the top of his routes makes me think he’ll fit in as an “X” at the next level.
— Mike Spencer Hrynyshyn (@MikeH_Draft) January 30, 2022
- Moving into the WR/DB 1v1s, Quentin Lake stood out for the second consecutive day for his ability to suffocate slot receivers with his patience and physicality in press coverage. Today, he had a nice rep to undercut an out route from Tulsa’s Josh Johnson and secure a pass breakup. He’s been one of the few guys that have shown the ability to hold Johnson in check.
- After standing out as the best cornerback of the bunch on day 1, Shaun Jolly struggled at times on Day 2, failing to hold his leverage in press coverage at times. When he lost his leverage, he was flagged multiple times for getting a little to grabby at the top of the receivers routes, leading to obvious pass interference calls. He did have a nice undercut and pass breakup on a dig from the slot later in the session. He’ll probably have to work in the slot at the next level due to his lack of size and length.
- Jermaine Waller also had a nice session, highlighted by a rep where he matched a diamond release from Johnson with a patient mirror press, locating the upfield shoulder, flattening the slant, and closing for a PBU. He has shown the ability to play tight man coverage and contest the catch point effectively from both press and off coverage.
- Brandon Sebastian continued to struggle in matching receivers’ physicality at the top of their routes, leaving him unable to contest short and intermediate routes for the second consecutive practice. That being said, Sebastian had multiple reps where he was able to squeeze, lean and locate the football downfield, high pointing the football for impressive pass breakups. Similar to his collegiate tape, Sebastian is a player who will capitalize on opportunities when targeted downfield, but is largely a non factor in the short and intermediate passing game. He would function best in a single high centric zone scheme at the next level.
- Dallis Flowers struggled to match receivers in press coverage throughout the session, notably struggling against quicker receivers like Josh Johnson, who beat him effortlessly on multiple reps. Flowers played press coverage on every single rep, but often opened his hips prematurely allowing receivers to hit his blind spots and create easy separation. He told me in an interview that press coverage is his bread and butter. Regardless, he’ll need to show some more work in off man coverage to prove his versatility to NFL scouts.
- Although he didn’t have any breakups in the session, Kansas State’s Russ Yeast impressed me with his activity at the line of scrimmage when pressing slot receivers. He’s got a lot in the toolbox and does a good job of keeping receivers guessing and delaying their ability to get into their routes.
- At the receiver spot, Johnson and Miami’s Charleston Rambo were the two standouts of the session. Although two receivers of different stature, both are similar in their ability to win effortlessly both at the line of scrimmage and at the top of their routes with craftiness and top tier agility. Rambo primarily played the Z at Miami, and certainly has the ability to take the top off a defense with speed and secure contested catches downfield. He had the play of the day on Day 1 in the team session, and continued to flash on Day 2. He’s an interesting option for Pittsburgh in the draft if they are looking for that Z type receiver with an ability to generate explosive plays.
— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) January 30, 2022
- Finally, after dominating on Day 1, the younger brother of Oakland Raider and former Clemson star Tanner Muse, South Carolina Tight End Nick Muse, continued to flash in 1s today. He primarily wins with physical releases at the second level and an ability to make contested catches in traffic due to his raw strength and size. He is also an extremely talented route runner for a man of his stature, possessing a unique wiggle for a man standing at 6’5” 260 pounds. In my interview with him, he stated that he wants to continue working on his blocking, as route running has always come naturally to him.
- Moving into the team sessions, one thing was evident for the second day in a row, the quarterbacks really struggled to work through their progressions in a timely manner and work the football downfield for the second consecutive day. While E.J. Perry and Dustin Crum were able to create a few big plays on swing passes to their running backs, most of the yards came after the catch as the defense was scrambled in man coverage. As the defense is quite literally rotating between two coverages, Cover 1(man) and Cover 3(zone), with no blitzing of any kind, it is truly a wonder the quarterbacks haven’t been able to generate offensive movement at a more efficient clip. Perry did have one notably nice throw on the day, a well timed throw in which he led Nebraska’s Samori Toure, leading the receiver toward the sideline on a post/corner route. Regardless, on their only two deep ball touchdowns of the day, both on deep crossing routes to wide open receivers in Kyle Phillips and Charleston Rambo, both Perry and Crum delivered the balls notably late and behind. Quarterback play will need to improve if either quarterback wants to garner NFL attention exiting the Shrine Bowl week.
- In both team sessions and 7v7, Dallis Flowers rebounded and stole the show. Playing in both traditional press in the teams Cover 1 call, as well as some press bail in Cover 3, he routinely blanketed receivers vertically, using his frame to wall them off to the sideline. On the day, I had the East quarterbacks charted as 0/4 on deep passing attempts targeting Flowers, a nice rebound for him after a really rough day 1.
- D’Eriq King’s only productive play of the day at quarterback was a long escape and scramble in the team session, although he did flash at times as a receiver. He even beat Percy Butler up the seam for a touchdown in 1v1s. If he has a future at the next level, it’ll be as a position player with some wildcat versatility.
- Speaking of Butler, he had one of two picks on the day from the East defense in 7v7s, expanding from his flat zone in Cover 3 to midpoint a smash concept, jumping the hitch for a smooth interception.
- Dustin Crum’s best rep of the day came late in the 7v7 session, rolling out to his right, and working through the three man combination on the front side before planting his feet, scanning back across the field, and firing a strike to Charleston Rambo on a backside crosser. Not a great day, but an impressive individual rep overall.
- Jermaine Walller continued to compete at the catch point throughout the second session, most notably staying patient in press coverage vs Charleston Rambo to locate the hip, undercut the hitch, and finish for a pass breakup on a third and short designed rollout from Dustin Crum.
- Reed Blankenship is a far better player in team sessions than he is in 1v1s. He came downhill repeatedly to stick tight ends at the catch point, making multiple stops short of the sticks while “skying” down in Cover 3. His NFL future relies on his ability to play special teams and work from within the box.
Day Two is in the books, and we will look forward to continuing our coverage of the Shrine Bowl at the final two practices which are set to take place at Allegiant Stadium. We also have plenty more player interviews set to hit the site, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts below!