After focusing on the perimeter players Monday, I shifted my view inside to the offensive and defensive lines for Tuesday’s East and West sessions.
I must preface this by stating a big qualifier here: the guards and centers on the East are far and away the weakest positional group here on either squad. West Virginia’s Adam Pankey has some NFL potential at guard, and Southern Miss center Cameron Tom can work in a movement-based blocking scheme. Beyond that, it’s been rough.
One of the primary beneficiaries is Florida DT Joey Ivie, who was nearly unblockable in the morning session. What stands out for the 6’3”, 300-pound Gator is his ability to follow up his quick burst by getting skinny through the line. He uses swims, rips and grab/yank moves very well. The NFL scouts liked what they saw of Ivie, who got lost in the larger shuffle at Florida.
Ivie’s fellow Gator Brian Cox fared well in pass rush drills. He’s got long arms on the edge and uses his length well. Cox fared better in team drills than one-on-one rush situations, befitting a smart player who works nicely off teammates and reacts quickly.
Florida Atlantic pass rusher Trey Hendrickson brings the sizzle. He rocks the cropped jersey to show off his abs, and he’s not shy about reveling in his wins. This brought the East practice to a raucous close (h/t Mike Kaye, who was standing next to me)…
For those who want to catch more of the action, follow the link in the tweet below. I did a couple of live sessions from the West practice as well, but they didn’t come out as clear as the sun was in my face.
Shrine Game East practice https://t.co/jMG31yEg8S— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 17, 2017
Middle Tennessee RB I’Tavius Mathers continues to catch everything near him. He showed patience and subsequent burst as an inside-out runner as well. Mathers (5’10”/198) shows good vision and quick reactions.
Villanova LB Austin Calitro brings a lot of power to run defense. I haven’t seen him much in coverage, but during run plays in team drills he’s easy to spot. Just follow the ball. His compact build (6’0”/250) and playing style remind me some of D’Qwell Jackson.
I didn’t watch much of the receivers at all, but I did nearly get run over by Auburn’s Tony Stevens. He’s 6’3” and a well-proportioned 205, so I’m glad he missed. Very impressive body, and he can separate on the outside from what I’ve seen.
Unlike the East, the West has some interior OL talent that will play on Sundays. I was very impressed with Oregon State center Gavin Andrews. He’s the tallest (6’4”) center on either team but is also arguably the best at establishing leverage and anchoring against power. When the linemen were doing a punch drill, Andrews’ jabs were audibly louder and visibly more forceful than the others (notably Texas A&M’s Avery Gennesy, who must get stronger to have any chance).
Oklahoma State guard Victor Salako, whom my phone invariably auto-incorrects to “Salad”, stood out in team drills. He has decent lateral agility and can sustain his power while moving. Salako has the length to play tackle as well, and that is a nice asset for a player who will likely be a reserve in the NFL.
Wyoming center Chase Roullier displayed a nice combination of power, balance and hand technique. He likes to quick-set, which can get him into trouble against more agile defensive tackles. An AFC North scout whom I watched one drill with came away very impressed.
North Dakota State guard Zach Johnson brings the flowing long hair and the “dad bod” at 6’4” and 346 pounds. He looks like a bouncer at a country music bar, but Johnson has some brute physicality to his game which shined in team drills. He landed both of his big mitts on Houston DT BJ Singleton and nearly threw him across the center. He’s not as polished as former NDSU teammate Joe Haeg, who starts for the Colts now, but he could be a better pro if he sheds a few pounds and keeps working on his feet.
On the defensive side, I really liked Colorado DT Josh Tupou coming here and he’s done nothing to dissuade my infatuation. He’s very quick off the line for a 6’2”, 362-pound behemoth. He ran the pad gauntlet drill faster than any other West DT, and he didn’t cheat on the bag slaps either. He can play the 0 or 1-techniques in any scheme as part of a rotation.
Arkansas has a pair of edges here in Deatrich Wise and Jeremiah Ledbetter. Wise has length and a good first step but doesn’t show the body control or creativity of Ledbetter. The latter excelled in team drills at setting the edge and pushing the runs wider. UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau really enjoyed playing the flank on that side as he got a couple of easy would-be tackles.
Indiana DT Ralph Green has a lot of good game tape but also some where you wonder if he’s dialed in. His practices have gone the same way. His good is better than any other DT on either side, but it comes and goes unpredictably. He has some off-field flags to answer as well. I know one NFC East team has already taken him off its board. It’s too bad because there is a potential impact talent there. Somewhere.
Pittsburgh DE Ejuan Price was not at East practice. I have not heard what injury he suffered but he did miss some of Monday’s session as well.
I didn’t watch the tight ends today, but the two East stars of Monday both once again earned real parking lot and lunch table buzz. Drake’s Eric Saubert and Antony Auclair from Laval have both helped themselves a lot these first two days. On the West, Toledo’s Michael Roberts blocked well. He earned a Senior Bowl invite for next week, too.
Utah pass rusher Hunter Dimick left West practice with an undisclosed injury. I saw him walk off with a trainer and he was not limping or favoring anything. That’s a bad setback for Dimick, who has very small hands and short arms for the position.
One of the yearly standards of Shrine Game practice is for Packer GM Ted Thompson to wander onto the field during live action, often to accost an unsuspecting punter or defensive back trying to make a play in the end zone. Alas, I have not seen Thompson at any of the practice sessions. It doesn’t mean he’s not here, but if he is he’s far less visible than normal.
I can’t help myself. I like to probe scouts for info during and after practices. Here’s some of what I gathered today…
Two of the teams picking relatively near the top of the draft both expect the Browns to take Myles Garrett at No. 1 overall. Scouts from both teams also independently offered they think the Jets will not take a quarterback in the first round.
If someone offers you a prop bet on where Jabrill Peppers gets drafted, take the over. He’s not a top 20 pick. I’ll put good money on that, even though I believe he should be. His lack of a defined position and smaller-than-advertised size (I’ve met him, my guess is he’s 5’11” and change and 210) are real drawbacks in NFL eyes.
I know Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network, probably the most respected and dialed in draft media guy, listed Miami TE David Njoku as his top tight end. He might wind up being correct, but Alabama’s O.J. Howard is incredibly well-regarded by a lot of NFL scouts. Both need to be in the top 24 picks of any mock draft. Both might be long gone by then too. I haven’t studied Njoku enough yet to have an informed opinion.
Without going into specifics, I’ll just say this: any team that hires Chip Kelly as an offensive coach is going to have a lot of very frustrated, angry defensive coaches. The destination which makes the most sense to me, and this was reinforced by others today: Houston. He and Bill O’Brien are friends and both share Patriot coaching tree roots.