The clouds rolled into Mobile and it was sweatshirt weather after two sunny and warm days of practice. With less than half the attendance of Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions, the North and South both cut practices short.
Once again the pace of practice was a big issue, especially for the North roster. The Chicago Bears' staff has taken a lot of criticism from both NFL scouts in attendance as well as the media trying to glean anything useful from the drills.
Another slow start to the North practice. Nothing substantive for the scouts to pull from so far. Session started over 30 mins ago.— Bryan Perez (@BryanPerez_DB) January 26, 2017
The South session, coached by the Cleveland Browns, was much better despite being cut about 45 minutes short.
It seems the Bears and Browns were testing the players in what they want to see in players, but that’s not necessarily what other teams want to see. It also defeats the larger purpose of the Senior Bowl for many of these players, who come to Mobile to show off in offense vs. defense drills.
When those drills did take place, there were some definite winners.
Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs once again showed quick decision making and the most accurate and controlled arm of the South QBs. He also blazed up the right side for a touchdown in 11-on-11 red zone drill when he saw the linebackers all turn and go in coverage.
Temple linebacker Haason Reddick capped off an outstanding week by once again showing explosive athleticism and the ability to do pretty much anything asked of a linebacker. He turned the edge for a strip sack on Pittsburgh QB Nate Peterman, who was once again the best QB on the North.
Haason Reddick hype is real. Easily the best LB on the North this week. It's not crazy to think he could play 34 ILB & OLB.— Shane Alexander (@Alexander1Great) January 26, 2017
Reddick was primarily a pass rusher for the Owls, but he proved this week he can play off the ball just fine. There are whispers of the first round, though that’s a little rich for my blood. Either way, he’s one of the week’s big winners.
Houston LB Tyus Bowser was sort of the South’s counterpart to Reddick. He’s more physically stacked and longer, and he showed in some reps the ability to handle 3-4 OLB duties beyond just rushing the passer.
LSU linebacker Duke Riley chased down a sideline run and slammed the RB to the ground on a play where most of the South RBs had handily seized the edge all week.
Florida State fullback Freddie Stevenson looked very good once again. He’s a real handful as a lead blocker, showing quick feet followed by real violence in his hands, shoulders and chest. He chugged into the end zone on a red zone drill by keeping his thick legs moving and driving forward. He plays a dying position that doesn’t hold appeal for many teams, but if one needs a fullback Stevenson is a good one.
Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot got better every day, perhaps out of familiarity with those trying to block him. He can really flip his shoulders and hips around the corner to the QB.
Unfortunately LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White missed practice and will miss the Senior Bowl with an ankle injury. It’s nothing serious but not worth potentially aggravating in an exhibition game.
Alabama OLB Ryan Anderson and South Alabama TE Gerald Everett both missed practice as well. Neither impressed me on the field during the week near as much as the potential first-round hype.
Others who stood out on Thursday:
Western Michigan OT Taylor Moton, showing he can stick at tackle
Indiana OG Dan Feeney, the best offensive linemen in Mobile
Michigan WR Amara Darboh, very impressive in red zone
Mississippi State WR Fred Ross, another guy who got better every day
Auburn OT Robert Leff, acquitted himself nicely for a late addition enough that he is probably the best tackle on the South
Last week at the Shrine Game I polled NFL personnel from some teams about what they thought the Browns would do at No. 1, and the unanimous answer was Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. I asked a handful of other teams, including one of Cleveland’s AFC North rivals, and heard just one other name aside from Garrett. That was North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky, a Cleveland-area native. My mock drafts will have Garrett at the top until the Browns announce they’ve agreed to terms with somebody else before the draft.
Lions right guard Larry Warford is a pending free agent, and don’t expect him back in Detroit. Sources from two different NFL teams told me they expect Warford to hit the open market. It’s important to note here I did not get anything from talking to some Detroit team sources, who have become among the most tight-lipped of any organization. Warford has never matched his outstanding rookie year while battling numerous injuries, but he’s still an above-average starter when he’s healthy. Given the recent 4 yr/$29M contract Jets guard Brian Winters signed, expect at least $7.5M per year. Winters is more consistent but cannot match Warford’s ceiling.
The Packers made a smart decision in keeping Ty Montgomery as a running back, especially with Eddie Lacy’s status up in the air. Montgomery is a Senior Bowl alum who played as a wide receiver, but was at his best on jet sweeps and returns at Stanford. He played reasonably well for Green Bay.
This is totally unscientific, but around two-thirds of the people I asked this week about who will win the Super Bowl chose the Falcons. That includes some NFL coaches and scouts. There is admittedly some anti-Patriots bias at play with a lot of folks, however.