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Checkin' In From The Senior Bowl
Authored by Jeff Risdon - 20th January, 2009 - 10:38 am

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Monday was arrival day for most of the NFL's movers and shakers. My plane ride from Atlanta to Mobile was a veritable "who's who" of NFL management, coaches, and notables.

As is typical of my experiences at the Combine in Indianapolis, some of these folks are willing to talk to the "lesser" media like myself, and some treated me like the cool girl clique in high school treats the fat new girl with bad teeth. An honest thank you to the nice guys!

Monday's practices were divided, so I wound up catching the very end of the North team practice and did not see the South. Today's workouts are both at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, so I will see both teams in action. Last evening was media night, a wonderfully pompous and fluffy affair held at the USS Alabama, which is definitely worth the visit if you ever find yourself near Mobile.

Player Notes:

Phil Loadholt, T, Oklahoma - He's massive at 343 pounds but has no kick and slow feet. Larry English got around him with almost no problem. Loadholt will be an NFL right tackle, and he needs to show ability to find defenders in space and lock them up during run drills if he is going to be drafted before about the fifth round.

Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois - More than a speed rusher, he showed some inside strength. Reminded me and another seasoned observer here of Lamarr Woodley and looks to be best suited for playing right-outside lineback in a 3-4 defense.

Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State - He is clearly the cream of the North wide receiver crop. It shows that his dad is an NFL coach, both in his approach and also how he handled himself with the media last night. He's bulkier than I thought, but it doesn't appear to slow him.

Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech - He showed good accuracy, but his throws don't have any mustard. It's like watching Trevor Hoffman throw. When I asked him about adjusting to taking snaps from center, his answer indicated he is self-aware and confident. He has worked hard at turning to hand the ball off, and he knows all eyes are on how he adjusts. He could become a shorter Brad Johnson.

Nathan Brown, QB, Central Arkansas - If Harrell is Trevor Hoffman, Brown is Bartolo Colon (not in physique, as Brown is nicely cut). He throws the ball really hard, but I'm not sure even he knows where it's going.

Buzz Up:

Max Unger, C, Oregon; B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College; Alex Mack, C, California; Coye Franceis, CB, San Jose State; Sherrod Martin, CB, Troy; Macho Harris, CB, Virginia Tech, trying hard, but unsuccessfully, to go by Victor; Kraig Ubrik, G, Wisconsin; Robiskie, see above; Cedric Peerman, RB, Virginia

Buzz Down:

Loadholt, see above; Pat White, QB, West Virginia, who almost certainly will have to change positions; James Davis, RB, Clemson; Brandon Gibson, WR, Washington State; Joaquin Iglesias, WR, Oklahoma. Really every wide recevier on the North except Robiskie failed to impress. Both Iglesias and Cal Poly big man Ramses Barden showed great hands, but neither showed any sort of quickness or route polish. When jammed in press coverage by Macho Harris, Barden wound up four yards behind the line of scrimmage on one play.

"Insider" meat:

It's not free agent season yet, and any "official contact" equals tampering at this point, but that doesn't mean general managers, coaches, and agents aren't talking...

I asked one highly prominent NFL exec about the recent firings in Tampa Bay. I can't provide an exact quote (it was on an airplane), but the skinny: Coach Gruden seemed genuinely unaware that their collapse was such a problem, as if he's in major denial about his own culpability. Some of the personnel moves he desired did not mesh with how the team wants to progress, and his inability to develop quarterbacks or work with veterans was a real issue. Deposed GM Bruce Allen was seen as too wishy-washy and too in-step with Gruden. They did not want to lose the younger, cheaper talent that they promoted to fill those spots and felt 'genuinely threatened' that both would take jobs elsewhere this offseason, specifically with the Rams.

--"Anquan Boldin is as good as gone even if he wins the Super Bowl MVP."

--"Brett Favre sure looks and sounds like a guy ready to accept the end of his career."

--"San Diego has a real problem with LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. If they keep LT and let Sproles walk, they are putting all their eggs in next year's basket, and they'll all (GM, coaches, many players) be gone if they don't win it all. Keeping Sproles and dumping LT would indicate they are building to stay strong for a long time, but how do you just up and cut an icon who might have another good year left? Nobody in their right mind would trade for (LT) with how he's looked, but nobody I know is burying him yet either."

--"All the success of Mike Smith, John Harbaugh, and down in Miami is creating overwhelming pressure on the old guard coaches. Executives too. Owners with a pulse are not going to tolerate more than one down year anymore. Heads are going to roll because of it...those heads might be the very guys who made this whole thing start if those teams regress quickly."