Authored by Jeff Risdon - 23rd January, 2012 - 8:46 pm
The first day of practices are split, with the South practicing at a different stadium at the same time. I stuck with the North squad at Ladd Peebles, which has improved its turf.
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It was drizzly, off and on light rain before the sun poked out at the end of practice. Little wind, 71 degrees.
Most of the focus today was on offensive skill position players and DBs.
--The one thing that really stands out is how small these guys are. Russell Wilson from Wisconsin measured in at 5'10" and seeing him on the field with his peers that almost seems generous. In the pre-practice warmup, the coaches were working with Wilson to square his shoulders with his feet and the target. It appeared to be a foreign concept to him and it did not stick into the later portion of practice. Wilson does have some real positives though. He is very naturally on his toes and his heels never touch the ground when he's back to pass. His backpedal was the smoothest and even though he isn't often fundamentally square, he does a good job with weight transfer. He throws a noticeably high deep ball but it does not hang like you would expect a ball thrown with that arc. Accuracy was generally solid and it's hard to be too tough on that with any of these guys as it's the first time they've ever thrown to these receivers.
--Kirk Cousins is easily the biggest of the trio and he has the most consistently strong arm. If you have watched Michigan State a lot, you can infer the negativity that entails. Cousins has shortened his step into his throw since the season ended and the ball appears to have better initial velocity. He is much better at throwing to his left than his right, where he was pretty consistently low and a half-step off target. Cousins had a couple of throws that got away but always had the tightest spiral on his throws.
--Kellen Moore is not an NFL QB if he is to be judged by Monday. That opinion is most certainly shared by a NFC West head coach who was intently watching him early in practice. Moore measured in at just under 6' tall but unlike the even shorter Wilson, he simply does not look real athletic. In the backpedal drill he kept glancing down at his feet, unsure of his balance. But the biggest knock is arm strength, or his quite apparent lack thereof. There is little requisite pace on his throws and his spiral devolves as it travels farther down the field. There were a couple of occasions where the coaches got on him to fire the ball but it was still visibly weaker than the other two QBs. He also needs lots of work on processing the defense; it's pretty clear that at Boise they let him throw a play regardless of the coverage. Twice he misread inside technique and sent the ball flying to open space.
Impressive overall group here..
--Devier Posey had an up-and-down afternoon. He showed a quick release and smooth footwork, but his hands were inconsistent. He made a beautiful lunging catch across the middle on a sweet read and throw from Cousins in 7s drills, but Posey also juggled one and had another bounce off his knee. He absolutely torched Asa Jackson on a corner route but Wilson threw the ball out of the back of the end zone. Cousins looked to Posey a lot.
--Marvin Jones from California impressed me on Monday. He's got good quickness for a bigger WR and demonstrated he can get down to make a catch. He blew past Leonard Johnson on a 9 route and crossed Donnie Fletcher nicely on a slant. He made a great rebound catch where Alfonzo Dennard arrived with the football and the ball launched high into the air; Jones kept his concentration and caught it while lying on his side.
--Gerell Robinson caught everything near him, but he had some issues getting separation. He's got a long, deliberate stride and really gears down when he makes a cut. Robinson also didn't sell his moves real well; Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming didn't buy his half-baked move and rode him hard on an out route, eliminating the throwing window.
--Brian Quick from Appalachian State had a rough day. He is built just like Plaxico Burress and he has good get-off speed, but his hands appear slow. What I mean by that is that the ball gets into his pads quickly and if the throw is at his torso he has no prayer of getting his long arms out fast enough to catch it. The one ball all day that Kellen Moore really rifled hit Quick between the numbers while Quick's arms were still extending out to get it. The coaches kept working him on anticipating the defense during his route. A lot to work with, but a lot of work to do.
--TJ Graham from NC State reminded me of Vincent Brown from a year ago. He's smaller than the other guys but he has very good feet and crisp routes. He consistently reached out and seized the ball from the air. One of his out cuts left Asa Jackson out in the cold. He has the trappings of a zone-busting #3 wideout.
--Marvin McNutt is slighter in person than he appears on film. He caught my eye at the onset of practice as he and Posey were peppering like volleyball players (think hot potato) that made this vballer proud. He has some deceptive speed changes and comes out of his breaks hard. He also tracks the deep ball very well, which stood out during his Iowa career too.
The Vikings, who are running the North, clearly don't have much of a use for tight ends in their offense. They moved UMass TE Emil Igwenagu to work as a fullback for the majority of practice, and he looks the part of a H-back type of move tight end. I think they did him a favor in showcasing him in that role.
--Michael Egnew fits the physical prototype of the split-out tight end: long, long-limbed, tightly muscled, pretty fast but not ideal speed. He really struggled doing a drill early in practice where they asked him to fight a jam and release up the field. He is very upright as he runs and that leaves him vulnerable to physical coverage. Egnew did run a nice seam route in 11's.
--Brian Linthicum from Michigan State fared better getting off the jam, but he is a bit plodding out of his cuts. Looks like a #2 tight end. I give him bonus points for spending a couple of minutes with me before practice today.
--Leonard Johnson from Iowa State really disappointed me as I have pretty high expectations from a conversation I had with a scout earlier this year and also from catching a few ISU games. Johnson was slow to react to the route and took a big ol' step in the bucket when breaking on the ball. His hips were tight and his closing burst was nothing special. I am hoping for a better day tomorrow.
--Asa Jackson from Cal Poly looked overmatched. He's the smallest guy out there, but that's not his problem. Twice he crossed his feet when the receiver crossed him, a cardinal sin for a corner. As noted above, he got easily beaten a couple of times. One another play he had decent position on Posey but never located the ball and then couldn't dislodge it from Posey. He's greener than expected. Jackson did flash nicely in punt return drills, an attribute which could buy him developmental time. He reminds me of former Mr. Irrelevant Ramzee Robinson, but faster.
--Donnie Fletcher from Boston College was real hit-and-miss. He's not as long as his size would indicate but he understands where to be in the zone. Needs to work on exploding out of his break and anticipating the route. He looked better in 11's than 7's, which is a good thing.
--Alfonzo Dennard from Nebraska is the highest rated coming in here, but this is not really his venue. Press coverage is not allowed and that's his forte. He is very physical and carries himself almost like a safety. I see some Malcolm Jenkins to him. He should shine more when the squads are in full pads the next couple of days. Good instincts.
--Jamell Fleming of Oklahoma showed he can close on the ball and get out of his backpedal smoothly. There were a couple of times where he would have been called for illegal contact.
--D'Anton Lynn from Penn State is pretty thickly built, clearly the biggest calves of the group. Yes, I'm checking out dudes' legs. Honestly he didn't make much of an impression and I'll try harder later this week.
--He's not a corner, but Boise State safety George Iloka drew buzz early on Monday at the weigh in. He is a very impressive physical specimen at 6'3" and 223 pounds and in practice he showed good straight line speed. He has some Taylor Mays to him, however: not real instinctive and very much a train tracks defender. Iloka doesn't have the arrogance of Mays and clearly wants to impress and learn.
Special mention for Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman, who impressed a lot of people. During the end of practice I was standing with a group of coaches that had the stopwatch out. All of his punts had at least 4.6 hang time, with the final boom hanging 4.97 seconds while sailing just under 55 yards in the air. His first two punts earlier in practice both topped 60 yards on the fly, albeit with zero pressure. Definitely draftable, and if you have read my draft stuff in the past 6 years you know I don't say that lightly.
Seen talking after practice, and please don't read anything into this other than face value reporting:
--The Panthers staff in attendance divided and conquered the corners, notably Leonard Johnson and Jamell Fleming.
--The Ravens and Shea McClelland, who played all the LB positions in practice today, and none of them real well in my brief looks.
--The Raiders talked to Alameda Ta'Amu and Trenton Robinson, both of whom are in play for their one draft pick.
--The Seahawks waited patiently to talk to Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins.
--The Browns flocked to interior linemen, notably Tony Bergstrom and Johnnie Troutman. Cleveland also talked to Isaiah Pead.
--The Bengals talked to Devier Posey, Doug Martin, and Dan Herron.
--The 49ers talked to JM Johnson and Marvin Jones
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