I spent the early part of a chilly, sunny morning practice watching the QBs up close.
Jake Locker showed a lot today. He has such great mechanics and it really jumped out in comparison to Ricky Stanzi and Colin Kaepernick. Very natural, fluid motion throughout his setup and release. He looks comfortable taking the snap and scanning the field. And his accuracy today was improved. On a rollout drill Locker was very confident throwing across his body and kept his feet under him when delivering the ball, something the other two QBs didn?t do once. In a red zone drill he consistently fired the ball high to the back line (as designed) with real zip but also catchable balls.
One thing that continues to plague him is throwing sideline routes, particularly to his right. He is consistently well off target on almost every route where the receiver is within about 3 yards of the sideline, as if he?s trying to aim it too much instead of just throwing it. Wednesday was a better demonstration of why some are so very high on him, but I want to see him throw with that sort of ease and accuracy more consistently. Bonus points earned for his positive and encouraging attitude.
The more I watched Ricky Stanzi, the less I liked him. To quote one QB coach standing within earshot, ?he?s got a slow arm?. What that means: His windup and over-the-top shoulder delivery take too much time to get the ball out. It?s not much of an issue on longer throws and in drills, but in live action reps his delivery gives the defense an extra step to read him. It makes him have to gun the ball harder and he loses accuracy and touch when he does so. He also tended to stare down his target, both in drills and live reps. He does throw the best sideline ball of the 3 and he slides forward in the pocket better than his peers, but from what I?ve seen the last two days he?s nothing more than a marginal #2 NFL QB.
Colin Kaepernick is a very different kind of QB. The thing that stands out is his happy feet--he?s always bouncing on his toes but does so with stiff knees, a stark contrast to Locker?s very natural pocket stance. Kaepernick has clearly learned to play this way and I?m sure it?s some function of playing in the offense he did at Nevada. That pistol/read option background reared its ugly head a few times today, when he quickly took off when rushed instead of letting his receivers do some work. But one time he slid to his right to buy time and delivered a strike to Dane Sanzebacher on a deep cross that was exactly where the ball needed to be. Bottom line: he needs a lot of work on NFL-style offense, but the potential is there to become a starting-caliber QB for an offense tailored to his strengths. He?s comparable to Drew Stanton at the same point (who was a 2nd rounder), though his accuracy is better than the Lions backup.
The running backs and linebackers did a couple of drills together. One was pass protection/blitz, the other was route running/coverage. Thoughts:
Came away very impressed with Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State. He?s the smallest back out there but he sure doesn?t play like it. Ran very smooth routes with great burst to pull away from the LBs. On a wheel route from the 25 he beat Mark Herzlich to the end zone by a good 3 yards, but Kaepernick underthrew the ball, it bounced off Hunter and right to Herzlich for the INT. Where Hunter really stood out was pass protection. He?s ?one aggressive little SOB? to quote a line coach. Great technique and he explodes into his blocks, able to successfully stone both Herzlich and Greg Jones on blitzes. Jones tried a straight bull rush on him and Hunter successfully turned his shoulders enough to give the QB a lane. Hunter also made a great backside cut on a run early in the 11-on-11 and got past the pursuit before it could react to him (nice blocks by Marshall TE Lee Smith and BC tackle Anthony Castonzo helped).
Roy Helu Jr. from Nebraska showed some very natural receiving skills. Makes sharp cuts and goes out and seizes the ball from the air. He made a great fake on a middle release, planting hard and exploding across a flat-footed Casey Matthews. Helu also looked good in pass protection. His running style reminds me of Lesean McCoy. Style, not efficacy.
Demarco Murray (Oklahoma) had trouble catching the ball but also had no trouble getting open. He runs low to the ground and showed a nice innate ability to set up his blocks.
Owen Marecic (Stanford) is a hybrid RB/FB, which in theory should make him ahead of the game in pass protection. Not so. He was easily the weakest of the lot in pass pro, too upright and indecisive. Both Mason Foster (Washington) and Herzlich easily discarded him in drills, and he was late to provide help against Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue DE) in 11s that would have gotten Locker creamed in real action after Kerrigan ran right past Nate Solder (Colorado).
Best LB in coverage for the 2nd day in a row was UConn?s Lawrence Wilson. Very natural and fluid moving in space, though he doesn?t locate the ball well.
Casey Matthews had a very rough morning. He was beaten every single rep in coverage and got tied up by blockers on almost every play in 11s. In the pass rush drill he proved he doesn?t have a lot of burst, and he tried a spin move that was almost comically premature--Helu just waited for him to finish his spin and popped him.
Good morning for Kerrigan. Aside from that play, he routinely got around the edge on almost every rep in drills, and was flying around the edge in 11s. His first step is very explosive and he takes a more inside track to his outside move that is a nice changeup. The long-armed tackles (notably Solder and Jason Pinkston of Pitt) can?t extend or get any strength in their punch on him and Kerrigan is fast enough to get through before they can adjust. Boilers fans will be happy to note he won every individual rep battle against IU?s James Brewer, who looked stiff today.
Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) stood out amongst the linemen today. He was decent in drills but where he shined was in 11s, esp. playing right tackle next to college teammate John Moffitt. Carimi is very good at making a jolting initial block and then working down the field. He did this on almost every running play and also got 10 yards in front of a screen and walled off a safety that let Hunter scoot down the sideline for a TD (moot point thought because Locker bounced the throw to him at the sideline). On a screen to his side he threw out a powerful hand to steer Cameron Jordan (not as dominant today but still highly impressive) wide, then got out in front and pushed Casey Matthews a good 10 yards off the play to clear a huge lane.
Nate Solder drew mixed reviews. I watched him up close with a current OL coach and former offensive tackle and they bantered back and forth about him on every rep. Bottom line: his size/strength are what every coach dreams of, but he needs some technique refinement, specifically in extending his arms with power and reading the tip-offs from the defense. An example: Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma) lined up with his inside hand down and back foot angled inside on a rep, and the guys I was with both immediately picked up on it and declared he was going to try and cross Solder?s shoulders (say that three times fast!) and get inside. But Solder didn?t pick up on it, took his first step with his outside foot and Beal got across him and would have drawn a holding penalty. Everything wrong with Solder is very coachable and he?s proven he can learn and apply lessons, but he?s not as ready to plug into an NFL OL as Castonzo or Carimi are right now.
Greg Jones is another guy who is better in 11s than he is in individual drills. I continue to be impressed with how quickly he reads plays and gets to the point of attack under control but with power and quickness. He?s not as top-end fast as you?d like for a guy with his lack of height, but I see a lot of London Fletcher in him.
Via Jeff Risdon/RealGM
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