Senior Bowl Report: Wednesday's North Practice
Written by John Clifford on 01/21/2009
I arrived fashionably late for the North’s Wednesday morning practice, deciding to get right to the meat of it – and upon my arrival North is running 11-on-11 and BANG!
B.J. Raji blows Alex Mack way back, all the way back into Graham Harrell before the play even develops. I was still a little groggy, but I think there was a RB under that pile, perhaps a stretch play.
Harrell had a pocket on the next play, makes it through his progressions, but not at an NFL pace and not surprisingly Sheets drops the dump off with a little help from the defender bearing down on him – simply too slow to develop. Sheets redeems his part a bit by taking a hard hit square in the back and hangs on to the ball.
Bomar takes the snaps, and begins with a toss sweep to Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ( a brief digression – under the category of “anything you can do I can do better, anything you can do I can do too” – While Sheets has been impressive, in at least as much as he’s demonstrated to NFL scouts they should feel confident about the risk side of the equation based on his versatility and his ability to contribute in numerous ways and the amount of visibility they’ve been provided so far this week; however, I’m giving the nod to Peerman. He may not ever be that track star that Sheets is, but he’s got NFL RB upside that I think you can objectively cap on Sheets – just something to think about and debate). Oh Bomar fumbles the next snap, and then Sheets makes an excellent cut back into traffic. Go figure.
With Brown in at QB, the first play has Oregon RB Jeremiah Johnson taking too many steps to the line, he’s shown he can be more explosive and decisive, not being either on this play cost them. On play-action, Brown throws a 20-yard out on a line to Inglesias, all hands, perfectly placed and on-time.
Harrell hooks up with Gibson, but on the next play he’s audibly pissed for being slow getting the ball to Peerman on the handoff.
Bomar fumbles another exchange under center. He then hits Sheets underneath, slow to deliver – an NFL defender gives up zero YAC on that play at best, perhaps worst.
The North moves into kick return formation. First up is UConn’s Darius Butler. Next, by contrast, Penn State’s Derrick Williams appeared to be another class for runner – speed, fluidity, cuts. Sheets on kickoffs continues to be the object of intrigue as someone that may not ever climb on the draft board to a point where he could contribute very early in various phases, but that’s the draft in the fantasy football world we live in – thus, on a certain roster, given a need or void, he could represent tremendous value. Derrick Williams returning another kick manages to put it into yet ANOTHER gear – he’s emerging on the “helped himself” short list this week. Darius Butler has the misfortunate of returning the next kick, providing the sharp visual contrast. Jeremiah Johnson splits the difference, appearing solid, not spectacular.
Breaking into positional battles, my focus turns to the line play (simply because that’s in my general vicinity, since NFL Network’s clunky bullshit makes roaming around at a brisk pace impossible – thumbs down on the trend of experience user-friendliness since they’ve taken over).
With Oklahoma’s Phil Loadholt at RT, Virginia OLB/DE Clint Sintim is no problem on two snaps. Illinois OL Xavier Fulton then faces Sintim, getting beat to the inside, but gets under his pads on the next snap and stops him. Wisconsin OL Kraig Urbik manages to withstand a very strong and impressive attack from Iowa DL Mitch King on consecutive snaps.
Cal OL Alex Mack cannot be enjoying this match up with Boston College DT B.J. Raji. Raji gets huge penetration once again on the first snap. To Mack’s credit, he showed he could get some leverage and hold up for a bit, but lost when Raji demonstrated excellent quickness on a great spin. It might not be too early to move Raji from the “helped himself immensely” category to crowning him “winner of the week” – after all, the pads are off tomorrow.
Oregon OL Max Unger faces off with Purdue DL Alex Magee; and with two more snaps, Magee shows he wants to make a strong case for the best package of size, power, speed and moves on display at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Oregon State OL Andy Levitre takes on NIU DE Larry English, probably the last time these guys will ever line up against each other. Levitre’s game is on the interior and English is the closest thing to a pass rusher in the mold of Colts Dwight Freeney on this field, and it showed with English using his speed to the outside on the first snap, and like Freeney, after biting outside, Levitre gets beat when English spins back to the inside. Levitre taking on Illinois DL Will Davis and the results are a much more even exchange.
Cincinnati OL Trevor Canfield lining up against Missouri DL Ziggy Hood is another look at how much Canfield works to demonstrate strength, technique and attitude on every play, at least suggesting tremendous upside with a solid foundation to start.
Virginia Tech OL Ryan Shuman took on BC DT B.J. Raji and then teammate DT Ron Brace on successive snaps; and, perhaps being a bit more familiar with the Eagles, put each of them down to the turf. Cal OL Alex Mack faced Michigan DE Tim Jamison and oddly, despite losing the first battle, Jamison had position to win the next one, but coming out of his spin move, lacked quickness to separate, allowing time for Mack to recover and with a determined effort to finish the play, Mack engaged Jamison, blocking him out of the play.
Oregon State OL Andy Levitre went up against UConn DL Cody Brown and then Illinois DL Will Davis on consecutive reps of two snaps. The reaction to the first play was that Brown simply bull-rushed Levitre and knocked him on his ass – or I should say, the audible reaction was that a player got knocked on his ass, and it was no qualitative indication of what took place – in other words, I’m not buying it. The proportion of wins and the eye test tells any observer that the clear advantage here is the DL is all over this snap, in that sense, Levitre may have been ready per se, but not really; call it disadvantaged. Again facing Davis, they have an even exchange.
Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt handles Michigan DE Tim Jamison on back-to-back snaps from the RT position. Wisconsin OL Kraig Urbik gets smoked by Iowa DL Mitch King, but impressively Urbik comes back to stuff Purdue DL Alex Magee.
Oregon OL Max Unger at C in shotgun gets pushed aside by B.C. DT Ron Brace, but then Brace gets drawn offsides – again, the DL is still all over the snap as much as they can be. On the next snap, Brace is handled nicely by Unger. Perhaps Unger bought himself a half-second and that bought all the time he needed to get the leverage on Brace he needed.
Oregon State OL Andy Levitre against BC DT B.J. Raji – this should be interesting with what’s developed with the snap count. Sure enough, Raji’s apparent dominance is mitigated, and without so much speed off the snap, Levitre and Raji battle evenly on consecutive snaps. Likewise for UConn OL William Beatty going up against NIU DE Larry English, this becomes a more even battle when English gets slowed down out of the blocks. Levitre gets pushed back by Illinois DL Will Davis and allows Davis to swim around him; again on the next snap, Davis gets the better leverage, push and penetration into the backfield.
Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt loses on consecutive snaps much to my surprise. Michigan DE Tim Jamison beats him inside and then faking inside just speed rushes outside and beats Loadholt badly a second time.
Cincinnati OL Trevor Canfield looks as strong technically and physically as anyone could, stopping Missouri DL Ziggy Hood dead in his tracks on his first snap. Amazingly, the next play, he totally breaks down against Purdue DL Alex Magee, stamping his performance with a loud F-bomb expletive.
Virginia Tech OL Ryan Shuman and BC DT Ron Brace face off again, Brace running right around Shuman’s left side. However, on the next snap, Shuman engaged, and when the opportunity arose to use Brace’s weight as leverage against him, Shuman put him to the ground.
Winding down the practice in 11-on-11, Brown goes under center first. He’s quick through his targets, dumps to Purdue RB Kory Sheets, who bobbles the ball badly and up in the air resulting in an INT.
Harrell hits Cincinnati TE Connor Barwin deep middle, who then gains yards with a nice looking run after the catch. Sheets makes a nice off tackle run on the next play. Harrell ends his series with a throw to nowhere – the turf (I can’t say that his or Bomar’s play has shown improvement over the course of the week, given the time off, that should at least mean a gain in consistency, not a trend that tilts the other way).
Bomar’s series begins with a Peerman run that results in a win for the DL. The subsequent play is a screen to Sheets, generally well defended, credit Cal LB Zack Follett for no gain on the play.
Brown is back under center and Oregon RB Jeremiah Johnson gets the call, he’s quietly gone about the business of playing football, hasn’t hurt his case, so depending on who’s watching, and the need, that means Johnson’s had a solid week at worst. On Brown’s next snap, he throws a quick release strike to Inglesias – I’d say best ball of the week.
Harrell’s next play is slow to develop, checking down to Sheets – there’s a sharp contrast between the QBs in that regard and the scouts have to be taking notice – it’s helping one or hurting the other or both. A Harrell toss to Peerman results in a loss of yards by the penetration from the DL, McKenzie and Hood converging on the handoff.
An ugly and with Bomar stopping play when King blows Mack up, all the way into the backfield, onto the turf at Bomar’s feet.
Last Edited: 04/05/2009