meet the cubs: the first minicamp

>> 5.04.2009

The rookie class of 2009 had their first reps in Lion uniforms (sans the logo on the helmet, which, ever since Parcells made rookies "earn the star" in Dallas, has become the de rigeur move for the entire NFL) over the weekend.  Following Tom Kowalski, Dave Birkett, and Nick Cotsonika's updates over the weekend left us with a few notable impressions:

* Matt Stafford came out throwing--overthrowing, in fact.  Appearing anxious to please, his first few passes were a little wild.  This echoes the scouting reports of his Pro Day performance: he was rocketing balls as hard as he could on that day, too; overthrowing to try to impress.  However, he quickly settled down on Friday, and ultimately earned the praise of his fellow rookies.   As Killer noted, Stafford was (correctly) throwing before the recievers broke, so that when they made their break and turned around to look for the ball, it was already there--and moving fast.  A lot of Stafford's passes bounced off of hands that were either rusty, unused to such velocity, or both.  Former Georgia WR Sean Bailey, at rookie minicamp on a tryout, took a Stafford pass off the facemask on the first day.  Said Penn State WR Derrick Williams: "My impressions were, please don't take my head off today.  I tried to make sure that I had my head around. He's really good. He's going to be a great quarterback.”

* Brandon Pettigrew had arguably the easiest time catching Stafford's fastballs on Friday.  He was then held out of Saturday practices with a tight hamstring.  Honestly, the pass catching is nice--but we knew he had soft hands.  What I'm most anxious to see is his blocking, and that won't happen until the pads go on.

* Louis Delmas appears to be the real deal, flying all over the field, breaking up (and intercepting) passes, laying some hits, talking lots of trash, and (apparently) forming an early rapport with Matt Stafford.  Every reporter there  When the Grandmaster was asked if Delmas stood out, he said,"Yeah, he stood out. I think that's obvious to you, me and the American people."

* According to Killer, Zack Follett and DeAndre Levy appeared to be largely similar to Jordon Dizon, in terms of "size and appearance".  The difference, I would like to point out, is that Dizon neither led his conference in tackles for loss, as Follett did, nor boasted legit 4.5 speed, as Levy does.  Follett was a jaw-dropping playmaker all over the field for Cal, and--according to Schwartz himself--Levy's the "thumper" Schwartz was looking for in the middle.  Until the pads go on, we won't know if Levy'll be able to man the middle, but Levy's already put on a few pounds of muscle, and says he's looking to get up to a lean 240.  If he does that, he'll be the same size as Larry Foote, and much faster than Foote's ever been.  As sure of a tackler?  No.  A veteran leader?  No.  But just as big, and much faster--and, thereby, possibly a better fit for Guntherball?  Yes.

* Derrick Williams dropped a few passes on Friday, and struggled to field punts cleanly on Saturday.  Most reports from minicamps around the NFL noted that their rookies looked quite rusty, so I'm going to give Williams the benefit of the doubt there--though, it should be noted that Williams was drafted not for his hands, but for what he does once the ball is in them.

* Sammie Hill looked as advertised: raw but big.  His weight has now creeped up to "330" in the latest Killer article about him.  By training camp, one wonders if he'll be a "lean 400".  All reports were that Hill looked legit amongst his peers out there, but that he wasn't that well-conditioned; he was the first to be sucking wind on Friday.  None of this should come as a huge surprise, seeing as he was used to effortlessly mauling DII competition.

* I didn't hear much about TCU RB Aaron Brown's performances, though Mayhew did say that he can "help us on returns and help us on third downs" over the weekend.

* I've helped stoke the Lydon Murtha flames a bit, but he was held out of practices with a tweaked hammy.  This is not good news for a player whose biggest knock is his inability to stay on the field.  Here's hoping that NFL trainers and conditioning can keep him loose and limber for training camp and the preseason.

4 comments:

Anonymous,  May 4, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

2 things:

killer retracted his follett and levy looking like dizon, instead saying that only in height are they the same. they're both bigger than dizon with the potential to add more w/o jeopardizing their speed.

the coaching staff was well aware of murtha's back issue and are just erring on the side of caution with the rooks. as long they're ready to go on the 18 with the vets, i have no problem with that.

TimT May 5, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

Ty, just wanted to add a couple thoughts to your list here...

Derrick Williams...
Watching the draft live on NFLN, Mayock commented how terrible he looked at his pro day. "If footballs were harpoons, he'd be left dead on the field." Evidently his punt-return drills were not going well at the pro-day. :)

Antone Smith...
Though undrafted and quite small at 5'9", he's stood out in camp, too. Here's a highlight reel from college:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fbFCU4zHiY

Ty May 5, 2009 at 9:47 AM  

Anon--

Yeah, since Dizon goes about 220, and both Follett and Levy played at around 235, I assumed from the moment I read that he was just talking about height and general impressions--that from a distance, neither Levy nor Follett looked like a beast next to Dizon.

As far as Murtha goes, I apologize for mischaracterizing his back injury as a hamstring, I think I got confused with Pettigrew's hammmy. Anyway, Schwartz has in fact said that they're being really really really cautious . . . it's just not what I wanted to hear about Murtha, after breaking him down and seeing his healthy potential.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 5, 2009 at 10:10 AM  

TimT--

It's a little bit worrisome, but again Williams was drafted for his ability with the ball, not his ability to catch it. I think punt-fielding is something that can be coached into someone that's not naturally great at it; pass catching probably less so. Offensively, Williams might be best used for screens and reverses at first. I think his short-area quickness is going to get him open underneath Johnson & Johnson quite a bit . . . but unless his hands improve, we're going to see a lot of frustrating drops from him.

As far as Antone Smith goes, any time the Lions add a talented athlete, I'm excited. I already thought that between Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aveion Caseon, Brian Calhoun, and Aaron Brown, we had four "third down backs who can return"; cutting Calhoun and picking up Smith doesn't change that. I hope Caseon is dropped, because I don't think he deserves a roster spot--but at the same time, that means after Smith as the primary back, and Morris as the third-down guy, is a sixth-round rookie and an undrafted rookie. That doesn't bode well.

I like the highlight reel you linked; he's lethal on draws (almost every one of those highlight runs was on a draw!), and runs with a lot of balance and strength. He's extremely quick and 'wiggly', but he still runs north-south. He reminds me a lot of another FSU tailback, Warrick Dunn. Dunn's a very small guy who ran hard north-south as well.

Peace
Ty

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