For those of you who weren’t following my obsessive Tweeting on Saturday evening, but are interested in what went down during the Senior Bowl practices and game, I’ve got you covered. I put up a quick post earlier with some site names, but here are the links to the practice reports and game recaps you need:
- Scout.com’s Senior Bowl reports. This is a premium site, but I’ve been relying on the Scout.com staff’s Senior Bowl stuff for years. Comprehensive and accurate, as always.
- Michael Schottey, of the Bleacher Report, was at the Senior Bowl along with some of the rest of the B/R folk. Mr. Schottey isn’t just a football dude who was there, though—he’s very well versed in player evaluation. That link takes you B/R’s collective Senior Bowl articles, and there’s lots of good stuff there.
- Wes Bunting, of the National Football Post, is a trained scout and very good writer; his stuff is mandatory reading.
- The guys from Sideline Scouting work their tails off, and it shows. I had their draft guide last year, and I was glad I did. Their Senior Bowl coverage didn’t disappoint, so go read it.
- Fellow Big Lead Sports site DraftZoo was in Mobile as well, and their head dude Hunter Ansley put up some really excellent practice recaps.
My own impressions? The game was a textbook example of what the game of football is really about: line play. When you have subpar quarterback play, and no offensive chemistry or familiarity, the coaches’ bag of tricks is emptied. In an All-Star game like this, the coaches can’t hide their quarterbacks’ limitations, and they can’t manufacture pass rush with exotic schemes (typically forbidden). Both phases of the game become about talent and execution in the trenches. The North was dominated by the South on both sides of the line, especially in the first half.
At least on Saturday, at least to my eyes, the best lineman on the field was Alabama OT James Carpenter. At 6'-4 3/4", 313, Carpenter's pass protection gave the southern quarterbacks plenty of time to throw. I was hoping to see the bigger Northern DEs like Ryan Kerrigan flash speed to go with their size, but Carpenter easily handled them. He also showed power in the run game and good athleticism.
I was also hoping to see MSU linebacker Greg Jones make a big impact, but he didn’t. Part of it was the South’s reliance on delays and draws in the run game; there weren’t a lot of opportunities for Jones to simply flow to the ball carrier and make the tackle. Further, Jones played (as far as I saw) entirely in the middle; I don’t see him as an MLB in the pros.
Stanford safety Richard Sherman really caught my eye. He’s nearly 6’-3”, played the run with physicality, and made a great adjustment to picked off a deep ball (called back for defensive offsides). He looked to be playing with fire out there, and having fun in the process.
One guy you’re likely to hear your fellow Lions fans drooling over is UNC corner Kendric Burney. He made a lot of plays in the game after impressing all week. Despite his size, he plays with a lot of toughness and shows good instincts. Unfortunately, due to his size (and his lack of blazing deep speed), Burney is unlikely to be an immediate #2 corner except in a Tampa 2. He definitely played his best when the ball was in front of him; he could be an excellent #3 guy. Actually, his combination of (small) size, physicality, instincts, playmaking, and limitations remind me a lot of Alphonso Smith. He’s a player, but I don’t see him as a fit for the Lions.
Finally, keep an eye on Cal DE Cameron Jordan. After hearing folks rave about his practices all week, saying how much he stood out and how much money he was making himself, Jordan was mostly invisible in the game. This reminded me a lot of B.J. Raji, who entered Mobile as a late first/early second guy with upside and character issues, and left Mobile as a lock for the top ten, even though he didn't make an impact in the game. As Gandalf said about Gollum, I think Cameron Jordan has some part to play yet, for good or for ill.