As the South Team took the field for the first time inside Ladd-Peebles Stadium, it was also our first opportunity to take a look at some of the big name players on that squad. It was a full-padded practice which made for an entertaining afternoon and included a couple big collisions. I’d also like to commend Dolphins’ Head Coach Tony Sparano for putting together a very solid, up-tempo practice.
Even though there are three quarterbacks on the roster, the stands will constantly be buzzing about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. His Monday struggles were well-documented and we don’t expect his elongated release to change much throughout the week. With that in mind, he looked far more comfortable on the field today, even dishing out a few chest bumps to his teammates. Tebow connected on several deep balls today, which is one of his greatest strengths as a passer. Overall, I think Jarrett Brown has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks thus far at the senior bowl. He has great arm strength and good footwork and mechanics. The ball looks good coming out of his hand and arrives on target on time. His biggest flaw is correctable only with time: experience. The other South team quarterback, Zac Robinson, also looked comfortable out there today making consistently good throws. This unit should figure to be a strength of the team heading into the game.
The running back corps for the South team features a number of intriguing prospects from the SEC. Ben Tate has been the most impressive so far. He hits holes hard and is a tough downhill runner. With the pads on in Tuesday’s practice, Ben Tate leaped out a bit showing those exact things, but also made a nice catch against Eric Norwood. Anthony Dixon is a big back at 245 pounds, but has surprisingly good feet for his size as he showed Tuesday. Roy Upchurch has also played pretty well, making a nice reception today in the team portion of practice.
In today’s practice, the day belonged to RB/WR tweener Dexter McCluster. He weighed in at 165 pounds, but is a tough football player. With a good 4.4 40 at the Combine, he’ll have solidified himself as a second round selection after the week he’s had here in Mobile. Today, McCluster ran a beautiful double move and made a nice diving catch on a deep ball delivered from Tim Tebow. While he showed some instinctive running in college, here at the Senior Bowl he’s shown precise route-running, which will give him value as a utility player. Riley Cooper also had a nice practice, but was a microcosm of his senior season. Cooper looked nice getting off the line of scrimmage in press man coverage and finding separation, but dropped a pass or two. He needs to maintain concentration through the catch, but could be a good one at the next level. Joe Webb the converted quarterback from UAB also had a pretty nice day. He has good size (6’3, 223) and uses his body well. He dropped a pass here or there, but on the whole made a number of plays all over the field. Miami’s Jimmy Graham has been the most explosive tight end on this team. He has the athleticism to get deep and showed just that today, going long on a couple plays.
Up front, it’s a little surprising how underrated Mike Johnson is right now. A number of people have discussed the two smaller school guard/tackles on the North team, but Johnson was arguably the best linemen in the country a year ago. He measured in at a solid 6’5, 306 yesterday, but with short 32 ¼ inch arms. That’s a little disappointing, but through the first two practices, he hasn’t budged at all. He’s been equally impressive in pass protection and run-blocking in both one-on-ones and in team drills. I could easily see him being the interior lineman that makes the smoothest transition to the pros. Likewise, USC’s Jeff Byers has put together back-to-back good practices. He looked natural in the combination blocks early on and continued his dominance in the one-on-one drills. I also like what John Jerry brings to the table. He’s more of a road grader and anchored well against the bull rush. While Ciron Black projects more to right tackle or at guard, he did a nice job of setting his kick slide and pushing defenders to the outside in the one-on-ones.
Terrence Cody finally stepped up today after showing up out of weight and struggling Monday according to a number of those who watched the South team practice. Today Cody was unblockable and he did so by powering straight through the offensive linemen who attempted to get in his way. In combination block (2 OL vs. 1 DL), Cody held up well and had his way with Ted Larsen on back-to-back plays in the individual match-ups. His power and explosiveness will translate to the NFL, but he needs to keep his conditioning going. I’ll try to keep an eye on him throughout the rest of the week to see how he’s holding up between drills and as practice wears on. I also liked what I saw from Geno Atkins. He continued his explosive week by beating blockers with quickness inside, but these practices are set up to pave way for players with his skill set. Brandon Lang has a nice skill set and had an okay day. On several plays, he used his speed-power combination to attack offensive tackles.
Patrick Robinson at Senior Bowl practice
Among linebackers, Eric Norwood is probably the biggest name on the South team. He had an up and down day. He looked better than expected in covering running backs sticking with them in tight coverage, but just couldn’t make the play on the ball. Coming for someone known to have stiff hips in coverage, it wasn’t all that bad of a day.
The unit on either team that scouts will pay close attention to this week will be the South team’s secondary. They have a number of projected 1st round draft picks with a few more expected to go shortly after. As a result, it was a unit I paid special attention to today. It’s hard to distinguish the player that had the best day today, but Perrish Cox would have to be near the top of that list. Cox is a very fluid athlete and does a nice job with flipping his hips in coverage as he showed in Tuesday’s practice. Javier Arenas showed his willingness to initiate contact and finish plays. One on play, he had initially given up the inside leverage to the receiver on an inward-breaking route, but retreated to separate the ball from the receiver just as it was coming into his hands. He also showed his physicality versus the run when he knocked a fellow SEC back to the ground. Among safeties here this week, Nate Allen looks the best in man coverage. Man of these guys won’t be asked to do much of it in the pros, but Allen has shown that he can stay with a receiver without initiating much contact down field. He’s a very fluid player in coverage. Myron Rolle looked a little bit better today as he continues to get his body acclimated back to football. Patrick Robinson showed his quick feet on shorter routes, but was victimized on one of Tebow’s deep balls at least once today. Harry Coleman looks a little lost in man coverage. He gave struggled to stay tight with receivers out of breaks. Taylor Mays is very stiff and doesn’t seem to have the natural hips to flip and turn with receivers in man coverage. His forte is staying over the top in deep zones and coming up to make hits. He’s a much better player facing the line of scrimmage with everything in front of him. Trevard Lindley had a poor day here today. He was beaten deep on multiple occasions right off the line of scrimmage and lacked the recovery speed to make up for it. He also struggled out of breaks and didn’t make sharp turns, which lead to erroneous steps, paving way for receivers to gain separation.
This concluded an exciting day, watching the South team practice for the first time this week. Tomorrow should be another day in pads. Wednesday usually marks the best of practice in this event with both sides in pads, yet also a little more familiar with their teammates and responsibilities. The NFL Network will cover the South team practice once again from 3:00-4:00PM.
Continue to Tuesday's North practice recap -->