As the dew on the grass dried away for the third morning practice session for the 2010 Senior Bowl , the field was littered by players dressed in the Blue and White jersey of the North.
Overall, it appeared as if there was a lackluster feel around the team. There was not a lot of intensity but that could be more a signal from the Detroit Lions coaching staff approaching this as a fun experience for these kids then an actual showcase and competition. Either way, the big names (led by such names as Tony Pike, Daryl Washington, Danario Alexander, and LeGarrette Blount) seemed to almost disappear into the background more then actually step up and show off their goods.
It has been immensely noted that the quarterbacks from both the South and North have really struggled all week and today was no exception for the North team – Cincinnati’s Pike, Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour, and Oregon State’s Sean Canfield. The common complaint from most scouts is whether any of these guys will have the necessary arm strength to make it in the NFL. It appeared almost as if they were timid to throw the ball with serious power for fear of overthrowing or forcing it which would in turn lead to the turnovers that all NFL scouts cringe at. Unfortunately for Tony Pike, he did just that in 11×11 drills as he was gunning for collegiate teammate Mardy Gilyard out in the left flat and just forced the ball into a spot that it should not have been which was then picked off by TCU linebacker Daryl Washington for a pick six.
There is no doubt that all three of these guys can throw the long ball, but the problem is that all had a terrible time doing with authority. On several cases, the receivers would either have to stop or slow way down to avoid over running the ball during the early morning passing drills. When the long ball turned into the intermediate passes into the flats, the authority looked even worse as no quarterback put the necessary power on the ball that would have allowed their receivers the opportunity to turn up field and get more yards.
I thought that LeFevour was the more consistent QB out there, but still by far from a lock for a starting gig in the NFL. I consider all three of these guy projects which would normally place them in the 3rd – 5th rounds of the NFL Draft. Canfield appeared to be the most timid of the three as he never really showed a good command of the team out there on the field. Tony Pike played very hot and cold and showed that his transition from the high powered Cincinnati offense to a more traditional pro-style will take some serious work.
The runningbacks corps as a whole is not a very notable group. They are led by Blount who is looking to redeem himself after missing the whole season for his well known “punch heard ‘round the world” at Boise State. He ran well and with intensity and even broke a couple of tackles from big named defenders like Washington and Mizzou LB Sean Weatherspoon. He did lose a fumble as he ran straight into a mosh pit in 7 v 7 drills.
Fresno State RB Lonyae Miller continued to struggle running with his pads so high that he makes it easy for defenders to knock him around. One of the bigger hits of the morning was a handoff from Pike to Miller who ran to the right but was met by CB Brandon Ghee who knocked him back by three yards. The most impressive back of the morning was a prospect from a small school; Wayne State’s Joique Bell. He was not the most explosive back out there, but he showed great poise and serious balance skills as there were several times where he would burst through a hole and be tripped up a defender, place his hand on the ground and break away for more yards.
The wide receiver group was probably the most disappointing for me to watch. This is a group with some bigger names and maybe they forgot to show up today. Mardy Gilyard from Cincinnati, Clemson’s Jacoby Ford, Missouri’s Danario Alexander, and Pittsburgh’s TE/WR Dorin Dickerson head up this year’s group of receivers. Believe it or not, but little known Ohio receiver, Taylor Price, outshined this whole group. He caught just about every ball thrown his way, regardless of how bad they were, and he was always looking to help his quarterback out by looking back and running with him to try and give him an outlet.
Out of all of the receivers, I was expecting big things from Ford and Alexander. Ford dropped several catchable balls and Alexander was such a non factor that I even forgot he was on the field. From what I witnessed, Ford struggles with catching the ball with his hands – he tries to trap the ball in against his body and all of the higher passes would bounce off of his pads. Gilyard was almost a non-factor and that could have been more due to the defenders locking him up at the line then anything. If this was a real game, the offense would have marched down the field by gaining penalty yards for interference and defensive holding.
The tightend group was the most consistent group on offense today. I was watching them during their blocking drills and all three, Oregon’s Ed Dickson, Wisconsin’s Garrett Graham, and Illinois’ Mike Hoomanawanui, were getting barked at for not using their legs for strength at the point of contact. Each struggled with trying to rely on their arm strength during a block, but to actually drive through the block.
All three did however catch the ball very well. During 7 v 7 and 11 v 11 drills, Duck Dickson was a superstar as he caught 4 balls for roughly 40 yards. I think he will become a purely pass catching TE similar to Dallas Clark as Dickson was the smallest of the TE and really looked more like a large WR. Graham was the more consistent all-around TE during blocking and catching drills, but hardly was used an option in the 7 v 7 and 11 v 11 drills.
All in all, the North has the talent and the big names, but there was just a laid back and lackluster feeling around the practice field that it all translated to sloppy play and a poor practice. We’ll see how tomorrow goes, but if this continues, a showcase for the players on the north will be a wasted opportunity.