Tuesday January 13, 2009Chad Reuter, Senior Analyst, The SportsXchange, NFLDraftScout.com
Day two of practices the East-West Shrine Game brought a downturn in the weather, which scouts discussed more than the players. The funny thing about all-star game practices are that the same guys playing on Monday show up again Tuesday. Someone can make a few more plays one day, but he'll still be slow, small, or stiff. And it's very likely that he'll repeat the same mistakes in each practice, despite help from coaches.
The East started off the morning taking the brunt of the cold and wind. On offense, receiver Taurus Johnson (USF) stood out with more quickness off the line than expected. Although he dropped one of the first balls thrown his way (and let the world know about it via an expletive), but made up for it during the rest of the practice. Deon Butler (Penn State) and Darius Passmore (Marshall) showed even better quickness but tend to catch the ball using their body. Aaron Kelly (Clemson) flashed nice hands on some plays but still lacks a burst to create space for himself. Greg Orton (Purdue) struggled to get off the line and was not a reliable target because could not separate.
Brian Hoyer (Michigan State) still looks like the best quarterback on the field because of his size, zip and accuracy. Hunter Cantwell (Louisville) has the size but lacks a consistent ball flight and accuracy. Chase Daniel (Missouri) still needs those big passing lanes to get the ball to his receiver and found it tough during scrimmages to get the ball down the field on target.
Among the running backs, Tyrell Sutton (Northwestern) has the best combination of speed, agility and receiving skills. Marlon Lucky (Nebraska), however, has better size than Sutton and has showed nice hands and is a nice straight-ahead runner. Jarvarris Williams (Tennessee State) is short and stout but has decent quickness and a little wiggle to get through creases inside.
Although Brian Mandeville (Northeastern) is a somewhat lanky 6'7", his ability as a receiver and to control the linebacker or defensive end on his side of the line makes him a solid Sunday selection. David Johnson (Arkansas State) has put on quite a bit of weight over the past year that helps him on the line as a blocker but hurts his explosiveness as a receiver. Nick Walker (Alabama) was inconsistent as a receiver but not as an in-line blocker…he's consistently poor.
The battles between the offensive and linemen are always fun to watch in these all-star games. Right tackles Ramon Foster (Tennessee) and Jamon Meredith (South Carolina) have looked good this week, Foster because of his size and strength and Meredith with his foot work. Their attempt at a "hip bump" in the air after one series of drills was actually an impressive feat of athleticism for players their size.
The East really doesn't have any power defensive ends to match up with those guys. The undersized Orion Martin (Virginia Tech) lacks bulk but works hard and used his hands enough to win some battles on the strong side, while Lawrence Sidbury (Richmond) gets overmatched in the running game on the left side of the defense. Foster ate up one of Sidbury's spin moves…basically saying, "that's not gonna work with the big boys, kid." The athletic Augustus Parrish (Kent State) and large Alex Boone (Ohio State) usually won their match-ups with the slight Stryker Sulak (Missouri) and technically sound but non-explosive Matthew Shaughnessy (Wisconsin).
On the interior, guard Jaimie Thomas (Maryland) consistently displayed strength and agility on both the left and right sides. Ryan Durand (Syracuse) could play with a wider base at times but he held his ground in pass protection and drove Sidbury a few yards downfield after pulling. Center Cecil Newton (Tennessee State) proved himself capable of taking out linebackers in the second level.
Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor (Michigan) isn't going to win a lot of one-on-one pass rush drills but he did have a couple of plays where he got down the line in pursuit of the ball. DT Clinton McDonald (Memphis) presents issues for guards with his quickness in drills but finds it tougher to do so when centers and tackles can help out. He also had issues jumping offside today. Darryl Richard (Georgia Tech) caught Thomas overextending on one play and beat him inside; Richard just been solid holding his ground and working hard to reach the quarterback in both practices.
Michael Tauiliili (Duke) is strong between the tackles but his lack of height (5'10") makes it tough for him to match up in coverage. Mortty Ivy (West Virginia) has no such problems, as his ability to drop deep in a hurry and play physically on the line makes him a perfect strong side linebacker prospects. Johnny Williams (Kentucky) has the size but not the fluid drop or hands to excel in coverage…he dropped a sure interception today which ended up in Tyrell Sutton's hands for a big gainer.
Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher (Iowa) and Don Carey (Norfolk State) looked good Tuesday morning, breaking up multiple passes. Carey displayed good recovery speed, so even if he wasn't quite on his man route immediately, he usually got back quickly enough to prevent the big play. He was also physical on the line against Aaron Kelly (Clemson). Fletcher has better size than Carey at 6'0", 195 but the small school corner plays bigger than his 5'11", 186. The two did have a non-all-star moment, through, as they ran into each other when their men crossed quickly after their release on the right side of the formation.
Safety Keith Fitzhugh (Mississippi State) once again jumped out on the field, popping pads and looking at home in covering the flat. He broke down quickly on one play, bringing his hips to wrap Marlon Lucky as he tried to get to the sideline. Fitzhugh also put big H-back David Johnson on the ground with a shoulder down the seam…his coach said "not yet, not yet" - but with a smile on his face. Fitzhugh and Johnny Williams have been shouting "SEC" to pump each other up with a little conference pride.
Anyone regularly attending these all-star game practices knows that as the week goes on, the play gets more and more chippy. Jaws start going, as well. Don Carey told Brian Hoyer "you're over the line, buddy" after the QB completed a pass on the run. Receivers and defenders exchanged pleasantries in the secondary. Safeties and linebackers start hitting ballcarriers with a bit more strength and a few pushing matches happen here and there. DT Jarron Gilbert (San Jose State) even threw a punch at OG Ray Feinga (BYU) during a short tussle today. These guys will really be ready to hit someone come Saturday.
Something else fun to watch during all-star weeks is match-ups between former teammates. The West team has a few of these intra-team skirmishes: Oregon State CB Brandon Hughes vs. WR Sammie Stroughter, Texas DT Roy Miller vs. OG Cedric Dockery, Oklahoma CB Lendy Holmes vs. WR Manuel Johnson and Oregon DE/OLB Nick Reed vs. OT Fenuki Tupou. Stroughter and Johnson won their battles in the secondary with superior quickness while Miller and Reed generally bested their larger opponents. They can say it's just like practice back home…but they know this is a much bigger stage.
Two other receivers on the West team continue to go in opposite directions this week. First, the bad news: Marko Mitchell (Nevada) looks utterly lost on some plays. His lazy routes, inability to finish plays or adjust to balls makes it tough for coaches or scouts to even watch him. Jarrett Dillard (Rice), on the other hand, just keeps catching the ball and running excellent routes. He did show he was human, however, letting one ball bounce off his outstretched hands. Still…you still hear scouts saying "that kid from Rice looks good this week…he still can't run" as if plenty of guys running in the mid 4.5's haven't made careers in the NFL. Just ask Miami about former Hawaii receiver Davone Bess…
Tight end Jared Bronson (Central Washington) continues to prove he belongs in this game with solid hands and in-line blocking skills. He worked to get open over the middle for Stephen McGee over the middle when the play broke down, and McGee placed the ball right on his hands in stride. For former CWU teammate QB Mike Reilly, however, his relative lack of arm strength stands out in a negative way. To be fair, Reilly and the rest of the quarterbacks threw against the wind a large share of the day. But that wind only emphasized Reilly's inability to get sufficient zip or a tight spiral on intermediate to deep throws. He does have size and mobility, however, which he undoubtedly will use to his advantage during Saturday's game.
Another West quarterbacks, Stephen McGee (Texas A&M), is one of the week's biggest winners because he's consistently been able to show zip and accuracy on his passes. Scouts are generally in agreement that his circumstances have been more to blame for his lack of production at A&M than his talent. RB Aaron Brown (TCU) is another Texas product looking good on the practice field. Although he's a bit slim for a back (6'0", 196), his burst, shiftiness in the hole and speed downfield are tough to miss.
The stock of BYU guards Travis Bright and Ray Feinga are also diverging. Bright has really struggled with the speed of guys like Jarron Gilbert. As I mentioned earlier, Feinga has pounded Gilbert, along with others, resulting in some back-and-forth there. He's been strong as expected in one-on-one pass protection drills, but also shown nimble feet to move his man laterally and seal the edge as a run blocker.
John Faletoese (UC Davis) is another interesting small school prospect. He's not very big (6'1", 285) but plays strong, using his lack of height to get leverage on the tall lineman in front of him. He regularly ripped off his blocks today and consistently beat his man off the snap. His lack of height does hurt him, though, as he will lose backfield awareness while trying to spin or out-quick his man. Another impressive lineman was Texas A&M Aggie Michael Bennett. He showed the strength to bull rush and move down the line while engaged, as well as the length to threaten right tackles off the edge.
West defensive ends Nick Reed (Oregon) and Victor Butler (Oregon State) are two players trying to find their pro position this week. Both played with their hand down and as a sam linebacker. Butler was physical on the line against tight ends and has a burst to close in coverage; looks like he'll be moving to the second level in the pros. Reed's an effort player who looks like a guy without a place to play.
Linebackers Kaluka Maiava (USC) and Jason Williams (Western Illinois) showed their strengths and weaknesses today. Maiava's very active and quick at the will linebacker spot, but he was washed out of plays by tight ends and lost his gap discipline at times. Williams' athleticism to stay with tight ends down the seam was impressive, but he was coached up on one play because he left his zone in the middle to follow a tight end and the quarterback threw the ball to an open man behind him.
Cornerback Cary Harris (USC) could be one of the first players drafted from this game. He can jump routes, like the quick square-in he picked off today, and Ian Johnson found out the former Trojan could put a back on the ground while supporting the run. Mike Thomas did make him looks silly on one play, turning him totally around with a head fake inside. Small but quick Ryan Mouton (Hawaii) and Ryan Palmer (Texas) have been impressive with their fluidity in coverage. But Palmer dropped a weak pass thrown by Mike Reilly after he jumped it nicely and Mouton's ball awareness lacked on one lollipop thrown down the sideline.
All of the players in Houston this week look good on some plays and poor on others. That's why all but two or three won't be playing in next week's Senior Bowl. However, about 40 guys from this game will be drafted because they have potential to fill a role on an NFL roster.Heights and Weights
NFL scouts measured the prospects on Monday morning before practices began. Schools inflate listed heights by a inch or more, so it's no surprise when that 5'10" receivers and corners measures at about 5.8.5" (like Arizona WR Mike Thomas and Texas CB Ryan Palmer). Cal linebacker Worrell Williams must have been disappointed he was a quarter-inch short of 5'11". One pleasant surprise was that Missouri QB Chase Daniel hit the 6'0" mark on the dot. Most expected he would be 5'11" or smaller.
Two guys that could probably shed some pounds: Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane (295) and H-back David Johnson (Arkansas State, 271). Center Jon Cooper (Oklahoma, 272), receiver Deon Butler (Penn State, 168), corner Brandon Hughes (Oregon State, 177), defensive end Stryker Sulak (Missouri, 240) and tight end Nick Walker (Alabama, 230) could all add some weight, however.
Hands and arms are also measured at (or before) all-star game weigh-ins. Typically, offensive and defensive linemen have the longest arms. This group of players is no exception; Jarron Gilbert's arms could almost act as yardsticks (35 5/8"). DT John Faletoese, on the other hand, came in at under 30", which means most of his opponents will have three to five inches of reach on him.
David Johnson's 10 inch hands impressed scouts; the highest hands (10 3/4" belonged to East defensive ends Matthew Shaughnessy and Lawrence Sidbury. The smallest hands? Florida State kicker Graham Gano (7 1/2"), although Jarrett Dillard's 8 1/8" measurement was certainly more detrimental to his draft stock (his 30 7/8" arm length didn't exactly great, either).
But the bottom line is that Dillard has caught almost everything thrown to him this week and Faletoese's more than held his own inside…so it's important not to get too caught up in these numbers.*Post-game report*Wednesday practice report*Tuesday practice report* (Right click mouse to Save Target As) East-West Shrine Measurements (Height, Weight, Hand, Arm)
Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet by Chad Reuter*Monday practice report*East-West Shrine All-Star Rosters*East-West Shrine Journal: Central Washington QB Mike Reilly