NFL Execs on Who to Watch in Indy

From Daniel Jeremiah.

Executive 1: Ashland TE Adam Shaheen
“He’s clearly the third-best tight end in this year’s class and I think you’ll start to hear first-round buzz about him by the time his workout is finished. It’s hard to find tight ends with his combination of size, speed and toughness. He’s a unique talent.”

Executive 2: Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
“He will check every box in Indy. Tech was terrible (in 2016) and he didn’t get much attention, but everyone will be talking about him after the combine.”

Executive 3: Stanford DL Solomon Thomas
“I’m tempted to say Tak McKinley, but I’ll go with Solomon Thomas. He’s going to have an Aaron Donald-type workout. He’s a freak show.”

Executive 4: Stanford DL Solomon Thomas
“Solomon Thomas is going to put on a show. He’s incredibly explosive and he’ll destroy the change-of-direction drills. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ran (the 40-yard dash) in the 4.6s and jumped in the high 30s (inches).”

Executive 5: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
“We’re split on Cunningham in the draft room but we all agree he’s going to test really well. He can really run and he’s going to impress teams in the interview room as well.”

Shaheen is 6-6, 277 and athletic. I’m not sure about 1st round, but he is a good player.

I hate Mahomes. Can’t stand watching him play.

Thomas is special.

Cunningham is darn good.

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Mel Kiper on the Draft

No matter what you think of him, Mel Kiper is one of the reasons the NFL Draft is as big as it is. Before the NFL Network and the internet, some of us back in the 1980’s got draft info from Kiper’s previews in the Sporting News or on quick ESPN segments.

MMQB interviewed Mel and it’s worth reading if you’re a draftnik.

The NFL draft, back when I started my business in 1978, and in 1983 with ESPN, it was totally different. When I started with ESPN, we were only covering the first round and into the second round. We would get to maybe the middle part of the second round and then sign off. It went from that, to eventually covering every round and then from a two-day draft to a three-day draft, and then from being on Tuesday morning to being on a weekend. I can tell you, as somebody who was in this from the beginning, when people were asking me, Why are you putting out draft reports, why are you wasting time doing something that nobody cares about? To see it get to this point, and know that you really proved all of those doubters and skeptics wrong, it is a source of great personal satisfaction for me. A lot of people asked me, Why are you wasting your time? Get a real job. Nobody cares about the NFL draft, nobody cares about your opinions. So when you see it now, I am glad to see that everybody has an opinion, there are bloggers out there and websites out there for the draft all over the place. I am glad to see the millions and millions of people watching and to see the interest all year. We start talking draft in August and we go all the way up until May. It is really a 10-months-a-year thing, where you are talking the draft on a regular basis, it is pretty amazing. I thought it could be, and it’s the one thing I have been right about. I thought back when I started that there has to be a way to get information to the fans. They couldn’t see these players, they weren’t televising many games then on a Saturday and your team is drafting these players and you don’t know who the heck they are! So my job was to provide that information and let everybody know who these players were. I really thought there was a market for this when I started this, so I was correct in that regard, because I had a heck of a business for a lot of years and that led to me being at ESPN. The business when I started it in 1978 was something that proved everybody wrong, that you could build a business by doing this and certainly the draft on ESPN could be a huge success.

I don’t follow Mel much anymore, but I do appreciate everything he’s done for the draft. And I hear he’s a great person off camera.

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Interesting WR

Chad Hansen from Cal is not a name that everyone is paying attention to. I watched several games of his and was really impressed with his speed and skill. Check out these clips and you’ll see his potential.

The downside with Hansen is that he can struggle with physical DBs. Hansen has good size, but plays like a finesse WR. He wants to use his speed. That’s great in the spread in college, but in the NFL there are times when you must be able to cleanly beat a jam and then run a route in heavy traffic.

Hansen is a gifted prospect and won’t last long in the draft, but he does have some issues to work on if he wants to be a complete receiver.

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Run Through Contact

Boy this is fun to watch.

You don’t want to do that too much. RBs take a beating as it is. Still, you have to love a RB that wants to be the hammer rather than the nail. Why take punishment when you can give some out?

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Elway the Anomaly

The 49ers rocked the pro football world by naming John Lynch their GM. Some people let loose with jokes about their seeming addiction to dysfunctional decisions. Others compared this move to Matt Millen. A few brought up the point of John Elway and the success he’s had running the Broncos.

Elway is nothng like Millen. Or Lynch. Elway is the anomaly.

John Elway played his whole career in Denver and was worshiped out there, during and after his career. Elway uses that popularity to become successful in the business world. He owned five car dealerships and sold them for more than $80M. He has owned successful steakhouses.

Elway owned Denver’s arena league team from 2002-2008. He obviously had some experience as a football executive before ever getting to the NFL. The fact the football was a much lower level wasn’t important. He learned how to hire and fire. He learned how to make business decisions with players. He learned the business of football.

Too many people think being a good GM means knowing the game of football. That’s not the case at all. You have to be able to manage people. You have a lot of people working under you and their success is critical to the team’s success. Obviously knowing football is critical, but the world’s greatest personnel guru will fail if he can’t run a team. Pro football is a business.

Lynch is smart. He is hard working. He knows football. What he doesn’t know is how to run a business, or a football organization. He might be one of those guys who picks things up incredibly quickly, but that is a big risk.

The other factor in this is pressure.

Lynch is not qualified for this job. He might be able to make it work, but his resume pales in comparison to that of just about any other realistic candidate. That means any and every move will be heavily scrutinized.

Can Lynch work under that kind of spotlight? Will it affect him?

I have nothing against Lynch and hope he does well because he seems like a genuinely good guy, but he is nothing like John Elway.

I do think he can be compared to Matt Millen.

  • Outstanding players
  • Multiple teams
  • Super Bowl winners
  • Team leaders
  • Grinders
  • Highly respected
  • Successful NFL analysts

Millen tried to run the Lions like a gritty LB. He wasn’t able to shake the player’s mentality. A GM has to see things very differently. I’m sure Lynch can do that and will learn from Millen’s mistakes. I don’t think there is much question that Lynch is the smarter of the two.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The Niners need a lot of talent. Lynch has a major challenge in front of him.

Good luck, John.

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South Practice – Day 3

It is always important to judge players on the whole week of practice. WR Josh Reynolds is a great example of that. He struggled early on Tuesday. He got better as the practice went along. Reynolds was outstanding the rest of the week.

The thing that really stood out for me was Reynolds ability to extend his arms and catch the ball away from his body. With a 6-3 frame and 31 1/2-inch arms, that’s a big catch radius. He didn’t make one or two extended grabs, he made them on all 3 days of practice. And he made it look natural.

Reynolds made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch on a downfield throw. That took good focus, hands and body control. It was interesting to see him make a grab like that after plucking the ball with his hands for most of the day. Reynolds is a versatile, talented pass catcher.

*****

RB Matt Dayes caught my eye on Thursday. He is a shade under 5-9 and uses that size to his advantage. Dayes stays low and hides behind his blockers until he has a hole and then he uses a good burst to get upfield. He had a couple of good runs like this in the final practice. He made a nice cut and burst upfield for a long gain in the 11-on-11 period.

Dayes averaged more than 5 yards per carry for his career. His patience, vision and burst give him the ability to break off good gains on a regular basis. Dayes isn’t a household name, but he has NFL ability.

*****

I can’t go a day without saying something about DE Tanoh Kpassagnon. He lined up at LDE and beat the RT for a “sack”. He later lined up at RDE. Kpassagnon used his length and burst to get to the LT in a hurry, but he was blocked at that point. Kpassagnon must learn to convert speed to power. He also will need to get stronger.

If he works on that, Kpassagnon will really be tough on OTs. He can’t run to them, he’s got to run through them. With his size, speed and his power, he can really become a force off the edge.

*****

Davis Webb is the best of the South QBs. He has a good motion and a solid arm. He has excellent size at 6-5, 229.

Josh Dobbs is the mystery man. There are some plays where he is really impressive. Then there are other moments when is borderline awful. Dobbs has solid size at 6-3, 216. He has a good arm and is athletic. Dobbs has the physical traits to be an NFL QB, but he is highly inconsistent and is a developmental prospect.

Antonio Pipkin looked raw. He showed talent, but was a notch behind the other QBs. I was hoping to see more out of him.

It will be interesting to see if the game brings the best out of any of these QBs.

*****

RB Jamaal Williams was expected to weigh in at 220-225 pounds. Instead he showed up at only 211. I was disappointed by him being smaller, but he did appear to be faster. He showed good speed on some runs that got him to the outside in Thursday’s practice.

It will be interesting to see how much he weighs at the Combine. I hope he doesn’t drop more weight, in the pursuit of a good 40-time. One of Williams’ big selling points is that he’s got some size and is a physical runner.

*****

I thought CB Demontae Kazee was up and down on Wednesday. He was better on Thursday. He covered more tightly and did a better job of breaking on the ball. Kazee had 17 career picks, but we didn’t get to see his ball skills in action in Mobile.

CB Cam Sutton had a solid week. One thing that really stood out to me is how competitive he was. He wanted to make a play on every rep. Even if the receiver caught the ball, he was going to get a hand on it to try and knock it loose.

*****

WR Taywan Taylor had another strong showing. He did have one drop, but countered that by catching pass after pass. He has good hands and really plucks the ball cleanly most of the time.

*****

OL Will Holden was added to the South team due to some injuries. He was playing OG on Thursday and looked good. He won multiple battles in the 1-on-1 drills with DL. Maybe he was fresh. Or maybe he’s just good. Holden impressed me at the Shrine Game. He is 6074, 312 and has 33-inch arms.

*****

QUICK HITS

Chad Williams ran right by a CB and hauled in a long TD. There is no question about his deep speed.

Evan Engram lists as a TE, but he looks like a WR when he runs down the field and just casually snares passes. A creative offensive coach is going to love him.

DT Eddie Vanderdoes had a TFL on a run play and also looked good in the 1-on-1 drills. He is a powerful man.

ILB Duke Riley showed good speed when he flew out wide to tackle a RB on an outside run play.

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North Practice – Day 3

The North had their final practice of the week.

Zach Banner played RT at USC. He played RT for the first couple of days in Mobile. He got a shot at LT on Thursday. It was an up and down showing. Banner is 6-8, 361 and has 33 5/8 inch arms. This is a guy you would love to have as your LT.

The problem is that he doesn’t have good feet and he’s not a gifted pass protector. You could see that on Thursday. Banner won due to his size and length. As the old scout joke goes, it is a $20 cab ride to get around him. When edge rushers really get a good jump, even Banner’s massive frame and long arms aren’t enough. He actually had to tackle a rusher on one rep to protect the QB.

Banner reminds me of Phil Loadholt, the former Oklahoma OT who was a good run blocker, but struggled in pass pro. I’m not a huge fan of big guys with poor feet, but some coaches will covet the size and roll the dice. If you can coach Banner up, he could be a solid RT.

*****

OGs Dan Heeney and Kyle Kalis took some reps snapping to QBs during one set of drills. Kalis was the better snapper. His were right on target and looked to have good velocity. Feeney had some that were low, but catchable. It was good to see both players willing to show they are open to doing anything that can help their NFL careers. Interior OL have more value when they are versatile.

*****

Zay Jones had the best week of any North WR. Jones caught the ball really well. He gets his hands out away from his body and catches the ball cleanly. Jones isn’t an explosive athlete, but he has okay speed and has good body control, a critical factor for WRs.

I wasn’t sure about Jones ability to get open down the field based on what I saw on Tuesday, but he got better as the week went along. He still lacks great speed, but shows a feel for getting open and does track the ball well.

https://twitter.com/MrSelfMade80/status/824713575583383553

You can see Jones is a good route runner who knows how to set up DBs with moves and also uses angles and positioning to make himself open. Really impressive player.

*****

Sticking with WRs…

Cooper Kupp wants to catch every pass that comes near him. He will drop the occasional ball, but you can’t help but be impressed by the way he goes for every ball. QB play can be erratic, to put it mildly. Some passes will be out of bounds. Kupp still fights to get to those balls like his life depends on it.

The thing he does better than any other receiver in Mobile is lock in on the ball and maintain focus despite contact or any other distractions. He catches just about everything that is near him. Kupp has good hands, but it is his competitive desire and his focus/concentration that makes him so good on contested balls.

Jalen Robinette was up and down.  A reader compared him to Demaryius Thomas and I think that’s pretty good. Robinetter is big (6-3, 218) and athletic, but he’s raw and needs to be developed.

Robinette looks the part of a starting NFL receiver at times, but there are others when he’s not so good. He had a drop on Thursday and struggled to get open at times.

*****

ILB Conner Harris had an impressive week. He made splash plays every day. On Thursday he had a PBU while in coverage. He later made a clean tackle of Kareem Hunt out in space.

The LB everyone in Mobile is talking about is Hasson Reddick from Temple. He was a pass rusher in college, but at only 6-1 1/2 and 237 pounds Reddick knows he can’t be a DE or OLB in the NFL. He is moving to ILB.

Reddick made plays from ILB. He was solid vs the run and showed enough speed to get outside in pursuit. When they did give him a chance to get after the QB, Reddick had a strip sack today. 3-4 teams have to be excited about a playmaking ILB.

*****

CB Rasul Douglas impressed me all week. He broke up multiple passes every day. Douglas wants to get his hands on every pass thrown in his direction. He has good instincts and good ball skills. He also takes chances. There are times when he will get burned. Teams that like aggressive CBs will want Douglas. He is a playmaker. On Thursday he broke up a short pass as well as a deep ball.

*****

DT Ryan Glasgow made himself known by blowing up a pair of inside runs on Thursday. Glasgow isn’t the biggest or strongest DL but he is tough and physical. He can shed blocks and shows the ability to get to the ball in traffic.

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South Practice – Day 2

The star of the day was CB Tre’Davious White. He is the best CB in Mobile and has played up to his reputation. White smothered receivers all day on Wednesday. No matter who he went up against, White got the best of them.

White is a physical CB, but in a reasonable way. Some college corners do too much grabbing and holding. White is more subtle and uses his size, speed and cover skills to get the best of receivers. He did draw one holding call today (there were officials at practice).

White isn’t just a size/speed guy. He has terrific instincts. He runs routes as well as the receivers at times. White has excellent body control and that allows him to mirror receivers who try to shake him with quick cuts or double moves.

Unfortunately White got hurt late in practice. He slammed his helmet on the bench, but then calmed down and walked off with a trainer. I’m guessing he is done for the week. White should be a 1st round pick.

*****

WR Ryan Switzer had a rough day. He has the ability to be a dynamic PR and outstanding slot receiver in the NFL, but things weren’t so great on Wednesday.

Switzer struggled to get open against White and some other CBs. There were several passes that were thrown too high for him to catch. Obviously the QB is at fault for being off-target, but it also shows the problem with having such a small target (5084, 179 and with 28-inch arms).

Switzer looked outstanding in individual drills. He is quick, fast and has good hands. He just isn’t going to beat top CBs on the outside very often.

*****

Let’s talk about other WRs.

Artavis Scott had another solid day. He is a smooth, talented receiver.

Fred Ross from Mississippi State had a good day. He has good feet and also catches the ball well.

Chad Williams was better than on Tuesday. He still looks raw, but his speed is real. Could be a good developmental project.

Travin Dural is a player I don’t have a good feel for. He doesn’t make mistakes, but also hasn’t stood out to me very much. He did make one impressive grab on Wednesday.

One guy that has really grown on me is Taywan Taylor from Western Kentucky. He was smaller than expected at 5-11, 198, but has played really well. Taylor is fast and runs good routes. He cuts well and shows a feel for getting open.

Taylor made an impressive catch on a deep fade down the left sideline. He later caught a pass that was thrown low. He has good hands and adjust well to the ball. I need to watch more tape of him.

*****

I like CB Demontae Kazee quite a bit, but he struggled today. Kazee got beaten several times. There was one play where he gave up a short catch and then the WR used a stiff arm to get the best of Kazee and gain an additional 5 yards.

*****

CB Ezra Robinson made some plays today. There was one where he had tight coverage and broke up a pass intended for Chad Williams. Unfortunately Robinson’s back was to the QB and it was sheer luck that he knocked the ball away. He has talent, but locating the ball looks like something he needs to work on.

*****

TE Evan Engram had some good moments. He caught a short pass on a bootleg play and turned that into a nice gain. Later on he was downfield and plucked a ball that was away from his body. He had to extend for that, but did and made a clean grab. Engram is a gifted receiver.

 

O.J. Howard (not Williams as I called him yesterday) had another good day.

I saw Gerald Everett drop one pass, but overall he (like the other TEs) played well. He showed the ability to adjust to off-target throws. He made an impressive downfield catch late in practice. He does look like a WR at times,

*****

ILB Alex Anzalone had a couple of standout plays. He read a screen pass well and was there to put the RB down for a loss. After that, he stuffed an inside run.

*****

OL thoughts.

G Jess Dunker had some good blocks. He has okay size at 6-4, 306, but is tough and physical on the inside. He got the best of DT Montravious Adams on one rep.

C Ethan Pocic was up and down. He won some battles and lost a couple as well. He is a tall interior blocker and at times DL can get under his pads.

LT Connor McDermott got the best of DE Raeshon Hall in several 1-on-1 matchups. McDermott reminds me a lot of former Eagle Jon Runyan, except he’s more athletic and not as nasty.

*****

CB Marquez White has played better than I anticipated. His Senior tape did not overly impress me. White has covered well so far in Mobile. The only potential issue I’ve seen is deep speed.

*****

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon had a solid day. He is a raw player and will make mistakes here and there. He failed to contain a bootleg on one play and the QB was able to make an easy throw. There was another play where TK failed to handle the option well and that led to a good gain.

He has some impressive moments in the 1-on-1 drills. He uses his length to get the best of blockers. Even when they seem to “win”, TK is in the backfield and would be affecting the QB. He did show a good rip move today and used that to beat stud LT Tony Garcia in a rep.

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North Practice – Day 2

Let’s talk about Cooper Kupp, the WR from Eastern Washington. He had a good day of practice on Wednesday. Kupp has good hands. He can make some tough catches. I love the way he fights for the ball when it is in the air. He has solid size, but isn’t going to overwhelm anyone physically. He does battle for the ball, which is something not all WRs do, even big ones.

Kupp runs good routes. He knows how to release off the ball and works hard to get open. He plays through contact when trying to get open and catch the ball. He shows a really impressive competitive streak.

There is one problem, and it is kinda big. Kupp is slow. I watched practice with Eagles beat writer Jimmy Kempski and he timed the WRs running in a certain drill. They were running 20 yards downfield and there were no DBs. Kupp was the slowest WR on the North team.

There was a play in the 1-on-1 drills where he used a great move to get separation from CB Brendan Langley. Kupp went downfield and Langley caught him with ease. There was another play where Kupp just ran a go route and Langley blanketed him the whole way.

Kupp can be a good possession receiver in the NFL. He might be more than that, but his lack of top speed shows on the field and that will limit some of what he can do.

*****

OT Adam Bisnowaty is playing LT for the North. He is a blue-collar, physical blocker, but he has some issues in pass protection. He hops as he moves backward. That leaves him vulnerable to power rush moves. Bisnowaty doesn’t have good feet. I’ll be curious to see if he plays RT in the NFL or gets moved to OG.

Julien Davenport is a small school guy (Bucknell). He is the other LT for the North. Davenport has better feet and looks like he can be a LT in the NFL. He keeps a wide base and plays with good pad level. Davenport looks the part of a LT with his combination of size, agility and balance.

*****

CB Rasul Douglas had a great year, picking off 8 passes. He has played pretty well down in Mobile. Douglas is aggressive and physical. He likes to get his hands on receivers and fight them as much as he can. He also likes to jump routes, as you might have guessed.

There are a couple of issues Douglas has to work on. He is too upright in his backpedal when playing off coverage. NFL receivers will eat that up. Douglas also can be too handsy with receivers. That will draw a lot of flags at the next level.

*****

Let’s talk about some other WRs. Jalen Robinette is a bit under the radar because he played at Air Force and they just don’t throw the ball a lot. Robinette measured in at 6-3, 218 and he has legitimate NFL potential. He catches the ball smoothly and has good body control for such a big frame. Robinette is athletic and had a good day of practice.

Zay Jones had another strong day. He looked faster than on Tuesday and continued to catch the ball really well. I love the way he plucks the ball away from his body.

*****

Boston College DB John Johnson is a really interesting player. He is listed with the Safeties here in Mobile, but has started at both CB and S in college. You can see that in the drills. Johnson has good coverage skills. There were multiple plays today where he stuck right with a WR. In today’s NFL, DBs who can do multiple things are incredibly valuable.

*****

Dan Feeney is my favorite OL on the North squad. He played mostly RG today and had a strong showing. Feeney got movement on run plays. He gets low and is able to use leverage and power to move the DL across from him. Feeney is smart and uses angles well when trying to seal a defender or when moving laterally. Feeney looks like the kind of guy you can draft and plug into your starting lineup even as a rookie.

*****

RB De’Veon Smith had another good day. He caught the ball well a few times, which isn’t something all 220-pound RBs do. Smith is a tough, physical runner. The issue with him is lack of burst/speed. There was a draw play where a hole opened up and Smith got through it, but a back with more burst could have turned that into a nice gain. Smith will move the chains, but isn’t a playmaker.

Kareem Hunt did show a good burst and broke off a few long plays on Wednesday. I like him quite a bit.

*****

QUICK HITS

Edge rusher Derek Rivers had a good day. He got a “sack” when he pushed the pocket right back to the QB. On another play, Rivers grabbed a RB with one hand and got him down.

WR Amba Etta-Tawo has looked okay, but has not shown good deep speed.

ILB Conner Harris stuffed a goal line run. That’s 2 days in a row he’s made a flash play.

CB Desmond King had a good day in coverage. He lacks ideal deep speed, but can stick right with a receiver on short and intermediate routes.

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North Practice – Day 1

I liked what I saw from WR Zay Jones (short for Isaiah). The ECU star was 158-1746-8…for the 2016 season. That’s insane. Jones showed the skills that helped him pile up those crazy numbers. He is a smooth, fluid athlete. He ran good routes and caught the ball very well.

The one question I have is his long speed. I watched one play where Jones went deep and CB Brendan Langley plastered him the whole way. The QB did not bother trying to throw to Jones. A couple of plays later Jones made a quick cut at the top of his route and was wide open, hauling in a pass in front of Jourdan Lewis. Jones can get open, but he might not be a field-stretcher.

Jones did have one highlight moment. He got the ball on an end around and turned that into a nice gain. He seems to be one of those players who becomes faster when the all is in his hands.

*****

Derek Rivers was a good pass rusher for Youngstown State this year. He felt right at home in Mobile and was flying off the edge all day long. Rivers is 6-4, 250 and was playing 3-4 OLB. He had a good day. On one rep, Rivers beat RT Julie’n Davenport so badly that the RT had to put a choke hold on him.

*****

I did not get a good feeling for WR Cooper Kupp. He had a drop early on. He looked a bit awkward at running routes early as well. He seemed to settle in after that, but never really caught my eye.

*****

CB Desmond King had some good moments today. He showed the ability to stick right on top of WRs.

*****

RB De’Veon Smith had a good day. He blocked well in the pass-pro drills. He ran the ball well in the team drills. Smith isn’t explosive, but runs really well between the tackles. He is 220 pounds and doesn’t go down easily.

*****

ILB Conner Harris from Lindenwood was ready for the step up in competition. He had a big hit on a RB on a run play. He also picked off a pass thrown in the flat. Those are the kind of flash plays you want to see from a small school guy in an all-star game.

*****

OG Dan Feeney was impressive at times. He used his hands well and proved to be stout against some powerful rushers.

*****

One of the guys Feeney blocked was DT Jaleel Johnson. But Johnson wasn’t blocked often. He had a really good day. Johnson had a big hit on a RB on one play. He showed the ability to push the pocket on pass plays. Johnson used quickness and power to get the best of blockers throughout the practice session.

*****

QUICK HITS

CB Rasul Douglas was physical at times and showed good cover skills.

TE Michael Roberts struggled in the pass-protection drills.

Adam Bisnowaty played LT. He had one really big block late in the practice. Tough, physical player.

I didn’t write nearly as many notes on the North team as I did the South team. That had nothing to do with the players. Coach John Fox ran an odd practice and there just wasn’t as much constant activity as with the South team.

Also, there was a lot of running in the 11-on-11 sessions. That’s great, but it is hard to watch that from the stands and get a strong feel for what everyone is doing.

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