Senior Bowl and More

by Tommy Lawlor  –

I’m in the middle of reviewing the Senior Bowl game.  That will take several more days.  You have to remember that all 22 players on the field for every snap are prospects.  That means studying a play over and over to see what each guy did.

Here are some quick observations from the game:

Leonard Hankerson had a good day, catching 5 passes for 100 yards.  One was a TD.  I still have concerns about his speed, but there are times when he reminds me of a poor man’s Hakeem Nicks.

Christian Ponder put up the best numbers of any QB (7-13-132, 2 TDs).  That certainly helps him out.  He had an okay week in Mobile, but never really stood out.  In the game, he threw the ball well and also had 4 carries for 17 yards.  That was Ponder at his best, a solid passer and athletic runner.

Kendric Burney had a busy day, which is good and bad for a CB.  He had a lot of passes come his way, but he’s not meant to be an off-corner so this was him out of his comfort zone.  Burney tackled very well, on defense and STs.  He had 7 solo stops.

DE Ryan Kerrigan had a very good showing.  He had 5 total tackles.  3 were TFLs (1 sack).  He was a disruptive force off the edge all game.  Even when blocked, Kerrigan drove his OT back toward the QB and made him uncomfortable.

MLB Greg Jones was awful.  I’ll get into his game in the review, but he was dodging blockers like he was scared of contact.  He also missed a tackle in space on a FB/H-back type.  Can’t have that.  Very, very disappointing game from a guy I’ve liked all year.

The most impressive DT for the North was Terrell McClain, a late add.  He was very disruptive.  He was quick off the ball and fought like heck on every snap to get off blocks and to the ball.

Von Miller continued his strong week.  He had 4 tackles (2 TFLs) and showed his LB skills and athletic ability.  All 32 teams came away from Mobile real impressed with this young man.

The two hardest hitting LBs were Colin McCarthy (S) and Mason Foster (N).  They delivered punishing hits whenever they could.  Foster had more tackles, but McCarthy had a TFL and a great tackle in kick coverage.

DE Sam Acho had a good game.  He came up with a sack and FF by using a good inside move on Nate Solder, the top OT in the draft.  Acho lacks ideal height, but I still think he’s worth a 2nd round pick.

OG Danny Watkins had an up and down showing.  That happens when guys are playing in a new spot.  He was LT for Baylor, but will be on the inside in the NFL.  He drove DT Christian Ballard off the TV screen on one play.  That was great blocking.  He got beat on some other plays.

Neither Anthony Castonzo nor Nate Solder played up to their potential.

LB Casey Matthews can cover, but his run defense was far from ideal.

DT Sione Fua turned out to be a much better player than I realized.  He followed up a good week of practice with a good showing in the game.  That is one strong, physical DT.

I didn’t say nearly enough about the offensive linemen, but watching them live is hard.  I’ll cover them in-depth when I post the full review.   * * * * *


I’ve recently begun watching tape of underclassmen.  Some guys I knew well, but others were somewhat of a mystery.

LB Akeem Ayers blew me away.  That is one impressive player.  At 6’4, 255 he could be a 4-3 SAM or 3-4 OLB.  He can rush the passer, cover, tackle, and he’s tough.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he went Top 10.  I need to study several tapes, but he was really fun to watch.  Outstanding player.

OT Tyron Smith is odd.  He’s skinny as a rail, but has very good feet.  I saw him blown off the ball on a run play and wondered how tough/physical he was.  The next few snaps he did an outstanding job of sustaining blocks on run plays and driving his guy off the ball.  He must get bigger and stronger, but there is a lot to like.

DE Aldon Smith is a long kid.  He’s tall and has long arms.  He played DE most of the time, but on some passing situation would slide inside to DT.  You almost feel like he can just reach back and grab the QB with those arms.  Good burst.  Agile athlete.  Raw, but very gifted.

JJ Watt is a guy that I think can be a major star.  I think he’ll push for a Top 10 spot before its all said and done.  He can play LDE or RDE.  He’s quick off the ball.  He’s huge, but is agile and has good body control.  Some tall guys look gangly, but not him.

Marvin Austin didn’t play this year.  Put on the 2009 tape and it doesn’t always look like he was playing then.  I watched part of the bowl game vs Pitt.  He was consistently driven off the ball on run plays.  Can’t have that from a DT with some size and strength.  Very unimpressive showing.  I’ll watch more games to make sure I’m being fair to him.

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