Senior Bowl Review – Defense

by Tommy Lawlor  –

I know, I know. Welcome to ancient history 101. It takes me a while to get through the Senior Bowl. I try to watch it carefully to make sure I really see what happens. The actual result of a play isn’t as critical as how it happened.

Some Cliff’s Notes info…

* Brooks Reed really impressed me. He’s quick off the ball, but has a wicked shoulder dip that enables him to get by blockers even when he’s not clearly by them.

* Allen Bailey disappointed me. Great body, but I don’t see the motor you need in a pass rusher. He’s not lazy or anything like that, but lacks the relentless style that great pass rushers have.

* DT Cedric Thornton is really quick off the ball. He had the quickest get off of any DT in the game.

* LB Von Miller had a terrific game. He can play in any system. He’s ideally suited to going after the QB, but you can use him in a 4-3.

* LB Josh Bynes disappointed me. He was less athletic than I anticipated.

* Ryan Kerrigan was the best pass rusher in the game. He was bothersome all game long.

* DT Sione Fua really opened my eyes all week. Good player.

* Pierre Allen failed to stand out to me at all. Of the DL, I’d question his place in the game more than anyone.

* DT Terrell McClain was a late add to the game, but played like he absolutely belonged. Good player.

* LB Greg Jones really hurt himself with a mediocre showing. Not only did he fail to stand out, he looked hesitant about dealing with contact, a major no-no for a LB.

* CB Kendric Burney had a good week and game. He just makes things happen. Real active CB.

* CB Richard Sherman really got my attention. Between he and Fua, I’ll be going back to study some Stanford tape.



PERNELL MCPHEE — LDE. Rushed from 2-pt stance on 3rd down. Limited push. Used inside move to beat Castonzo and flush the QB late in the half. Used bull rush late in the half. Got the LT off balance and got some pressure on the QB. Just shoved the OT with his left arm to get him off balance on the play and moving backward. Impressive strength. Redirects well. Agile player. Not always the smoothest. Made a great hustle play in the late 3rd. Started rushing from RDE. Got pushed wide by the OT. Didn’t give up and stayed in pursuit. Locker scrambled and McPhee caught up to him from behind and hit him, knocking the ball loose.

SAM ACHO — Played RDE. Used inside move to beat Solder and get strip-sack. Acho was slow off the ball and used his hands to get inside the OT and to the QB. Good closing speed.  Used good bull rush late in the half. Drove the RT back to the QB and got some pressure. Played a bootleg well in the 4th. Closed to the QB and hurried the throw. Got a clean shot on Stanzi. Played a bootleg perfectly in the 4th, but then Stanzi put a move on him and got by Acho. Still just an incomplete pass.

ALLEN BAILEY — Chased down screen play from the backside, but missed the tackle. Showed good speed on some rushes, but OTs were able to steer him wide of the QB. Didn’t have the explosion to beat blockers around the edge.

BROOKS REED — Started at RDE. Played an end around well to open the game. Got in on TFL of runner. Got “cleanup” TFL or Murray late in the half. LB penetrated to bust up the play, then CB forced RB to cut inside…to Reed. Got sack late in the half. Went from stand up position and just flew off the edge. Did a great job of flattening out as he got by the LT and then closed quickly to the QB. Totally bit on fake to RB on zone read play. Sometimes struggled on pass plays when he got blocked initially. Had trouble dis-engaging or coming up with a counter move. Chased Kaepernick out wide on a bootleg and forced him to throw it away. Didn’t keep contain, but stayed in hot pursuit.


PHIL TAYLOR — Collapsed the pocket late in the half and helped cause a sack. Drove the C Fusco back a few yards. Shed him and got to the QB just after Reed. Great power on the play. Hit the QB on a 4th Qtr pass play. Drove the RG back, shed the block, and hit the QB just after the pass was gone.

JAVARIS JENKINS — Pushed C aside and got a hit on the QB on early pass play. Showed some quickness off the ball. Jumped on pass plays to swipe at the ball. Drove the RG back into the QB on pass play late in the half. Flew out wide on a play where Kaepernick scrambled. Jenkins showed good athleticism as he got out there in a hurry, but Kaepernick put a good fake on him and then got upfield. Got a TFL late in the game, but jumped offside on the play. No flag was thrown.

CEDRIC THORNTON — Has some quickness off the ball. Pushed Moffitt back on run play, then got tangled up and fell down. Really fought to get through a double team and put some pressure on the QB on a pass play. Just missed getting Kaepernick for TFL on QB draw. Showed real good burst off the ball on that play. There was a series in the late 3rd when you could literally see him a 1/2 step quicker off the ball than anyone else. Really impressive burst.

CHRIS NIELD — Gets little to no push on pass plays. Plays with good leverage. Works hard to disengage from blocks. Stopped a 3rd Qtr run play by eating up a double team and still flowing to the ball laterally. Very impressive run defense. Looked like he slipped on GL play and got easily blocked. TD run. Got put on the ground by double team, but still managed to trip the RB as he went by.  Not flashy, but a real good run defender.


VON MILLER — Had TFL on opening play. Read the end around well and then fought through block to make stop for a short loss. Disrupted early screen pass by hitting RB behind the line. Couldn’t make the stop, but pursuit got there quickly. Read the play quickly and got upfield in a hurry. Rushed the passer on some plays as stand-up DE. Looked as quick, agile as ever. Made impressive TFL in the early 3rd. Kaepernick kept the ball on a zone read play and Miller exploded upfield to get him for a loss. Gave up a couple of yards to Kaepernick a few plays later when he scrambled. Miller still managed to get him down by swiping at his foot/ankle. That saved several yards. Showed some cover skills in the game when he was on TEs.

K.J. WRIGHT — Came up with a lucky INT late in the half. Wright was off his receiver by a couple of yards. The pass came to that player, but he bobbled it. Wright ran up while the ball was in the air and snagged it. Lucky break, but he put himself in position to make the play. Showed his athletic ability on a pass play where Locker started to scramble. Wright mirrored him and didn’t let Jake get free. Then McPhee hit him from behind and forced a fumble.

COLIN MCCARTHY — OLB. Got out wide and made strong wrap-up tackle of WR on screen pass. Got blocked by FB on iso run at him. Showed good speed when he chased down RB on outside run and stopped him for minimal gain. No hesitation. Just flew out wide. Stumbled on pass play and let RB get by him for a big gain. Had tight coverage of FB in the flat on pass play.

NATE IRVING — Came up aggressively on pass play and left TE wide open behind him. Big gainer. Made physical tackle of Helu on inside run play. Made a strong, physical tackle of Kaepernick on attempted QB draw. Got him right at the line. Irving wraps up his targets. Forceful tackler. Overran inside run play in the 4th. Had good coverage on TE on bootleg play. QB threw the ball away.

JOSH BYNES — Played MLB. Looked a bit awkward in space on pass play. Unsure of himself. Looked slow in pursuit of Helu on a play where he got going in space.

CHRIS WHITE — Played some OLB. Looked agile in space. Almost looked like he was doing a Combine drill on one pass play as he dropped into coverage. Fired into the backfield late in the half and had chance for TFL, but couldn’t make clean tackle of Murray. Attacked the wrong gap on GL play and RB went to his right for easy score.

KELVIN SHEPPARD — MLB. Fought off block of OT and got RB down. Not a form tackle, but effective. Made a terrific read on a play-action pass to TE on drag route. Sheppard followed him out wide and was ready to lower the boom, but the TE dropped the pass. Would have been tackled right at the LOS even if he held on. Made a good tackle vs the run in the 4th. Ball went outside and he moved well laterally and then closed to the RB and made the stop. Pursued under control so as not to be burned by a cutback move. Stayed on RB on little circle route on pass play.


MARCUS GILCHRIST — Aggressive tackler. Attacks his targets. Got a good hit on WR after catch in the 4th. Played some CB late in the game. Helped to break up a pass to Young.

DeANDRE MCDANIEL — Made solid wrap up tackle of Hunter on early screen play. Broke up 3rd down pass play with big hit on WR. Clean, but hard. Came up and tackled Helu on run play, but failed to do so with initial contact in the backfield. Had to drag him down for a few yards. Didn’t sell out to tackle Helu on GL run. I’m not sure McDaniel would have stopped the play, but I’d still like to have seen him really try. Hit WR after catch on inside route.

ZAC ETHERIDGE — Came up quickly in run support late in the 1st half. Went low and made the tackle. Knocked the crap out of Vincent Brown with a big hit on the sideline in the 4th Qtr.

SHAREECE WRIGHT — Upright in his backpedal. Good anticipation, break on the ball on outside pass to Paul. Had tight coverage on 3rd/6, may have forced ball to be off target. Didn’t fear WR’s speed and was aggressive. Jumped a pass to slot receiver late in the half. Broke it up, but wasn’t able to make the pick. Wright was playing outside WR at the time. Gave up catch and run to Sanzenbacher to open the 3rd Qtr. Drew PI flag in the late 3rd on throw into the endzone. Wright never looked back for the ball.

CURTIS BROWN — Made a quick break on slant pass and broke up the play. Got a physical hit on the receiver. Made a diving tackle of TE to put him on the ground out in space.

DeMARCUS VAN DYKE — Quick feet. Very much plays under control. Gave up easy completion on 3rd down because he was off the ball and was slow to break on it. Stumbled out of his backpedal. Gave up short slant to Sanzenbacher, but put him down quickly with a good hit. Doesn’t transition well from BP to breaking on the ball. Drew an OPI call on Young on downfield pass. So-so run support. Came up and hit a RB, but didn’t make a great effort to get him down. RB ran through the hit. Struggled late in the game when he tried to cover Titus Young on a couple of short routes. Gave up catches, RAC yards. Did cover him tightly downfield and almost picked off a deep ball.




CAM JORDAN — Started at LDE. Also saw time inside. Got sealed by TE on run play to his side. Too easy. Played RDE late in the half. Got good pressure to open the drive. Showed a good burst on the play and drove the LT backward with power. Got off block of Hudson on one play to disrupt run. On the next snap he split double team from DT position and tackled RB for minimal gain. Couldn’t contain Ponder on a bootleg so a sack turned into a short gain. Got pressure in the 4th by driving the RT back into the QB and flushing him.

RYAN KERRIGAN — Started at RDE. Got push on opening play. Crashed down on next snap and tackled RB headed up the middle. Technically sound as he looked upfield for bootleg first, then came after the RB. Got some pressure on next pass and forced QB to shift. Displayed good power on first couple of rushes vs Carpenter. Got under his pads and drove the guy backward. Helped to blow up a RZ run play with penetration. DT got the TFL. Had a terrific burst off the ball on the opening drive. Got QB for loss top open the 3rd series. Busted play, but Ryan still had to fight through block to make the tackle. Disruptive force off the edge. Even when blocked, he drove the OT back toward the QB and affected the play. Blew by the RT late in the half and forced the QB to get rid of the ball early. Should have drawn a holding call on the play. Did the same thing on the next play and the RT again got away with holding. Got a sack late in the half. Went up against RT and a RB, but used a spin move to the inside and had a free run to the QB. Closed quickly and put the QB on the ground. Beat the RT on the next snap and drew a holding call on that play. DeMarcus Love was the RT and he really struggled. Set the edge well on a run to his side and limited where the RB could go, enabling Jordan to get him at the LOS.

JEREMY BEAL — RDE. Got pushed to the ground by Carpenter while trying to rush the QB. Showed little burst in getting off the ball. Got his first bit of pressure with an inside move. Used an inside move to get in on tackle of RB on 2nd series. Crashed down hard to tackle RB on inside run. Jumped offside, which negatee an INT. Played a bootleg well and forced McElroy to throw the ball away. Shed block of RT and got RB on GL run. Had a sack in the 3rd Qtr, but did so by jumping offside. No call, though.

PIERRE ALLEN — LDE. Slow off the ball. Almost hesitated so as to let the TE release. Weird. Used spin move to the inside on end around that came to his side and went wide. Got some pressure from RDE in the 4th Qtr with a strong bull rush move.


SIONE FUA — Started at RDT. Got good push up middle on 2nd pass play and forced QB to move. Used a hard inside move to get in the backfield and get a TFL on RZ run play. Got penetration and disrupted run play on next series. Drove the C backward more than a few times. Blew up run play right at him by driving the C back and then shedding the block.

CHRISTIAN BALLARD — Started at LDT. Got driven off the ball by Watkins/Carpenter double team on run play that came right at him. Watkins stayed on the block for several seconds and Ballard looked helpless as he was driven around the field. Moved out to LDE on next series out. Went back to DT later. Got put on the ground by double team on run play that came to his side. Really struggled to play the run well. Had one good play where he spun off a block and was able to tackle the RB as he came up the middle. Got pressure on the QB late in the half. Used a quick burst and swim move to get free in the backfield. Tackled Ponder after he’d been flushed and started to run. Only gave up a couple of yards. Good hustle.

IAN WILLIAMS — Used spin move to get off block and tackle RB on inside run. Got penetration by knocking C backward on run, but guessed the wrong side and took himself out of the play. Got penetration on run play, but it went outside and he had no impact on it. Stout vs inside run. Got off block on play where QB scrambled and tackled him from behind. Good hustle, awareness. Read a screen play well, but as he turned to chase the RB Ian got blindsided by a G and put on the ground. Had a sack in the early 4th Qtr. Somewhat of a coverage sack.

TERRELL MCCLAIN — Got penetration on his first snap. Drew a holding call on Watkins because of the penetration. Used a bull rush on 2nd snap and got some push. Quick off the ball. High motor guy that works on every snap to fight off blockers. Really makes the OL work to block him. Blew up run play with penetration and got in on the tackle. Used quick burst to get upfield and flush McElroy. Got moved off ball by double team, but used spin move to get off the block.


MASON FOSTER — Starting LB. Got in on tackle of RB on inside run. Worked through a block, but didn’t use good technique. Made sure to jump into pile on TFL. Wanted to get his shot on the RB. Got way out of position on run play on 2nd series. Went wide and the run was inside. Fought off block of TE to get in on tackle of RB. Landed a big shot on Locke on the play. Took false steps quite a few times. Bites on play-action. Got a big shot on Kerley when he caught a pass from the slot. Bit hard to the inside on 3rd/2 run and left his gap wide open for cutback and easy 1st down. Totally bit on an option play. Focused on the RB and left a huge running space for the QB to get nice gain.

CASEY MATTHEWS — Showed okay speed as he chased Ponder out of bounds after QB scramble on opening drive. Got caught in trash on run to his side and didn’t get near the ball. Got put on the ground on block by Clay on RZ run. Block was out in space away from ball. Didn’t affect play, but LBs shouldn’t be OTG. Broke up a pass to TE Stocker. Made a good read on the play and got his hands on the pass. Could have picked it off. Chased Locke out wide on 3rd/4 run play. Stopped him short. Good hustle, okay speed. Looked good in coverage vs TE. Shot upfield on draw play only to see RB go to the spot he vacated.

GREG JONES — MLB. Helped tackle RB on opening drive when the guy went outside. Greg flowed to the ball and got in on the stop. Didn’t fight through a blocker on inside run play. Used a spin move to get free, but also gave up several yards in doing so. Pitiful. Did a good job of getting out to the flat on 2nd series, but then whiffed on tackle of Clay. Not good. Made tackle of Hankerson on 2nd series. CB missed and Jones got out there to clean up. Solid tackle. Got knocked back by Locke on inside run on 2nd series. Not good. Ducked around a block on inside run and took himself out of position. Got held in space as he tried to pursue a RB on a screen pass. No call. Made a good tackle of Andy Dalton after he got free on a QB run late in the half. Got burned on draw play when he wasn’t patient and looked to one side of a block and the RB went to the other. That turned into a 12-yd run.  Greg wasn’t physical or instinctive, the two most important traits you want in an ILB.  He was at his best chasing plays.  Any LB can do that.  See ball, go get ball.   I’ve seen Greg show good instincts on tape, but he was doing way too much guessing in Mobile and it hurt his defense.  Really disappointing performance.

LAWRENCE WILSON — Made quick tackle of RB after short catch over the middle. Showed some nice pop on tackle of RB, but it was only Noel Devine. Does that count? Tackled RB on screen, but it was after a good gain. Fought through block by FB to tackle RB near GL. Made a good tackle on the next play as well. Moved from right to left and hit the RB right at the GL. Short. Fought through block of FB to tackle runner on inside play. Good toughness. Missed TFL when RB used a spin move on him. Tried to stuff Allen on inside run, but driven back a couple of yards.

ROSS HOMAN — MLB. Made solid stop of Allen on inside run. Got knocked to ground, but Allen is 225 so that’s okay. Shed block of OG on inside run. Wasn’t able to affect the play, but didn’t stay blocked. Was in position to make the tackle if the first LB had missed. Played a 2nd Qtr run well. Scraped to his right and then came upfield to hit the RB. Knocked him back, where Hagg and Herzlich could make the tackle. Did a good job of getting through trash on inside run plays.

MARK HERZLICH — Was physical, aggressive with TEs in coverage. Helped to make stop of RB on play that came to his side. Mark fought through TE’s block and got upfield to help Hagg put the runner down.


JAIQUAWN JARRETT – Starting FS. Shrugged off block of WR and came up quickly to tackle RB on opening drive. Covered slot receivers at times. Looks awkward in man coverage. Gave up completion to Kerley in the slot. Got an okay break on the ball and stopped the play for a short gain. Tackled Powell on draw play up the middle that broke loose for good gain. Physical stop. Made poor tackle attempt on Kerley late in the game. Should have stopped him at the 5, but instead went for the hit and missed, gave up a TD.

Da’NORRIS SEARCY — Tackled WR after deep ball on opening play of game. Played some FS. Moves well for a big guy. Good feet. Made a good tackle of Locke on inside run play. You can see that Searcy is a solid wrap-up tackler that’s comfortable in the box. Made a good tackle of RB on 4th down play where he got loose up the middle. Footwork is patient, smooth. Had solid coverage on slot receiver on play where QB had to take off running.

ERIC HAGG — Came up to the LOS on run play. Lined up just off the end of the line and kept contain. The RB couldn’t get wide and Hagg was able to tackle him for a short loss.

JOE LEFEGED — Made an aggressive attempt to tackle RB near GL. Dove for his feet, but whiffed. Came off the edge on the next snap and got the RB low. Tackled Dial after short catch on bootleg play.

KENDRIC BURNEY — Made tackle on opening KO. Clean takedown of Kerley. Jumped a slant pass in the endzone and broke it up. Had a chance to pick it off. Missed tackle of Hankerson on 2nd series. Gave up TD pass to Hankerson on 2nd series. Looked awkward in his backpedal and then failed to make a clean break on the ball. Easy score. Gave up underneath completion to Sanders, but came up quickly to make the tackle. Tackled Salas after quick catch on 0 route. Good break on the ball. Broke up downfield pass to Johnson late in the half. Knocked down a deep ball for Hankerson late in the half. Gave up a completion to Hankerson in the early 3rd, but made a real good break on the ball and almost got to it.

JALIL BROWN — Beaten by Hankerson for long gainer on opening play. Had okay coverage on Hankerson on fade pass in ez on opening drive. Never played the ball, but forced Hankerson to the sideline and gave the QB no room to work with. Incomplete. Stumbled out of his break when trying to drive on short pass to his side. Did force the WR out quickly. Had good hit on Powell on 3rd down run.

RICHARD SHERMAN — Came up quickly on 3rd down to get hit on Locke on run play. Strong hit helped keep him short of the chains. Made a quick break on the ball on a pass thrown to his side, but the pass was way off target and went out of bounds. Picked off an underthrown deep ball (in EZ), but the play was wiped out by offside penalty. Awkward in his backpedal when he has to play off. Doesn’t look comfortable. Made an unbelievably dumb mistake on the final play of the half. Bit on a double move and let the WR run by him. A poor throw by the QB saved him. Sherman was able to recover and break up the underthrown ball. Got a physical hit on Hankerson on short pass play where he dropped the ball. Made a tackle in KO coverage. Broke up 3rd down pass to WR on his side in the late 3rd Qtr. Good break on the ball. Gave up short completion and some RAC yds to start the 4th Qtr, but it was to the big WR. Missed tackle of Hankerson after short catch.

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