Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson got better each day in Mobile. Monday’s mediocre performance was a distant memory by Wednesday afternoon. Wilson looked much more comfortable and threw the ball well. He was accurate. Velocity was good. He moved around well. Wilson isn’t as mobile as EJ Manuel, but is definitely better than Landry Jones. Wilson made one excellent throw while on the move, hitting the TE. He also made a good throw to a TE down the seam.
Manuel vs Jones makes for an interesting debate. EJ has NFL physical ability while Jones is the more polished passer. Do you want a project with upside or a guy who has limited upside, but is the safer of the two picks?
One of the things that bugs me with Manuel is that he looks stiff and unnatural at times. A QB throwing the ball in drills with no pressure should be at ease. Manuel was mechanical as he would turn right or left to throw the ball. Maybe this is something the pre-Combine training guys are working on with him and he’s not good at it yet. Whatever. I’m always going to be nervous with QBs who don’t look natural throwing the ball.
Manuel did make some good throws. He hit the TE with a good throw. He completed a pass along the sideline. That showed accuracy and arm strength. There is no question that Manuel has the physical tools to be a starting QB. Can he develop the skills? He never did at FSU, but you can bet some team will give him a shot.
Jones just isn’t compelling in any way. He doesn’t have a strong arm. He doesn’t throw passes that explode out of his hand. He isn’t very mobile. He isn’t a playmaker. Jones is the least gifted of all 6 QBs in Mobile. He struggled on Wednesday, making too many poor or sloppy throws.
That said, he’s not hopeless. Jones is smart and experienced. He failed to stand out in the practices, but it won’t shock me if he plays better than anyone in the game. Jones knows how to run an offense. He’ll get everyone set up and in the proper spot. He threw for 16,000 yards in his career and played in more big games than the other 5 guys combined. Give him a chance to go out and run an actual offense and I think you’ll see Landry at his best.
* RB Mike Gillislee had another solid day. He really caught my eye a few times. He has more speed than I anticipated. He broke off a couple of nice runs.
Stepfan Taylor doesn’t have great speed, but he helped himself with a strong showing. I don’t know that teams will look at him as a starter, but putting him into a RB mix could definitely work. You can trust that Taylor will maximize every run, whether that is 5 yards, 5 feet, or 5 inches. There will be no dancing. There will be no question of effort.
* Quinton Patton might be a revelation to some, but anyone who watched the La Tech WR this season knew just how good he was. He made a terrific catch downfield while tightly covered. You love when a WR can ignore the DB and focus in on the ball. He did double-catch one pass, but that is better than a drop.
I don’t have a good feel for Cobi Hamilton. He flashed at times, disappointed at others. On Wednesday a CB played off and Hamilton ate up that cushion in a heartbeat. You love when a big WR can do that. Makes him such a vertical threat. Hamilton made some impressive catches, but also had drops and other plays when he failed to make a grab on a play where he should have done it.
Russell Sheppard was new to the Senior Bowl on Wednesday. He dropped the first pass I saw, but then caught the next few and seemed to get into a comfort zone.
Tavarres King probably had the best hands of anyone in Mobile. It really is fun to watch him catch the ball. So smooth, so natural.
* TE Vance McDonald had a terrific week. The star from Rice really impressed as a pass catcher. And he’s 262 pounds. You can develop him into being an adequate blocker. He did have a drop on Wednesday, but more than made up for that with a great one-hand catch. He almost just put his hand up as he saw the ball and somehow caught it. Great reaction and hand-eye coordination.
Mychal Rivera is the 237-pound TE that you can move around and be creative with. He made one really impressive catch. He adjusted to a ball down the seam and hauled it in while in traffic.
* LT Lane Johnson had another strong day. He was outstanding in the blocking drills all week long. He is a natural pass protector. My favorite moment from him on Wednesday came in the team drills when he caved in a DT and opened a massive hole for the RB. Johnson might not look like a typical OL (former TE with a sleek build), but he is a good run blocker. He can be physical.
Brian Schwenke is one tough son of a gun. Some DL tried to break him in half, but Schwenke never gave up. The DT fired off the ball low and then drove upward. Schwenke’s feet were on the ground as his upper body was pushed backward. His spine was in the shape of the letter C. But Schwenke didn’t stop blocking until he was told to. Tough, tough player.
Terron Armstead was just added on Wednesday to replace Dallas Thomas. Armstead saw time at LT. I was impressed. He did a solid job in pass pro. Good run blocker. Really fired off the ball. I hope we get to see a lot of him in the game on Saturday.
* Ziggy Ansah did some good things. He got really good pressure on one play. Got a sack on another. Blew up a run play to his side. He’s actually better in the team drills than in the 1-on-1 stuff, which is unusual for such a gifted athlete. Ansah is still raw as a pass rusher. The right coach can develop him into a big time player. Best fit is probably 4-3 LDE.
* LB Zaviar Gooden made a couple of plays. Someone tipped a pass and he picked that off. There was another coverage situation where he broke up the pass with a deflection. He also showed great hustle in chasing a play that was 20 yards away from him. There were some players who would give up on plays quickly and start walking back to the huddle area. Gooden was showing his motor.
Chase Thomas looked very stiff to me as I watched him in a movement drill. He was too deliberate in trying to move around bags. Other guys were fluid and moved quickly.
* Cal CB Marc Anthony is a player I must study more. He looked like a talented, fluid athlete. I paid him little attention this season. Anthony had an excellent pass break-up on a throw to a WR.
Bama S Robert Lester did not impress. He looked stiff and slow.
CB Leon McFadden had another good day. He is comfortable in coverage and plays the ball well.
CB Robert Alford was too aggressive at times. He gets his hands on the WR and doesn’t like to let go. He got away with this in Mobile, but obviously won’t in the NFL. Alford is a talented athlete. The fact he came from a small school didn’t seem to bother him in the least.