Senior Bowl First Impressions

Day 1 Impressions

By Jene Bramel

Under the mentorship (and light hazing) of Matt and Cecil Lammey, I’m credentialed to cover the Senior Bowl for the first time and getting a crash course in the world of pre-draft scouting in Mobile this week. You can read our detailed scouting observations from Day 1 and check out Matt’s detailed thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings’ approach to teaching WR play at the New York Times’ Fifth Down blog [link forthcoming], but I thought I’d share a newbie’s perspective of the weigh-in and first afternoon practice.

The scene in the hotel ballroom on Monday morning for the Senior Bowl weigh-in was an eye-opener. Not that there isn’t value in projecting athletic ability from how a player carries his weight or his hand size/wingspan combination, but it’s hard not to think, “Yeah, but can they play?” as the players make their way across the stage in shorts. Especially after the palpable sense that the room had already dismissed QB Kellen Moore as a viable prospect when his measurements (5-11, 191) were announced or the extra glances scouts gave each other while watching DT Mike Martin and his cut 6-1, 307 pound frame walk down the aisle.

As the assembly line continued, and I began wondering whether Mike Brown would yell,“Bingo!” from the front row if he heard a height-weight combination that matched the numbers on his sheet, I was ready to see these guys in pads.

I watched the South practice, focusing on the defensive front seven during individual and team drills, and was left with a number of first impressions and questions left to be answered as the week progresses.

After a rocky start in which the Washington DL coach Jacob Burney got in his face about messing up a run fit, Quinton Coples was consistently dominant in one-on-one drills and looked the part in team drills. If that continues, it’s something of a double-edged sword for him. It’ll show that his lackluster senior season may have been a fluke, but likely lead to lots of pointed questions about his effort when teams interview him between now and the draft.

Melvin Ingram looked extremely athletic and often successfully drove his opponent back in one-on-one drills. But he didn’t consistently finish plays after that initial burst. At least one observer wondered whether he was quick enough to win on the edge or whether he relied too much on a spin move to the inside as his primary pass rush move.

The Redskins’ coaches focused on footwork in the time they had for individual drills with the linebackers. I was excited to see Zach Brown and expected him to be the most fluid player in the group. But he seemed to be dialed down a bit, more than what the soggy field conditions would suggest. Brown looked more like himself during the team session, though, and left me with a clear impression that he’ll be one of the best defenders on the field by week’s end.

I kept wanting to love Emmanuel Acho or Nigel Bradham, but neither stood out on Monday. Hopefully, one of the inside linebackers will separate himself as a potential all-around Sunday talent. After hearing Chad Reuter pronounce Bobby Wagner’s last name like the composer, I’m hoping that he’ll be the one to win me over by flying around the field like a Valkyrie with the help of the Vikings’ coaching staff.

After practice, the day ended with dinner and player interviews at Media Night. I was struck by how comfortable Doug Martin, Keenan Robinson and Jeff Fuller were answering questions. They were more comfortable with a recorder in their face than I would’ve been holding one.

With the weigh-in and dedicated media time out of the way, it’ll be practice drills and barbeque the rest of the week. I’m looking forward to seeing which of my first impressions hold up in the days, weeks and months ahead.

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