The RSP’s Items To Watch At East-West Shrine Game Practices

Matt Waldman’s RSP shares what he’d want to see from specific skill players at the 2018 East-West Shrine Game.

In the past, I could only attend one all-star game. My top choice has always been the Senior Bowl because top performers from the Shrine Game practices often earned invitations to the all-star game in Mobile.

While I won’t be in St. Petersburg this year, I’m sharing my thoughts on specific skill players on each roster and what I’d want to learn from their week of practice. Eventually, I may gain the information below from additional exposures to game film.

However, I find that practices can be useful ways to learn about players’ basic football skills and techniques that weren’t used as often during their collegiate careers. Sometimes, specific practice drills can illuminate specific athletic traits that a role in the offense rarely, if ever, showcased.

These Shrine participants caught my eye on film. I’ll share a reason or two why as well as what I’d like to see from them if I were in attendance:

West Roster

RB Justin Jackson (Northwestern):  A quick player with an excellent feel for running the football, Jackson has power that belies his size and a tremendous stiff arm.  Practices aren’t the ideal settings for displays of power and as much as it might surprise me if Jackson showed it, I’d want to see him win one-on-one situations where he can push the pile on defenders from the front-seven of a unit. He has functional power and balance against direct contact. If he could consistently demonstrate more, he could be a draft-day value in a strong class of backs.

RB Phillip Lindsay (Colorado): Although his understanding of how and where to run the ball is strong, I wasn’t impressed with his acceleration. If Lindsay shows more than what I’ve seen, I’ll have to re-evaluate him.

WR Devonte Boyd (UNLV): Boyd displayed some strong technical and conceptual “storytelling” devices as a route runner and he made contested plays in the games I’ve seen.  He juggled multiple passes when using an underhand technique. Was this a phase he has grown past or is it still an area requiring focus? As is the case with the two backs above, I’m curious about these player’s actual height and weight versus their listed dimensions. All three are on the light side of their position’s spectrums.

WR Steven Dunbar (Houston): If I were to list three players with the best chance of earning an invitation to Mobile after this week based on their film, Jackson, Dunbar, and the player listed below are my trio. Listed at 6’3″, 202 pounds I’ve been told that Dunbar will be arriving in great physical condition. Based on his recent tape, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has 10-12 more pounds of muscle than the figure I just quoted.  A polished prospect by college standards, Dunbar struck me as a diligent worker at the craft of his position.  Someone who knows recently confirmed my thoughts. Dunbar lacks a top gear and it’s not a make-or-break situation for my evaluations. However, I want to see him separate from defenders during the first 10-15 yards of the line of scrimmage during the week of practice. If he does, I won’t be as concerned as others who may see his 40-time as a vital layer of information.

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TE David Wells (San Diego State): The Aztecs are known for running the football and Wells does strong work as a blocker. His height and weight will have greater importance than other prospects because he’s known more as a blocker than a vertical receiver. If Wells is truly in the 6’5″, 255-pound range and flashes production up the seams, he could be a minor surprise.

WR Jake Wieneke (South Dakota State):  A physical receiver, add Wieneke to the list of potential Senior Bowl candidates if he plays to his film. I want to see evidence of refined route technique — or at least technique trending in a positive direction. Specifically, I’m talking about hard breaks with good weight drop and a minimum of steps, flat breaks, and attacking the target on routes breaking to the quarterback. Illustrating more than a chop as an effective release move would also be nice.

East Roster

QB Riley Ferguson (Memphis): Ball security in the pocket, holding defenders with his eyes in the middle of the field, and cleaner footwork while cycling through each progression are three areas I’d like to see from Ferguson. That said, quarterback practices can deliver false positives (and occasionally false negatives). While the offenses are basic, there’s often a lack of rapport with receivers and linemen which can impact how we evaluate a player’s conceptual savvy for the position. If Ferguson’s practices demonstrate positive behaviors consistent with his film, he’ll display quick and mature decision-making in the red zone and pinpoint accuracy within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage from sideline-to-sideline.

QB Quinton Flowers (USF): A strong-armed with passer good anticipation against zone defenders,  Flowers has a jacked-up release with a notably long extension of his throwing arm when he brings the ball behind his throwing shoulder. While I’m not an absolute stickler for textbook throwing technique, I need proof that a player’s form that differs from the norm will get the job done and not create major issues that bleed into other tasks he must perform as a competent NFL passer. Flowers has a quick release, but is it quick enough to overcome the inefficient arm motion? When the pocket is clean, Flowers has soft feet but when defenders compress the pocket, Flowers often invited more pressure with dramatic movement. I was impressed with his long-range accuracy. I’d want to see if his vertical accuracy, cycling through multiple reads, and quick release are on display this week. The flaws will need long-term development time.

QB J.T. Barrett (Ohio State): Can he disguise his intentions and manipulate defenders better than he did with the Buckeyes? Can he deliver intermediate and deep targets with a lower trajectory and greater power? How’s his accuracy on the move in the intermediate and deep range? A solid short-area quarterback, Barrett’s potential to expand his game beyond these shallow zones will factor greatly into his long-term potential.

RB Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt): A fundamentally sound runner who is all knees and shoulders in the hole, I’m not sold on his ability once he reaches an opposing secondary. While it’s not vital to me that he can break runs 50 yards or longer, I’d like to see the potential for Webb to beat decent angles of defensive backs for 30-40 yards.  More important is how fast he can transition from an outside track to a downhill track. Depending on the angle of approach, 3-4 steps is a bigger concern than 1-3 steps. The same can be said about his balance when trying to issue moves in the open field. Webb is a strong college back, evidence of the things I mentioned could go a long way to determining the extent of his pro potential.

RB Chase Edmonds (Fordham): If Edmunds is a well-built 210 pounds and not the 210 pounds of some Fordham administrator’s imagination, it will be a good sign for a back who impressed me with his ability to split defenders, get under hits, and drive opponents for significant yardage after contact. Despite these positive, I saw repeat instances of defenders pulling Edmonds backward with wraps or knocking him on his butt after head-on contact. Is he a runner with momentum-based power or can enhancements to his stride and pad level improve his balance and power. These concerns are why his listed size is something I’m skeptical about.

TE Ethan Wolf (Tennessee): Has he corrected his tendency to overextend as a blocker and lose balance and leverage? Did Tennessee inflate his physical dimensions on paper? If not, is Wolff’s weight consisting of a well-developed core. Can he consistently make plays after contact?

TE Cam Serigne (Vanderbilt): I didn’t see great evidence of Serigne reaching the edge or the second level as a blocker. His quickness is a question mark. So is his ability to win the ball against tight coverage and after contact. I want to see if his release moves are quick enough in practices the way they were on film.

WR DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State): Hamilton, Webb, and Edmonds are three options with the potential to earn Senior Bowl invitations with strong weeks in St. Pete. Hamilton is a good possession receiver who wins the ball against tight coverage and collisions. If the targets coming his way this week have general accuracy, Hamilton will make receptions that impress onlookers. I want to see his work with routes — especially drills where he’s coached to drop his weight into hard breaks. Can he shorten the number of steps it takes for him to come to a stop and change direction? Does he have a library of release moves with his hands that he didn’t show often enough at Penn State?

Stay tuned next week for complete coverage of the 2018 Senior Bowl, including previews, the weigh-in, practice reports, and additional draft commentary.

For analysis of skill players, get the 2018  Rookie Scouting Portfolio, now available for pre-order. If you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2018 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 each.


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