Matt Waldman’s RSP Senior Bowl North Roster Practice Reports: Day 1

Matt Waldman compared his notes from the North practice with the tape he reviewed of the session late last night and provides some clarity to the first session of the Senior Bowl Week.

I’m Watching the Practice Tape This Year

I’m not here to deliver in-the-moment analysis. Most of the excellent analysts have editorial demands built on appeasing a large segment of the public conditioned to instant gratification.

Some have these demands but access to the practice tape. However, they have a jittery editor imposing a deadline.

I’m only jittery when I have too much sugar mainlined into my arteries.

Readers of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication have afforded me this luxury. I’m betting many of you have read at least someone else’s practice reports before checking for mine. And with each report you read, you’ll find significant similarities and differences based on several factors:

  • Observations made at practice or from tape.
  • The physical perspective of the observer from practice.
  • The experience and knowledge of the observer.

I took notes from the practices but afterward, I also studied all three viewing angles of the practice tape that’s available. When I had a discrepancy between my two observations, I’ll note them below just to show when real-time viewing can be problematic.

If you’re new to the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, I primarily study offensive skill prospects. These are the only player’s you’ll read about below. However, Jene Bramel is studying defensive players and will have some insights as the week unfolds.

Day 1 is what I call a Baseline Session. I don’t get too excited or crestfallen about performances because as with many journeys, it’s not how you start but how you progress. Not all players will be mentioned because not all of them did notable work.

This year, I’ll give you the executive summary but if you know my work, I’m here for the details (scroll past the summary for some noted examples…).

Tape examples in the details are from Twitter. I’m not making any videos this week — the analysis and opportunities to interact with others are far too valuable.

The North’s Day 1 Executive Summary

Jon Gruden’s practice contained a healthy dose of movement drills and special teams work compared to the South squad. Still, there was some notable work to observe.


Trace McSorley and Daniel Jones had issues working from center. Neither has extensive collegiate experience taking snaps and it showed.

Jones delivered one of the better throws of the day on this sail route below.

Running Backs

Dexter Williams displayed savvy in tight creases that you see from professional runners between the tackles. He had two notable runs early in practice. One was a demonstration of anticipation of his lineman to move the defender one step to the right as he approached the unopened hole. Another was this cutback in the crease of a gap play.

Williams’ ability to find daylight inside the crease and cutback through it is a notable gift for a runner.

Karan Higdon displayed cutback ability and decisive play. He hit creases hard today. Not a big runner, it’s still an important quality to maximize yardage.

Tony Pollard didn’t earn many creases but he was decisive and took the correct gaps.

Wide Receivers

Alex Wesley had a “welcome to the Senior Bowl” kind of session today. The Northern Colorado deep threat had difficulty earning separation on short and long passes, especially against physical coverage.

Andy Isabella is this week’s “Shake and Bake” wide receiver. He has the best control of the shake move and head fakes of any receiver on the field. It’s a pretty skill that freezes opponents in coverage. Combine that shake with the scorching hot afterburners of his speed and Isabella turns cornerbacks into cooked pork chops.

If I have a concern with Isabella it’s the amount of movement required to earn separation. These are pretty routes but there are YouTube vids of collegiate stars and pro players running these move-intensive routes with moderate production at best in the league.

He has a verbose game that’s impressive. Sometimes a succinct game is better.

This is where Penny Hart could be a better pro. His game is efficient, linear, and intimidating acceleration off the line, through his breaks, and transitioning to a runner.

Jakobi Meyers had a nice little shake during his release on a slant during the same drills that put his opponent off balance and opened the middle easily.

Jaylen Smith dropped multiple passes at helmet level. His hands were either slow to adjust or they were in a bad position to properly attack the ball. When working off the line of scrimmage, he twice overextended his frame trying to use his hands to swipe past the coverage.

Terry McLaurin showed off his speed and acceleration a couple of times in practice.

I have a different assessment of McLaurin’s route than Donnick above but yes, there are good things about McLaurin’s game that stood out today.

Tight End

Donald Parham is tall, smooth, and fluid as a route runner. Each component of his shallow routes transitions seamlessly.

As with Foster Moreau, there will be questions about his speed and quickness to earn early separation without the benefit of his length. Parham might be a gazelle but it’s equally likely that his athletic ability is closer to a giraffe (credit Jene Bramel). Either way, he’s probably quick enough to contribute in the league.

Notable Details


Trace McSorley and Daniel Jones each fumbled snaps from center in 9-on-7s today. McSorley also turned the wrong way on an exchange from center intended for Dexter Williams and ran into the H-Back working across the formation. Later in the 9-on-7 period, McSorley extended the ball too low and not close enough to Williams on the exchange and the back never secured the ball.

As a thrower, McSorley delivered a pinpoint dig route working behind a mesh. I was impressed with the rhythm of his drop and throwing off the first hitch. Jones also found a receiver, Jakobi Meyers on a well-thrown dig during 7-on-7s.

Drew Lock has lazy footwork and it corresponds with his game. He doesn’t play with a positive rhythm to his game. He didn’t hit a slant in 7-on-7s that broke open as he watched it happen. Instead, he “rolled” (a pace somewhere between walking and jogging) his way to the right and tried to fit the ball into a well-covered receiver in the shallow flat.

Running Backs

Karan Higdon had a good press and cut to a crease opening from a double-team. He did a particularly good job sticking his foot in the ground and accelerating past the edge contain coming down the line so he could get downhill after the dynamic slalom cut from right to left.

Dexter Williams showed his savvy on approach to the middle of the line on a run play with tight creases. He demonstrated the patience and understanding of his lineman’s intent to move the defender to the right and the crease opened just as Williams reached it.

Wide Receivers

Alex Wesley missed a double swipe off the line and the cornerback hung him up during his initial one-on-one. During his second rep, he worked back to the ball to earn separation. Unfortunately, he left his feet to catch a target he could have earned with his feet on the ground and it cost him space and time against the trailing defender. A corner prevented and outside-in release to work past him cleanly and it slowed down the stem and break of Wesley’s route to the post later in the one-on-one segment. He also got hung up during the stem of a fade route and couldn’t work his inside arm free of the opponent’s hand. The defender rode Wesley up the boundary.

Jakobi Meyers had a nice little shake during his release on a slant during the same drills as Andy Isabella that put his opponent off balance and opened the middle easily. This was his second-best route of the day. The best was a dig during 7-on-7s with good stem setting up the out and then breaking flat and across the middle for the target in stride.

Keelan Doss began with a nice arm-over release, fluid stem, and hard break back to the quarterback for a sound catch with his hands on the first rep of one-on-ones. He dropped a slant against tight physical coverage pulling at him during his next rep. He did a good job buying back sideline space on a go route against physical coverage and tried to work across the back of the defender when the target arrived at the inside of the defender. Doss played with some physicality that was a good sign for the days to come.

Terry McLaurin is a smooth option and he showed the ability to work multiple release strategies if the first didn’t earn him space. He also has wiggle to his game. However, the releases shown in the videos above were either completely clean or against a defender who took a poor angle without getting set up. Patient defenders forced McLaurin to fight for separation and it took longer than any quarterback has time for.

Penny Hart didn’t have Isabella’s wiggle and wasn’t used on the perimeter like McLaurin, but his acceleration and efficiency of transitions from receiver to runner were striking. He catches the ball well and his first few steps off the line or after the catch are as quick as anyone on the field from either roster.

He set up a corner route with good lean towards the post during his stem and then followed up a few steps later with another small dip towards the post before working inside and around the back of the opponent. This was good linear storytelling on a vertical route.

He might have broken the angle a little too sharp but judging from the target, the quarterback overthrew the route. He later dropped a pass thrown above his head while breaking inside on a terrific route that sold the deep seam and finished with an incredibly flat break to the middle.

A second drop was a ball thrown high and away from his frame but he nearly secured it with an appropriate reach without leaving his feet. Penny also set up this route with a sudden rocker release and a terrific, flat break after working the stem towards the body of the coverage and forcing a retreat.

The third high throw for Hart’s small frame also required a strong extension high and away from his frame. He also kept his feet on the ground and in stride, snatching this one efficiently on the move. As was the case with Isabella, there wasn’t a defender capable of recovering when beaten by Hart.

Tight Ends

Donald Parham showcased fluid quickness for a 6’8″ move tight end. A route breaking to the flat included a good head fake at the top of the stem, and arm-over against opponent’s reach, and a break back to the ball.

Tommy Sweeney tried to bully his first coverage assignment but slipped through the contact and stumbled through his break. He later dropped a target working vertical up the right flat. He extended his arms but he was extending his stride at an uncomfortable rate. He dropped a second pass when he didn’t secure the ball tight enough and the trailing defender knocked it loose as Sweeney turned upfield.

Drew Sample displayed decent initial burst into his stem and a flat break across the middle on a reception during one-on-ones. He was targeted up the deep seam but failed to earn separation.

Bookmark the RSP 2019 Senior Bowl Page to find practice reports, videos, and podcasts covering the practice week and the players.

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