Matt Waldman compared his notes from the South 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.
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 South’s Day 1 Executive Summary
Gardner Minshew displayed the most impressive reading of progressions and manipulation of defenses of the passers in this group.
Jarrett Stidham showed the best combination of arm strength and control on an NFL target of difficulty but his accuracy was not starting-caliber today.
Tyree Jackson played with the aggression you want to see from a decision-maker even if his accuracy wasn’t top-drawer.
Will Grier didn’t perform in a rhythm commensurate with the nature of his attempts and he was significantly off-target on some open targets. However, I’m not worried about him reading the field.
Some think that bc Grier's O in WVU had a lot of predefined reads that he could not get through a progression. His footwork and process up to delivery may be best part of his game (next do quick release). #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/almIIBLkuM
— Nick Turchyn (@CoachTurch) January 22, 2019
Bruce Anderson easily had the best showing as a receiver at his position. He’s quick, runs precise routes, and possesses strong tracking and hands. Anderson took runs where they were supposed to go during 11-on-11s — even if the defense contained the scheme.
Bruce Anderson puts Otara Alaka in the blender pic.twitter.com/OUzcZv9Zjx
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) January 22, 2019
Ryquell Armstead had the best pair of gains as a runner in 11-on-11s, including a good press-and-cut to set up a double team that allowed him to set up a Deebo Samuel block for a gallop up the sideline. However, he did show any familiarity with the basic routes of the short passing game and his feet betrayed in him repeatedly.
Wes Hills’ long strides and footwork woes were created problems with maintaining his balance through breaks in the passing game and earning yards through contact — even when initiating collisions with opponents.
Deebo Samuel has the most productive day of the South receivers, winning deep repeatedly and demonstrating the ability to stack an opponent. He also executed dynamic releases based on footwork and initial quickness.
Deebo Samuel beating Rock Ya-Sin deep here pic.twitter.com/dLin2pyOry
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) January 22, 2019
Deebo Samuel’s foot speed is disgusting… pic.twitter.com/6dYpe7BSXt
— Jake (@SeedsofJake) January 22, 2019
The finish isn’t there because of the throw, but look at the separation Deebo Samuel creates on his release. Instant. pic.twitter.com/tpwWGGhLoe
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 22, 2019
Tyre Brady began practice with a coach criticizing him for a lackadaisical transition between receiver and runner, but he made numerous plays on slants and used a good long-arm to drop a cornerback at the line and win a vertical route. Brady was smooth and tracked the ball well overall.
Gary Jennings ran better routes than I’ve seen on game film and his practice tape was better than what I assessed of him when I was watching him live. He executes with greater variety and efficiency than I’ve seen at West Virginia but he must learn to stack his opponent or he won’t enhance his quarterback’s accuracy on vertical targets.
Hunter Renfrow showed off his impressive stems and breaks as a perimeter receiver breaking back to the quarterback or to the middle of the field. However, his size makes it highly unlikely that he’s ever used on the perimeter.
Travis Fulgham showed off variety with his hand usage at the line of scrimmage against press but he wasn’t violent enough to earn the separation required of him. He must let his hands fly with the intensity of a fighter.
David Sills V won one two deep routes but one of them he couldn’t get two feet inbounds. He didn’t drop his weight well on routes calling for a hard break and he got pinned to the boundary. He plays like a deer in ways both good (smooth) and bad (not enough power—too much finesse).
Anthony Johnson played his physical brand of football off the line of scrimmage and at the top of stems. He earns separation on routes backing back to the quarterback but he didn’t do as much work breaking downfield.
Anthony Johnson with an arm over outside release, strength at the top of his route, and work back to the QB pic.twitter.com/RBObebUL4s
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 22, 2019
Foster Moreau is not quick or fast. He often ran duck-footed with one or both feet during his initial drive off the line. However, Moreau used his hands well to work through coverage or adjusted his body to post-up defenders in the short game or separation. He didn’t need much separation to win the ball, which he did repeatedly and fluidly at the catch point.
Dax Raymond was at his best when running routes with stems up the seam and angling downfield. He earned receptions on intermediate routes but he didn’t show dynamic athletic ability.
Josh Oliver showed the capacity for smooth and quick breaks as a short-zone route runner.
Trevon Wesco is listed as a running back, but he’s a 6’4″, 274-pound H-Back which will make him a tight end in my book. Many will buzz about Moreau, who had a good day, but Wesco’s quickness, bend, and separation was more impressive than Moreau when comparing them directly. It was surprising.
Gardner Minshew’s most impressive moments came in 7-on-7s. He had three consecutive snaps where he manipulated the defense.
Minshew baited the flat defender to stay with the slot receiver, which set up Frank Moreau on the over route behind it for a big gain over the middle and up the flat. This was a savvy play typical of Minshew’s game.
Minshew followed up by holding the safety to left with his eyes on the right flat before coming back to the left. On the final play of the series, he held the defender to the left and returned to the right.
There was a play during 11-on-11s where Minshew executed the bootleg to the right and had a receiver breaking about 20-25 yards over the middle to the right. The safety picked up the route after the receiver passed and a perfect throw continues to lead the receiver to an open flat. Minshew checked it to the Moreau on the shallow cross — the smarter play but something to note in future situations here and on tape where he has a deeper option that requires an aggressive and confident throw.
Jarrett Stidham’s best throw was an opposite-hash out in 7-on-7s. It was the prettiest and most relevant, NFL-caliber throw of the South practice. A pin-point accurate play, it was the exceptional target of this quality compared to the rest of his practice.
Stidham had one of those days (and often on tape, “one of those games”) where he executes multiple and difficult steps of a process and then doesn’t finish well. During a scrimmage portion of practice, Stidham held a safety to his right and went back to Anthony Johnson to his left but threw the ball behind his receiver’s break.
Will Grier executed a pair of bootlegs to the left where he was completely off-target. The worst was a throw to an uncovered Deebo Samuel. Grier delivered the ball with both shoulders wide-open to the receiver and off his sixth step of the sprint action.
Quarterbacks are taught to deliver the ball on the first, third, fifth, seventh, or ninth step of a roll/sprint. His poor timing contributed to his bad position and inaccuracy.
Ryquell Armstead may earn some buzz as a runner, but he looked completely lost in the passing game. The problem is his understanding of the route depth he should run or the footwork he should use.
He ran the same out-breaking route to the flat at least three times and each time he gauged the break and/or his footwork poorly. Once he broke the route too soon and then tried to return to his stem and collided into the coverage.
Another time, Armstead broke too late and allowed the coverage into the play. The common issue with every route was the poor placement of his foot with the second step on the turn that led to him stumbling.
He catches with his hands but his routes make his targets more difficult than they should be.
Wes Hills also has significant footwork issues as a route runner. Every out-breaking route ended with Hills stumbling out of his break. He could open his hips with the first step of his break by pointing his toe. However, he couldn’t break the other foot around with enough depth to exit the break with acceleration and balance.
This issue slowed him down and cost him balance long enough that he eliminated any potential for arriving on-time to the ball.
Gary Jennings must learn to stack his opponent. He beat his man up the left sideline on a fade but ignored the stack opportunity so he could fade towards the target. However, the target was underthrown and if Jennings has stacked the defender he could slow the pace significant to play the ball and force a penalty. Jennings has rushed to begin his fade and he overran the ball as a result.
Travis Fulgham displayed a chop on a release to the inside of a cornerback in 11-on-11s that he placed on the defender’s forearm but it barely moved the limb downwards. The placement could have been closer to the elbow joint but either way, use of greater force was necessary.
Hunter Renfrow earned separation on a similar route and coverage position as Fulgham. He’s far less powerful than Fulgham, but used two hand moves in succession and with fluid and explosive motion. When the first didn’t land, the other did the trick right after.
John Owning shared an instructional video from a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master teacher who was illustrating how moves are often based taught as a flow of 2-4 moves rather than just one move at the time. This generates fluidity of motion and process thinking that accounts for multiple situations. When a receiver is executing two hand moves in succession it’s an example of this systems thinking.
Trevon Wesco and Frank Moreau had good days but if I were going off today and not their reputations, I’d go with Wesco. Moreau was smooth and handled physical play easily.
He executed a nice arm-over after encountering contact at the top of his stem on a sail route. He also earned confidence from his quarterback to win short and intermediate routes when tightly covered.
Wesco was notably quicker off the line and if a defender couldn’t impede Wesco early in the route, the Mountaineer earned separation. In one-on-one’s Wesco earned immediate separation on a sail route that Tyree Jackson under threw by about 2-3 feet and it allowed the trailing defender to tip away.
Wesco also displayed impressive bend with a whip route that resulted in easy separation. A 274-pound receiver with his hip bend isn’t something I’ve seen that often.
Bookmark the RSP 2019 Senior Bowl Page to find practice reports, videos, and podcasts covering the practice week and the players.