RSP author Matt Waldman shares his thoughts on the first day of Senior Bowl practices.
The first day of all-star practices set the baseline for the week. Tuesday’s sessions reveal how the coaching staff will organize its sessions and which players start hot or cold. Depending on the film we’ve seen on a player, the first practice also shows us the techniques and concepts a player knows and what he must learn.
The Bengals and Lions are running the practices this week and both sessions had its slow points that weren’t media-friendly. There were less one-on-one reps and scrimmage time than what we’ve seen in the past with other teams.
This could change on Day Two for a number of reasons. Day-One is typically heavy on “install” of the offense where the basics of alignment, shifts, and communication are rehearsed. Both the Lions and Bengals performed their share of “install” during the sessions.
It was also a cold afternoon in Mobile and as the sun descended into the evening, the temperature dropped during the second practice. Cold weather leads to cold muscles and cold muscles lead to soft tissue injuries.
Senior Bowl prospects should have hair-trigger sensitivity to injuries, which means prevention is essential for the team running the late-afternoon practice if it doesn’t want to see multiple players drop out of participation on the advice of their agents.
It’s why the most frequent thing heard during the first 25 minutes of Lions practice was, “stretch your hamstrings,” as the team led the South Roster through a series of stretches. The North Roster had warmer weather and did not place the same emphasis on stretching.
Combine install and stretching implemented during Lions practice and it provides important context behind the lack of media-friendly activity on Tuesday. There were one-on-one opportunities among the North roster’s receivers and defensive backs as well as running plays for its backs but there were fewer meaningful exercises from the North practice on Tuesday.
I expect we will get more worthwhile intel from the North practices on Wednesday and Thursday. These observations are based on live attendance and film review of those sessions later in the evening.
I’m not commenting on quarterback performances from today’s practices. See this link for my thoughts on studying them in all-star games.
I watched seven-on-sevens and a full scrimmage but only saw a few targets worth comment. The best receivers during press-man drills today were Antonio Gandy-Golden and K.J. Hill. Gandy-Golden only used a limited library of moves but he overpowered his opponents consistently and didn’t break too wide of the five-yard boundary.
Hill had the best array of footwork and handwork, winning multiple ways and only failing on one rep when he slipped.
Denzel Mims and Chase Claypool won a pair of reps but were often re-routed wider than the parameters of the drill–or very close.
James Proche won one rep with quickness, but failed multiple times against physical defenders who attacked early and overpowered Proche. For a big man, Michael Pittman had no answers moved slowly off the line. Quartney Davis may be fast but he was overpowered and re-routed consistently.
Quartney Davis: He earned separation in one-on-one drills with a basic diamond release working outside-in. Davis’s outside-in release didn’t sway the coverage and he didn’t break open on his out route. He did little earn separation on a go route where he thought he could outrun the defensive back but the defender maintained his position at the back hip of the receiver and blocked out the receiver from the inside where the ball was delivered. Davis and his quarterback were out of synch with the location of the throw on a curl route that Davis ran well enough to earn a small but productive amount of separation. His release footwork is becoming predictable. When he changed up his release footwork on a sideline curl, he worked open with a break tight to the boundary. When the ball arrived inside his break, Davis toe-tapped the space inside the sideline while double-catching the target. Davis lost his balance trying to work outside a press defender during press-release drills.
Michael Pittman, Jr: He failed to bait the defender outside to get the defender to come off his inside leverage on an in-breaking route that the defender cut off. Pittman executed a three-step release that worked him outside-in and then he stair-stepped the stem to set up a break to the inside but it led to an overthrown target. Pittman earned easy separation on a go route with a nice one-step stutter that baited the corner and he finished with a nice track of the ball over his shoulder. He ran a deep flag route with a release to the inside but never earned separation out of the break to get a shot at the ball.
Antonio Gandy-Golden: He made a diving catch on a go route after powering through the reach of the press corner off the line with an arm-over and the acceleration to maintain his line before eventually stacking the defender. He had no problem attacking the outside shoulder of the cornerback playing off coverage during the next route, selling the fade and then using an arm-over at the top of the break to earn lots of space on the dig route, finishing with a clean catch where the target forced full extension away from his frame and over his head. The defenders over Gandy-Golden anticipated the receiver’s release on a slant and cut off the break well enough to prevent Gandy-Golden from ever earning a good position on the target. Gandy-Golden once again overpowered the corner with an outside release and arm-over that finished with a break back to the quarterback along the boundary. The ball arrived behind the break towards the trailing corner and Gandy-Golden plucked it away with ease. Gandy-Golden finally failed to get loose on a route up the left flat and when he attempted a play on the ball, the Iowa corner Michael Ojemudia cut off the target but it’s hard to tell if he turned to track the ball or screened the receiver.
K.J. Hill: Ever see a cornerback pretend to be a merry-go-round, Hill turned his opponent around in a circle twice during his stem and break because of his ability to work the back of the defensive back. Hill finished the route with a back-shoulder catch. Hill won the next rep with an easy three-step break on the sideline curl against a defender playing too loose against Hill throughout the route. Hill got wide open on corner route where he effectively sold the post and the resulting break to the corner put the corner in the rearview mirror and the defender eventually fell to the ground trying to get his bearings. Hill tracked the ball over his shoulder, making the catch tight to the boundary.
Denzel Mims: He began his one-on-one reps with a sudden turn on a hitch after using an outside release. Mims worked the curl route with a nice rocker step release to the outside and then threatening the go route at the top of the stem. He executed a strong pull-down of the ball even if he left his feet unnecessarily. Mims and his quarterback were not in synch on an out route where Mims broke deeper than the placement of the throw. Mims later ran a stutter release and earned enough separation outside the corner that he could break across the face of the trailing defender to the inside for a catch about 30 yards downfield.
James Proche: He worked past the toes of the off-coverage defender and then broke quickly back to the ball but he mistracked the target that arrived over his inside shoulder and through his hands. Proche failed to earn separation at every stage of a dig route but still managed to catch a ball that was tipped between himself and the cornerback during the break. Proche failed to earn separation again on a go route that was also overthrown. For a third time, Proche failed to separate deep, even with an inside release and a stutter that didn’t freeze the coverage. His best play of the day came during seven-on-sevens when he made a full-extension catch of a target over his head just inside the dropping zone defender. During release drills, Proche used a wipe to earn quick separation but slowed down as soon as he won a step.
Chase Claypool exhibited a good hook-and-swim outside-in for a quick catch and solid gain over the middle on a slant. He attempted to power through the coverage on a quick out that wound up behind him. Claypool was hung up on the defender during the release. He caught a dig route after stumbling through the top of his stem and early break and his opponent fell to the ground during the break. Claypool’s final one-on-one arrived at a deeper spot than his break. His best catch was an 11-on-11 dig route between a tight window in a zone that Anthony Gordon delivered with confidence off a play-action fake and turn back to the right side of the field.
Backs and Tight Ends
Darius Anderson stepped up and attacked the blitzing linebacker to begin pass-pro drills, earning a strong position with his hands into the opponent and redirecting the defender outside the quarterback. An uppercut punch rather than a jab would have been ideal but it was a quality rep overall. On the next rep, Anderson allowed the blitzer to strike first and it led to him getting pushed back into the passer. As a receiver, Anderson worked free with a shake that could have been more efficient but he executed quickly and fluidly. He caught the ball smoothly as it arrived in stride at torso level. Anders ran an angle route that broke open after a shake and crossover but this looked like a route that would be more effective in a one-on-one practice scenario than a zone or man coverage situation in a game–too many moves and unlikely that Anderson would have broken into wide-open space. Anderson read a crease well on a stretch play off-tackle, spinning inside a defender in the hole. During 11-on-11’s, the defense outflanked Anderson to the left sideline and strung out his attempt to reach the edge. His best run was a cutback past the edge contain and a second dip past the safety to reach the backside gap for a long gain.
JaMycal Hasty missed his strike attempt after stepping up to square his opponent and the opponent’s work around Hasty forced quarterback Shea Patterson to climb away. Hasty recovered enough to reach the rusher’s shoulder and prevent the defender from earning a second angle on Patterson. He didn’t attack the next opponent with a strike and the rusher used speed-to-power to push Hasty into the quarterback’s lap. Hasty tried to strike but he aimed his hands towards the shoulders of the opponent and the blitzer practically fork-lifted Hasty backward. Hasty ran a whip route with a nice spin move at the top of the stem. He earned enough separation to make a smooth catch and continue up the flat. Hasty go open again with a route to the flat where he used a chop to work free of the safety and the chop was hard enough to knock the defender to the ground. Hasty made the most impressive cutback of either practice when he worked towards penetration into the backfield and made an efficient bounce to the backside for what would have been a chain-moving gain–at least. He made another front side bounce away from penetration up the middle. His third rep was another excellent cutback from a single back alignment. Hasty jump cut away from the linebacker shooting the A gap left of center and worked towards the backside gap.
Joshua Kelley countered Evan Weaver’s swim move with good lateral movement and hand position under Weaver’s inside arm to ride him around the quarterback during his first one-on-one pass-pro session. Kelley whiffed on his first edge assignment, dropping his head a split-second before contact and the opponent slipped inside. Kelley worked free on a shake route that was more efficient than Anderson but not quick enough. His catch featured good framing of his hands at help level while running away from the target but still attacking the ball actively. Kelley ran a much better shake with a setup to the linebacker’s outside shoulder before crossing the man’s face and working open to the inside for a good catch and run. The extension for the ball was notably good. Kelley followed up with a shake during the stem, a crossover to the outside shoulder of the linebacker, and then a dip downfield to sell the seam route before breaking outside for the catch. Between the tackles, Kelley set up an unblocked linebacker in the hole and dipped behind a block and pushed forward through his teammate for extra yardage. Kelley made an excellent stop between the exchange and the line on a trap play where the lead block didn’t develop cleanly, Kelley still found open space up the middle for positive yards. During 11-on-11’s Kelley worked through the middle on a split-zone play and outran the linebacker and cornerback to the edge for a long gain up the sideline.
Charlie Taumoepeau opened his hips early but didn’t set deep enough to cut off the edge rush. During his next rep, he failed to deliver a punch and was pushed into the pocket. Taumoepeau got loose early on a route where he crossed over the defender early but the defender did a great job of anticipating the break and dropping to the break-point rather than trailing the tight end’s stem. Taumoepeaus next release lacked suddenness and he slipped at the break-point, breaking the opposite direction of the throw.
Adam Trautman gave up an inside counter during his first one-on-one pass-pro session. He set up with too much of a crouch and the opponent broke inside with a swim move. He ran an unconvincing stick to the outside in an attempt to set up an inside release on an over-route that eventually got undercut. Trautman initially caught the ball but could not maintain a grip on the target when the undercutting defender knocked the ball loose from Trautman’s hands. He showed sudden movement with the reduction of his shoulder to setup a sail route that the quarterback overshot. Trautman’s suddenness with tight-space movement and acceleration against linebackers was notable on this rep–regardless of the opponent covering him.
Brycen Hopkins: He beat his opponent off the line with a perfect arm-over to get outside the linebacker. He then used a good look-in at the top of the stem to set up his break to the outside. However, he didn’t attack the ball with the best framing of the target and let the ball through his hands. Hopkins failed to break free of the tight coverage of the linebacker up the stem on an over-route. Hopkins’ break on the over route wasn’t sharp enough to prevent the trailing defender to undercut the pattern.
Sean McKeon: He set up deep enough to cut off the edge rush and ride the defender outside the pocket during his first one-on-one rep. As a route runner, McKeon tried to lean on his power to bang and turn at the top of his stem but didn’t earn enough separation for the catch at the sideline.
For additional Senior Bowl coverage, check out Matt Waldman’s RSP 2020 Senior Bowl Page for a schedule and links to previews, practice reports, podcasts, film breakdowns, and commentary.
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