Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
This was the final day of real intensity and I meant to spend more time watching the line play, but I was captivated by the offensive skill positions and defensive back seven talents on the North team.
I have never been high on Mike Glennon but today was a great example of why many people project him as a first round pick. He was very good but what impressed me more was the consistency with which he played and the focus on proper mechanics. After one errant throw in a drill he was flat-out nails on two consecutive deep balls. He hit the receivers in stride with very good downfield pace, perfectly placed in terms of relation to the coverage. His footwork and arm delivery were picture perfect, particularly on a strike to Texas WR Marquise Goodwin, who blazed past the coverage easily. Glennon was also head and shoulders above the other two North QBs in a red zone drill working against air. Again, his mechanics were consistent, keeping his back foot live and getting his hips square. The arm strength is an asset and his placement to targets all over the end zone was excellent. He wasn’t perfect, underthrowing a couple of outside balls and needing an extra count to reset his feet a couple of times, and he was also coached up about opening his hips when executing a handoff so he wasn’t extending the ball so loosely. But it was a very strong day. If only this Glennon showed up more on film…
I liked a lot of what I saw from Ryan Nassib as well. His compact delivery motion allows him to gun the ball into small windows, and he has the velocity and anticipation to make it work. He got too much air under some deeper throws and was late to deliver another, but I love how he comfortably and confidently surveys the field. He naturally reads the whole field and innately understood his progressions. Watching him stand in (albeit against no rush) and look over his options is similar to the way Aaron Rodgers moves his head and eyes with the ball ready to come out right away. In the end zone drill he was very sharp on inside throws but was lobbing the sideline throws a little too highly and softly for my liking.
And that brings us to Zac Dysert. I can entertain arguments for either Glennon or Nassib as the best QB on the North this week, but Dysert is clearly the #3. In one of the drills he was the first QB to throw and had a few hits and a few misses, with most of the misses behind and low. Nassib stepped in and the difference in velocity and precision on the exact same throws was striking, in favor of Nassib. That reared its head in the red zone drill, as Dysert consistently threw the ball with less pace and authority. His footwork was not a polished when asked to dodge and move, and he was chided for dropping the ball down and having to take too long to reset. Normally that’s a criticism of mine about Glennon, but today, and really all week, Dysert has struggled with that. It’s akin to the difference between sizzling touchdowns and being a human piñata.
The backs and tight ends squared off against the safeties and linebackers in a blitz and coverage drill, and the Raiders staff deserves kudos for how they operate these drills compared to the Lions staff on the South and what I saw last week at the Shrine Game practices. They allow the backs to start from the backfield and have lanes set up like actual linemen, which more accurately simulates game situations. The clear winner of the running backs was UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin, who seemed to really enjoy being the attacker instead of the recipient. He stoned new addition Travis Johnson of San Jose State, standing him up with good pad level and really driving him backwards with his legs. Franklin also had a clear cut victory over another newcomer, UConn LB Sio Moore. The Bruin back also bested Moore on a pass route but couldn’t make the catch on a high throw. Moore appeared a little overwhelmed as a new arrival, but he was excellent last week and deserves a break for just arriving. He did beat Harvard H-back Kyle Juszczyk with a speedy sidestep move to record a “sack”.
Fresno State mighty mite Robbie Rouse did better in pass protection today. He actually prevented the sack not once but twice, which is two more than the last time. He smartly waited for Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene to spin and jolted him with a powerful hit to the side. Those two also met again in coverage and again Rouse was the victor, blowing past Greene with a nice shoulder fake and getting a good 5 yards of separation down the field. This was Greene’s worst day of the week and he has not been very good either prior day. He really struggles with contact but also can be very slow to process what he’s seeing and react to it. You can get away with that thanks to freakish speed and quickness at the college level, but in the NFL that just doesn’t fly.
Western Kentucky TE Jack Doyle is the best of the TE’s at both blocking and catching the football. He’s not going to beat anyone with speed, but he uses quick feet and sharper cuts to create some space and presents himself well as a target. As I Tweeted during practice, nobody is going to fall in love with Doyle but he will play for a long time as a #2 tight end. He crushed Fresno State safety Philip Thomas on a blitz pickup, and he was consistently open on short out routes. I have in my notes twice that Doyle is a complete hand catcher.
This was not Thomas’ best day. Aside from not being as good in the blitz drill–and he’s proven to be an excellent blitzer at Fresno–he didn’t break with as much burst as I have seen earlier this week. He was beaten on an out-and-up move and would have been flagged for a hold by even the most incompetent NFL officiating crew (looking at you Jeff Triplette). I did note an excellent jam on Kansas State WR Chris Harper, who continues to do everything well.
Harper is someone who should make everyone’s “winners” list for the week; he’ll be prominently featured in mine. I noted twice in my notes that he really attacks the ball in the air with his hands, helping out his QB. There was a rep where he went and got a ball in front of the defender on a softly thrown ball from Dysert one rep after Marshall WR Aaron Dobson was castigated by the coaches for failing to do the same and allowing the defender (UConn CB Dwayne Gratz) to break up the pass.
USC safety TJ McDonald is a player who looks very good in one-on-one reps where he is moving forward and looks inadequate in pretty much every other capacity. In the blitz drill he used a quick dip move to get past Colorado TE Nick Kasa so quickly that Kasa faceplanted trying to reach and grab anything. But McDonald’s down the field coverage is exploitable. There was one rep in particular that stood out, and it happened right in front of Niners GM Trent Baalke, who was paying close attention. Dobson, who has no discernible quickness to him, ran a fairly pedestrian post route that got McDonald spun around. To say his hips were stiff is an understatement, and his chase speed looked half-assed. Our little circle of observers all expected him to go off seeking medical attention for a leg problem, it was that markedly slow.
Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien continues to impress. Even though he’s big and muscled up, his hips are loose and his ankle flexion is outstanding. He gets from single high position to the sideline faster than any safety here on either squad, but he’s not out of control when doing so (hello Bacarri Rambo!). In an interesting twist during warm-up period, he was long-snapping and actually looked better at it than Notre Dame C Braxton Cave. On the long snapping front, I’ve been to a lot of these All Star games and I do actually pay attention to it, and Hawaii’s Luke Ingram is the best I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean you should ever draft a long snapper, but he’s worthy of a priority free agent bidding war.
Another new addition is Syracuse WR Alec Lemon, and he looked like he belonged. On one rep he ran a very crisp out pattern and snared a hot throw from Nassib with strong hands. After the play the coach came to him and told him “The route was perfect. The catch was perfect. But you need to explode up the field when you catch it”. That drew a caustic remark of asking a chicken to be a duck, as that is not Lemon’s game. The same criticism was laid on Elon WR Aaron Mellette, and he responded with a scorching of Utah State CB Will Davis down the sideline to haul in a perfectly placed deep ball from Glennon.
Davis and UConn CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson both had up and down days in coverage. Both made athletic breakups that showed good ball awareness. Davis did so twice, expertly reading the receiver’s cues and reacting to quickly find the ball and make a play. But both also struggled with double moves, overcommitting with their weight and struggling to flip the hips and turn and run quickly. Both were better than Washington’s Desmond Trufant, who plays too high.
Finally, Michigan WR Denard Robinson was finally cleared for full contact and spent the day struggling to catch anything but derisive stares from the quarterbacks when he dropped balls or failed to fight for them. Robinson is so obviously a NFL running back, but he has apparently been quite against making that move.
Tags: Aaron Mellette, Chris Harper, Denard Robinson, Jack Doyle, Jonathan Cyprien, Jonathan Franklin, Mike Glennon, Oakland Raiders, Philip Thomas, Robbie Rouse, Ryan Nassib, Senior Bowl, TJ McDonald, Will Davis, Zac Dysert