Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
With pads popping and the wind blowing many prospect stated their cases while some others had a day to forget. The big boys in the trenches got more live reps and most had back and forth battles all day long.
Aaron Donald again had a productive day in terms of disruption. He drew lots of praise from the Falcons staff in early work against double teams at the point of attack, keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and battling with his hands. Donald was as explosive as ever getting into gaps in 11 v. 11 and was still too much to handle for a majority of the practice.
Colorado State’s Weston Richburg put in another strong performance, one of the best performers in the morning practice in fact. I noted a fine first step into leverage and a big upper body aiding Richburg in 9 on 7. He showed even better in 1 v. 1’s. Richburg matched the length of Ra’Shede Hageman to stand him up once then controlled Aaron Donald with his hands in the next pass set. A few reps later he got into trouble by letting Hageman get into his chest and got bent back. Richburg’s ability to reset his feet and get himself out of trouble really impressed me though. I’m won over on this particular center.
Jack Mewhort is another blocker who shined in the morning session. His drive block ability and naturally-generated power earned James Gayle a berating from the Falcons staff in their first matchup. Mewhort has had no issues playing from the right side in Mobile, which shows some versatility to him.
Another tackle who showed well is Clemson’s Brandon Thomas. Falcons OL coach Mike Tice had a few pointers for Thomas in terms of footwork in bag drills, but he had multiple skirmishes with Kareem Martin where he anchored the big end’s power rushes and mirrored well.
Zack Martin put in another solid outing, but was beaten one time by West Virginia end Will Clarke. Clarke converted speed to power on the outside and landed his hands to the chest of Martin, bulling him backwards with the power he generated. The length of Clarke is a big asset and one he needs to use more often.
Seantrel Henderson had more issues today. I counted three false starts not long into practice. He also got burned around the edge by a Trent Murphy speed rush when getting to aggressive with his feet and not staying patient in his pass set. Inconsistent as ever.
Henderson’s partner in crime Brandon Linder had a couple of poor reps. He’s still struggling with pad level and bending at the waist. He was unable to anchor a bullrush after giving up his chest on one occasion, getting dumped for an easy “sack”.
Louisville’s rush backer Marcus Smith is one I had high hopes for coming into the week, but he hasn’t flashed much of the explosiveness I expected. He also struggled to use his hands as a pass rusher today, generating little power in the process. He’s a rusher who is struggling in a phone booth and needs to learn to be less reliant on his natural athleticism.
Kadeem Edwards of Tennessee State looked as out of play as any player did. He lunged into some combo blocks and whiffed, to the chagrin of the Falcons coaches. Edwards was flattened trying to cut off a defender in 9 on 7 as well and started to drop his head. His struggles to stay balanced into contact showed up and he false started after being coached on it. For the player’s sake, I hope he finds more confidence for the rest of the week.
Kareem Martin made little impact throughout practice, struggling to use his upper body to win 1 v. 1’s.
Trent Murphy was slippery as a rusher, with blockers unable to lock him up with their hands.
Cyril Richardson was consistently narrow in his hand placement and struggled to leverage blocks as well. Aaron Donald gave him more misery.
Neither Shamar Stephen nor DaQuan Jones stood out in terms of rushing from the interior, both heavily reliant on bull rushes.
Michael Sam came into the week listed at linebacker, but got sent to linemen land after struggling in LB drills.
Dee Ford stole the show as a pass rusher. His explosiveness off the ball is no secret, but the South tackles had no answer for it. He dipped under the hands of Morgan Moses to win to the inside and did the same to Wesley Johnson around the corner. Ford blew back a tackle by converting speed to power on the edge on one rep. The way he flashes power in his hands makes me think he can be more than a one-dimensional pass rusher. That one dimension (speed rushes) was certainly enough to make Billy Turner look silly numerous times.
When he got reps with the defensive ends, Christian Jones made the type of plays that got onlookers excited. He spun past Jay Prosch for a “sack” in 1 on 1’s with the backs. He then did the same thing to Billy Turner, only to dip around the corner and beat the Bison tackle a rep later. Christian Jones’ season turned around when Florida State let him defend on the edge and he showed well there again today.
Big Gabe Jackson put in another solid day. He predictably showed well as a run blocker, once climbing to the second level and absolutely engulfing Telvin Smith. His ability to generate power from his upper body while maintaining balance to keep defenders from his chest was on display on a majority of his reps. Jackson is going to make a team very happy right away.
Will Sutton hasn’t been Aaron Donald like dominant by any means, but he’s flashed the type of quickness of his feet and with his hands to win on first contact. He whipped Gabe Ikard with a swim move once and was quick into contact and fired his hands well consistently. He still seems to be boom or bust on a snap by snap basis. In the shocker of the century, he ended up on the ground on a few matchups after stopping his feet and getting locked up.
Florida guard Jon Halapio did a number on my in-season evaluation of him (which didn’t account for injury admittedly). Halapio built on a strong first day by sinking his hips and bending at the knees better than I remembered and giving little ground in the process. The nastiness of this man as a run blocker is unmistakable as well. He’s a bully. There’s no other way to describe someone who pancakes Daniel McCullers.
The most disappointing showing of the entire day goes to North Dakota State tackle Billy Turner. I’ve described a few of his transgressions, all of which occurred while he was playing right tackle. He struggled to get out of his stance and get depth from the line of scrimmage, exposing him to speed. He lost his feet and ended up on his knees on a particular run block early in practice and struggled to come to a balance point many other times later on. He seemed completely overwhelmed by Dee Ford and Chris Smith on the edge.
Virginia defensive end Brent Urban had a day with little impact. He’s purely a gap-splitter with his explosiveness off the ball, but a lack of any kind of hand usage was evident today. His inability to work laterally also helped Blockers square him up easily. Urban also had a play where he lined up half a yard across the ball late in practice, which is not advisable.
Gabe Ikard had a day to forget. He’s fortunate the practices weren’t on a grass field or the back of his jersey would have a story to tell. He was on skates for a majority of plays at the point of attack to the enjoyment of Daniel McCullers. The lack of natural power Ikard can generate gets him into too much trouble against bigger tackles. His mobility can only go so far.
The sheer size of Daniel McCullers made its mark throughout, but his struggles to locate the football showed up in run defense.
Morgan Moses was a bit up and down, but generally showcased his magnificent mobility for a man built like a redwood.
Joel Bitonio is still a bit of an enigma, but the stickiness to his hands has me intrigued.
Travis Swanson got the majority of his reps at offensive guard on the day and performed quite well.
Caraun Reid of Princeton struggled to make his mark today. He was predictable as a rusher and didn’t generate the type of power from his lower half to get pass blockers moved off the ball.
Wesley Johnson had issues getting depth in his kickslide as a tackle to defend speed rushes and struggled to anchor power rushes when on the inside.
Deandre Coleman put in another forgettable outing, too often taking himself out of plays.
Tags: Aaron Donald, Billy Turner, Brandon Linder, Brandon Thomas, Brent Urban, Caraun Reid, Chris Smith, Christian Jones, Cyril Richardson, Deandre Coleman, Dee Ford, Gabe Ikard, Gabe Jackson, Jack Mewhort, James Gayle, Jon Halapio, Kadeem Edwards, Kareem Martin, Marcus Smith, Morgan Moses, North Practice, Seantrel Henderson, Senior Bowl, South Practice, Travis Swanson, Trent Murphy, Wesley Johnson, Weston Richburg, Will Clarke, Will Sutton, Zack Martin