Defensive standouts in North practice
I kept more of an eye on the defensive front seven in today’s morning session, and there were a number of players who stood out.
Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland might have been the best. He looked very good in one-on-one drills against running backs, consistently driving through contact and/or using his arms to work through block attempts. In team drills, he was a very active defender who was always around the football, continuing to show that his size shouldn’t stop him from being a productive NFL player.
“I think we’re talking about two inches or an inch, so I think it’s blown out of proportion,” Borland said Tuesday of the concerns people might have with his size. “If you read well, play fast, smart, physical and use your hands, height doesn’t mean anything.”
Similarly, another player who might not wow with physical measurables but makes up for it in other areas is Stanford defensive end Trent Murphy. Like Borland, Murphy was consistently around the football and making plays on Tuesday, showing his ability to quickly get into the backfield off the edge but also get out into space and make stops against runs or short passes.
Murphy told the media during Tuesday afternoon’s Senior Bowl news conference that he wants to showcase his ability as a pass-rusher off the edge this week.
“That’s what this week is all about, and I think that’s why they keep this game simple and basic to show the one-on-one matchups,” Murphy said.
While he has been active on both days of practice, he acknowledged that Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, who has been arguably the most impressive offensive lineman through two days of Senior Bowl practice, got the better of him on Monday.
“Zack Martin is definitely the best college offensive lineman I’ve gone against,” Murphy said. “He’s a phenomenal player and a phenomenal athlete. He can play both tackle and guard.”
Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman had another strong day, continuing to explode off the line of scrimmage and display strong swim and rip moves to beat blockers. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald also continued to stand out with his explosion off the line and ability, despite being undersized, to drive his opponents back in pass-rush drills.
On the other end of the spectrum, struggles continued for Miami guard Brandon Linder and Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. Linder has looked completely overmatched by Hageman, but not much better against anyone else, which is not a good indicator for his NFL future. Richardson came into the week as a potential first- or second-round pick, but from weigh-ins to all of his on-field work, not much has gone well as he looks out of shape while being driven back by smaller opponents, including Donald.
Another player on the North squad to draw rave reviews for his play Tuesday, including from Borland himself when asked who stood out to him among his teammates, was Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward. Ward, an athletic safety who is very fluid in coverage but also active in run support, is helping his case this week to be the third safety selected after Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor.
Still, Ward expects to keep playing better with each day of practice.
“I can get better at everything … coaches helping me cleaning up my technique … basically I think like every day, I’m progressing,” Ward said Tuesday.
- The most unfortunate news of the day came for Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who left South practice early after suffering an injury on the field. His agent confirmed Tuesday evening via Twitter that Colvin suffered a torn ACL, an injury that could be a massive hit to his draft stock.
- Prior to Tuesday’s practice, three additional players were knocked out with injuries for the South roster. Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee), Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson (groin) and Fresno State tight end Marcel Jensen (groin) all had their weeks come to an early end. Colorado State tight end Crockett Gilmore and Boston College offensive tackle Matt Patchan have been added to the roster as replacements, and should be at practice Wednesday.
- I didn’t end up watching the South offensive and defensive linemen do battle in one-on-one drills today, but Twitter was abuzz with how disappointing the play of North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner was. Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko tweeted that Turner was “struggling mightily” against outside rushers and looked slow laterally, which prompted me to keep a close eye on Turner in team drills. Lined up at right tackle during that session, my observations corroborated Galko’s tweet, as he was beaten on a number of occasions by edge speed and looked slow to kick out. Turner looked like a first-round pick on tape, but he had to prove himself against tougher competition this week; so far, it does not seem as though that has been the case.
- Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron drew rave reviews for his Monday performance, but he got off to a rough start Tuesday, dropping three passes in an uncovered passing drill.
- West Virginia running back Charles Sims, Toledo running back David Fluellen, Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews, Wisconsin running back James White and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon all had solid showings Tuesday. Each of them showed some good vision and ability to break off runs as a ballcarrier, while they also held their own in blocking drills. Fluellen was on the wrong side of one of the day’s highlights, however, when he was trucked through by Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey in a blocking drill.
- Rice kicker Chris Boswell had a rough day kicking against the wind in morning practice. He had multiple kicks from just 40 yards out fall short of the goalposts.
Wednesday will be my final day in Mobile, but one more opportunity to check out team practicing in full pads, and to bring my observations to you here at Buffalo Bills Draft.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Senior Bowl, Aaron Colvin, Aaron Donald, Billy Turner, Brandon Linder, Chris Borland, Cody Hoffman, Cyril Richardson, Derek Carr, Jaylen Watkins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jordan Matthews, Logan Thomas, Mike Davis, NFL Draft, Notes and Quotes, Ra'Shede Hageman, Scouting Notes, Senior Bowl, Trent Murphy