First practice, no problem for Enemkpali, Patchan and Gillmore
On a South squad that has had an unfortunate string of injuries early in the week, three late additions took the field for the first time Wednesday. Despite having to jump right into a situation where the rest of their teammates had already had two days of practice to acclimated, all of them performed well.
Louisiana Tech defensive end IK Enemkpali might be a lesser-known, tough-to-spell name, but he immediately put his pass-rushing skills on display Wednesday. He was explosive off the edge and executed a strong spin move on multiple occasions in pass-rushing drills.
Boston College offensive tackle Matt Patchan spent most of Wednesday’s practice working at right tackle, where he had some issues with speed rushers on the outside but did a good job of keeping himself in front of rushers once he could get them inside of him. He said his biggest issue being new to practice Wednesday, however, was a lack of familiarity with the playbook.
“You saw it, I didn’t really know the plays that well,” Patchan said. “I’m just out here putting my nose in on people and trying to hit and go hard and whatever happens happens.”
Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore also immediately got in on the action Wednesday, showing good athleticism to get open downfield and hands to make catches.
Enemkpali, who replaced Alabama’s Ed Stinson at defensive end, measured in at 6’ 5/8” and 263 pounds with 32” arms, 9 1/2” hands and a 78 3/4” wingspan. Patchan, who is on the roster for Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James, came in at 6’6 3/8” and 300 pounds with 31 7/8” arms, 9 1/4” hands and a 76 7/8” wingspan. Gillmore, who took Fresno State tight end Marcel Jensen’s spot on the team, was measured at 6’5 5/8” and 263 pounds with 33 5/8” arms, 10” hands and a 81 3/8” wingspan.
Bradley said Wednesday that the new additions all came in with “great attitudes.”
“I said ‘this is a good thing. You come in here, and if you can pick it up that quickly and go out and perform, what a feather in your hat,’” Bradley said he told the trio. “They’ve taken on the challenge.”
The Senior Bowl also announced Wednesday that Colvin (torn ACL) would undergo surgery next week and that Virginia defensive Brent Urban (ankle sprain) was out for the rest of the week. Though their replacements had not yet been officially announced as of Thursday morning, a tweet from Jackson State cornerback Qua Cox indicates he is taking Colvin’s place, while Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Justin Anderson was also added to the roster Thursday according to a tweet from his agent, Martin Fischman.
Tajh Boyd steps up with skills, smarts in best practice of week
While it has been an underwhelming week overall for the Senior Bowl quarterbacks, one whose improvement stood out Wednesday was Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. While Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Miami’s Stephen Morris continued to throw the ball erratically in the North team’s morning practice, Boyd threw the ball with a beautiful spiral throughout the day while he also showed he could make some tough throws moving away from pressure.
Boyd hasn’t had a good-enough week to establish himself as anything more than a mid-round draft selection, but he has also shown enough for someone to take a chance on him late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
“I feel like I got better every day,” Boyd said Wednesday in regards to this week’s first three Senior Bowl practices. “I just feel like I’m going out here and showing that I can make every throw.”
Though Boyd has been impressive at times and frustrating at others with his on-field play this week, he was very impressive in terms of his maturity and knowledge of the game during a post-practice interview Wednesday, which means he should continue to impress NFL teams in the interview room.
“I feel like the game of football is evolving,” Boyd said. “I feel like it’s just not as much (of a game revolved around pocket passing) as it used to be. Obviously you got your Toms, you got your Peytons but you can sit there and talk about Andrew Luck but Andrew Luck can run with the best of them. He just doesn’t get that stigma.
“You got to be athletic in the game these days,” Boyd added. “These DEs are running 4.4s (40-yard dash times) out here so you got to be able to move a little bit, unless your line is just a stone wall.”
Richburg makes case for draft’s best center
One of the week’s biggest disappointments from my perspective has been Arkansas center Travis Swanson. He came into the week with a chance to establish himself as the draft class’ top center, but instead, he has looked out of place. An interior lineman built more like a tackle, his height has seemed to be a disadvantage in terms of leverage and pad level this week, and he has lost more than he was won in pass-rushing drills during South team practices.
While Swanson has failed to show much power or pass protection prowess, he might end up losing his hold as the top center in the draft class, possibly to Colorado State’s Weston Richburg. Richburg has had a terrific week for the North squad, consistently showing his ability to switch blocks as an intelligent, athletic blocker. He is a strong fighter who rarely gets driven back by bull-rushes and uses his hands well to counter pass-rushing moves.
“I’m trying to prove that I’m the best center in the country,” Richburg said after practice Wednesday. “I wanted to come out and be physical, I wanted to show my athleticism and kind of show any doubters that I can do it, that I’m capable of doing it.”
Borland continues to overcome lack of height
Look at the weigh-in sheets from the beginning of the week, and the first thing that will stand out to you about Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland is his height of only 5’11 3/8”. On the field, however, there have been many things to stand out about Borland, and his height has not been one of them.
Simply put, Borland has been as good as any football player in Mobile this week. In team drills, he is consistently around the football and making plays, including an interception in Wednesday’s morning session. He has given running backs nightmares all week with his ability to beat blitz pickup blocks with his hands and strength. He has looked very solid in pass coverage drills, and excellent on special teams drills.
Borland’s lack of height might hurt his draft stock, but it probably shouldn’t.
“I think we’re talking about two inches or an inch, so I think it’s blown out of proportion,” Borland said Tuesday. “If you read well, play fast, smart, physical and use your hands, height doesn’t mean anything.”
It’s not just Borland saying that; the coach of the North squad this week, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith, said the same in a Wednesday press conference.
“Sometimes we put these measurables up as teams and organizations that we’re looking for guys to fit this mold. Some teams have different philosophies that they’re not going to take a player at a certain height or certain weight at a certain position,” Smith said. “I just think the tape doesn’t lie. You have to watch it. He’s done some nice things in practice. I think he’s got great football intelligence.”
Though Wednesday was Buffalo Bills Draft’s last day at Senior Bowl practice, we will have more coverage of the event this week and next week including analysis of Saturday’s game and more quotes from interviews in Mobile.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Senior Bowl, Billy Turner, Caraun Reid, Chris Borland, Chris Davis, Crockett Gillmore, IK Enemkpali, Jeff Janis, Jerick McKinnon, Jimmie Ward, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Lavelle Westbrooks, Matt Patchan, Mike Davis, Nevin Lawson, Notes and Quotes, Pierre Desir, Robert Heron, Senior Bowl, Tajh Boyd, Weston Richburg