The North Squad had the first practice on Wednesday, on a chilly, windy, and rainy day at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The North Squad is the one coached by the Dallas Cowboys staff.
*Obviously we’ll start out with the big name of the week, North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz. The challenge for me has been isolating my opinions on Wentz’ this week, without thinking about the others in the position group. Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler, and Jeff Driskel just aren’t near the same level. I thought Wentz looked better on Tuesday, but the wind was howling a little bit more today. One area that I noticed Wentz struggle with ball placement a bit was when rolling to his left on a bootleg. He noticeably threw one into the dirt, and then missed high on the next one. Overall, it was still a fine day for Wentz, but he wasn’t as sharp as yesterday.
I want to stay on the topic of Wentz for just a little bit longer, as it was interesting to me that before practice while the four quarterbacks were warming up, occasionally you’d see Linehan stop everything and go coach up Wentz a little bit. I’m not saying he ignored Hogan, Kessler, and Driskel, I’m just saying that there’s noticeable interest in Carson Wentz, as there should be.
*It was another good day for the defensive tackle group, as multiple players stood out. In bag drills Notre Dame DT Sheldon Day received compliments from Rod Marinelli for the way he took over the bag drill. Day is a little short for my taste measuring in under 6’1″, and weighing in around 285, but he performed well at the 1-tech position today. He’s got some quickness and explosion, which he uses to win, but he also has a trick up his sleeve. Day consistently finds a way to win by timing the snap and bursting inside to wreak havoc in the backfield. This is something that I noticed when watching his game film, and it’s something that has really helped raise his stock this week at the Senior Bowl. He has problems when offensive lineman get their hands on him, but so far this week he’s avoided that. Based on my film study, I had a 4th round grade on Sheldon Day, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he found a way to work his way into 3rd round contention at the end of the draft process.
*More of the same from Penn State DT Austin Johnson. Penetrate, eliminate blocker, get to the ball. He’s got a real chance to be a first round pick, and as I’ve said before, he’s a guy I’d like the Cowboys to covet in the 2nd round at #34 in the draft.
*Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler also had a good day. He can add a little bit of pass rush value. At nearly 6’4″ and 325lbs he’d be a good fit for the Cowboys at the 1-tech spot. While I don’t see him on the level of Austin Johnson, I do think he’ll go in the late 2nd or early 3rd round… He’s very difficult to move.
*Over to the WR position, and it was a strange day all around. Obviously Braxton Miller is the biggest name in the group, and the best athlete in town. Watching from the press box for this practice, it was good to get a better vantage point of his route running. While he still explodes off the line and has really good speed, there’s a lot of wasted energy used when he breaks. It’s the rare case of actually being too shifty. He also received work returning punts, mishandling a low liner. Something tells me an NFL team will teach him how to be a punt returner though, because he’s got the perfect skill set. Also, on a side note, there was an end around they tried with Braxton in the team segment, which did get me excited and works to my theory that Braxton Miller would make the creativity light bulb go off in Garrett and Linehan’s head.
*It was a great day for Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo, a 4th rounder in my estimation, but we received news after practice that he and UMass WR Tajae Sharpe will not be playing in the game after suffering injuries at today’s practice. It was also another disappointing day for Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge. Despite having great body control and toughness to go over the middle, he had a few drops and is just a little too stiff for my liking. I think he’ll struggle to consistently get open in the NFL.
And now for notes from the South practice, coached by the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff.
*In the South practice it was the DL group stealing the show. In 1 on 1 pass drills, Alabama DT Jarran Reed, Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins, and Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence worked over the offensive lineman. Multiple times Texas Tech OT Le’Raven Clark and Baylor OT Spencer Drango got their tail whipped. Scouts will rave over Clark’s arm length, as he has “Arms to Birmingham” as Broaddus would say. Overall, I just don’t think he’s that great of a player. As for Drango, he’s got the length to play tackle, but he just doesn’t move well enough. As for Reed, Rankins, and Spence, enjoy the first round fellas!
*Oklahoma WR Sterline Shepherd struggled to keep his footing and fell quite a bit in yesterday’s practice, but he came out today and totally redeemed himself. He was impressive all day long, running a myriad of routes, and often times winning. He gave Samford’s James Bradberry the business a few times, routing him up on a stop route and then coming back next time and blowing by him. He’s gonna be one hell of a slot receiver in the NFL.
*Arkansas RB Jonathan Williams really stands out in the way he glides, and his physical stature at 6’0″ 223. Since he was hurt in 2015, I need to go back and watch his 2014 tape. He showed the ability to catch out of the backfield today as well, something I didn’t see much out of Alex Collins this year at Arkansas.
*North Carolina State QB Jacoby Brissett had a rough day at the QB position. Yikes. He’s a guy who’s college tape I didn’t hate, which is a heck of a compliment considering most college quarterbacks are awful. Awful is a relative term, but that’s just generally a position where it’s hard to find many people in the world who are good at that specific job.
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