Tag Archive: Brandon Marshall


NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Defense:

Defensive Line:

1. DaJohn Harris, DT, Southern Cal: DaJohn Harris was a guy that I thought was very underrated all season long and I think he opened some eyes this week. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or speed but he is well rounded and consistent. He needs to play lower at times but he can rush the passer and stop the run from the 3 tech position which is where I think he has the most NFL upside. He should be able to contribute to a rotation early in his career and could go in the 4th round range.

2. Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina Canada: Hicks may not have played like the 2nd best defensive linemen every day but I don’t think there is any question he has the upside to be one of the best players that was in St. Petersburg this week. He has all the size, power, athleticism and length that you could want in a defensive tackle and he flashed a lot of potential this week. It wasn’t always consistent, and he needs significant work on playing with leverage and he needs to develop much better technique and hand usage, but there is a lot of raw potential there. If he lands on a team with a good defensive line coach and they are patient with him he could end up being something special.

3. Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton was a late round pick before this week but I think he has piqued some interest through his play this week. He has great size and strength for the position and has flashed some burst off the line of scrimmage to penetrate into offensive backfields. He doesn’t offer a lot as a pass rusher at this point and will stand up out of his stance too often which limits his ability to move offensive linemen. He knows that he needs to work on that though and he has been improving in that aspect since the end of his senior season.

4. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: Crawford was a guy that was not very well known coming into the week but he definitely impressed me when I watched him. I questioned his ability to shed blocks coming into the week but he definitely showed the ability to do that this week and also showed up bigger and stronger than I expected. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the 4-3 defensive end position, but I think he may even be able to slide inside to the 3 tech position or continue to bulk up and play the 3-4 defensive end position. His versatility will definitely help him.

5. Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: Francis definitely looked like one of the better pass rushers at the defensive end spot this week and on top of that he had an absolute non-stop motor all week. He seemed to be the emotional leader of the West defensive line and the guys I talked to from that group mentioned him as a guy with a terrific motor. He will make hustle plays that’s for sure, I just wonder how much upside he has beyond being a rotational defensive end in the NFL.

6. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina: Robertson may not be a great pass rusher at this point but he definitely showed the ability to play strong at the point of attack and wasn’t easy to move off the ball for anyone on the East offensive line this week. He offers value as a run stopper and warrants a late round draftable grade in my opinion.

7. Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: Jean-Baptiste (or NJB as I like to all him) definitely showed his potential as a pass rusher this week as I compared him to BJ Raji after watching him in pass rush drills on Monday and Tuesday. He was dominating and he was virtually unblockable 1 on 1. The trouble came in team drills when he faced regular double teams and didn’t look great against the run (which was an issue when Baylor played Washington in the Alamo Bowl as well). He plays a little high at times despite his natural leverage because of his height, but he just isn’t as consistent of a run defender as you would like to see. He has upside and he definitely warrants a draftable grade, I’m just wondering if he will ever be more than a rotational guy.

8. Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber definitely flashed his potential as a pass rusher this week but he is too light and lean to stay at 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He will have to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in my opinion, and while he has the ability to at least be a reserve and a special teamer there I just don’t know if he has the athleticism to drop into coverage. He’s tall and pretty lanky so he isn’t exactly built for coverage, but I’ve never seen him drop into coverage before so he is a bit of an unknown in that respect. I still think he is draftable though and he showed some of his ability this week and may cause some trouble for the lackluster group of tackles on the West squad.

9. Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis looked quite good in 1 on 1 drills this week when he was rushing the passer and definitely showed throughout the week that he has a good first step, good burst off the line of scrimmage and he has a pass rush move or two that he can use off the ball to beat you right off the snap. He wasn’t as good once he was engaged though and he struggled versus the run this week. He can definitely contribute to a rotation as a pass rusher inside, but defending the run is something he will have to try to work on in the NFL. That makes me wonder if he will get drafted or just signed as an undrafted free agent to let him earn his way onto the roster or practice squad.

10. Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath is one player that I would like to rank higher but based on the week I can’t right now. He was playing out of position this week though and isn’t built for the 4-3 defensive end position in the NFL. I don’t think he’s a good fit inside at defensive tackle either thanks to his 6’7”, 282 pound frame. I think he is definitely a 3-4 defensive end and he really didn’t get to show that this week. He’s someone that I think will go in the later portion of the draft but he takes coaching so well and has a perfect frame for that position that I think he will end up contributing to a roster and potentially ending up as a solid starter in a couple years.

Linebackers:

1. Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey was playing out of position this week as a 4-3 OLB but hopefully he won’t be drafted to play in that scheme. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-4 OLB. It would have been nice if he had shown the versatility to drop into coverage as a 4-3 OLB this week, but he looked best when he was doing simple drops, particularly in the flat. He didn’t look great in deeper drops and he made his plays on the ball on his shorter drops. He has potential as a pass rusher and should be able to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB well enough to eventually be a starter.

2. Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon: Kaddu consistently impressed me with his athleticism this week and should continue to do that in today’s game. He is the best 4-3 OLB here this week and he showed that every day in practice. I never got to see him in full pads though so I am interested to see how he runs with them on and I want to see him tackle more importantly.

3. Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas: Franklin is a player that I think is a bit underrated and while he may not be a stud linebacker I definitely think he is a draftable prospect that will provide value as a special teamer and a reserve before potentially being a starter. He won’t start today’s game but he will definitely get playing time. It will be interesting to see the dichotomy between Franklin and Tank Carder at inside linebacker today for the West.

4. Shawn Loiseau, ILB, Merrimack: Loiseau isn’t a guy that makes you say “wow” with his size or athletic ability but he definitely leaves you saying that thanks to his passion for the game and his leadership capability. Whether this kid is drafted or not I would be shocked if he didn’t make a NFL roster because he is willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to and he strikes me as a potential special teams ace. I’m not sure if he has starter upside, but he will definitely be on a NFL roster one way or another.

5. Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada: Marshall is the “lesser” of the two senior Nevada linebackers but I think he might be a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate James-Michael Johnson who will play in the Senior Bowl next week. I really want to see him tackle though and I haven’t seen him in full pads all week, but he has flashed ability in the run game and in pass coverage.

6. Tank Carder, ILB, TCU: Carder made plays in pass coverage consistently this week as we all expected but I haven’t seen an ounce of physicality from him in the trenches and I don’t think he can shed blocks from offensive linemen up at the line of scrimmage. I really want to see him in full pads when he has to fill versus the run because I think that is a serious weakness in his game. I don’t think he has starter potential in the NFL and I think he will end up being a WLB in a 4-3 when all is said and done.

7. Ronnie Thornton, ILB, Southern Mississippi: Thornton isn’t the best linebacker on either Shrine Game roster but he always looked like a good tackler to me on tape and I am excited to see how he does with full pads on today. He will be a reserve and a special teamer at the next level, but I think he can make a roster doing those things.

Defensive Backs:

1. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Norman definitely had the best week of any defensive back as he regularly made plays on the ball either by intercepting them or deflecting them during all four days of practice. I like his ball skills, his size, his great closing burst and his willingness to hit people. He couldn’t lay anyone out this week, but there were two or three times that I can remember he really looked like he wanted to. I’m excited to see how he supports versus the run and how he tackles today.

2. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater didn’t have a great season this year but he had a good week of practice this week. He doesn’t have great hands but he has pretty good ball skills, fluid hips and a nice, low back-pedal. He looks like he can be a quality nickel back in the NFL and perhaps even a #2 starter at some point.

3. Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin was the second best defensive back all week for the East but he doesn’t strike me as a physical player and I really want to see how he supports the run and how he tackles. He is athletic though and showed some ball skills and closing speed this week, but I’m not sold on him having starter upside.

4. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t have a great week when he was dropping into zone coverage and he didn’t always look good in man coverage (particularly against quicker receivers) but he showed his potential as a press man corner one day this week. He looks huge for a cornerback and it’s hard to believe he is only 6’0” tall, but he warrants a draftable grade in my opinion.

5. Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: I liked Ihenacho coming into the week and I still do but he had his issues in coverage at times this week and didn’t look very fast either. He’s a good tackler though and should be comfortable supporting the run in this game. He’s definitely draftable in my opinion, but I just wonder if he has a future as a NFL starter.

6. Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Henry is someone that plenty of people like but I can’t say I’m as big of a fan. He allowed a lot of big plays this year for Wisconsin and I think that is a problem that will not be easily fixed once he gets to the NFL. He’s got the athleticism and some ball skills but I just don’t think he has starter upside at safety. I could be wrong, but I just haven’t seen it and I have watched a lot of Wisconsin football the past two years.

7. Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: Young didn’t impress me early in the week but he looked better throughout the week to me. I’m not sure where his draft stock is at this point, but I think he is draftable and warrants consideration later in the draft.

8. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy is someone I was not impressed with this week. He looks tight in the hips and is a little tall in his back-pedal, and I don’t think he has much upside outside of being a zone corner where he can close on things in front of him. He struggled in man coverage this week in my opinion and I think he’s a 4th or 5th round pick right now, maybe even a little later.

9. Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: McLeod was a bit of a pleasant surprise in my opinion because he showed fluid hips, good footwork and nice low back-pedal consistently this week. I’m not sure if that transitioned onto the field that well but it was definitely there in drills. He has spent time at safety but I think he has a chance to stick as a corner in the NFL.

10. Blake Gideon, S, Texas: Gideon had some of the same issues that Henry did this week as he let guys get behind him deep at times and he was scolded for it by his coaches when it did. He’s a solid player though and I think he warrants some late round consideration, but if he doesn’t get drafted I think he will be able to make a roster as an undrafted free agent.

Punters:

Bryan Anger, P, California: Anger looked great punting the ball all week whether it was with the wind or into it. He timed well on his hang time and the scouts I was sitting with pointed out regularly the sound that the ball makes when it comes off of his foot. He surprised me with his leg from day one at the West practices and he kept it up all week. He may even be draftable as a punter which isn’t exactly common, but he will definitely get a chance as an undrafted free agent if he doesn’t get drafted. He has a NFL leg.

Defensive MVP Prediction: Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: I like defensive linemen in these games but the interior defensive linemen on the East will have a tough challenge going up against Brandon Brooks, the talented guard on the West roster. NJB has flashed potential this week though and I think he is a bit of a sleeper for this award. He can penetrate and get upfield and he has looked good in 1 on 1 situations this week. He could end up with a tackle for loss or two and a sack today.

West Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) had an up and down day today. He showed that he could make stick throws on one hand, but also missed high some today and threw a pick 6 to Tank Carder in the two minute drill late in practice. He’s still the #2 quarterback in St. Petersburg in my eyes, but he didn’t have a great day today. I talked to him on the phone tonight and he told me that there is a fine line between being too aggressive and being willing to take a shot or throw into a tight window. He mentioned taking snaps from under center and learning to go through progressions as things he has been working on this week, and I think that he has made progress this week. He has made mistakes, but I think he has gotten better and learned from his mistakes. Dan Persa (Northwestern) may have had his best day of practice today, but he looked good today. He might have the best ball velocity of all three quarterbacks on the West, though it wouldn’t be by much. His height hurts him but he is a gamer and has quality intangibles. He will get a shot in camp, I’m just not sure he will be able to stick.

Running Backs:

I continue to like what I have seen from Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) and I am excited to see how he does on Saturday. One guy I was impressed with today was Marc Tyler (Southern Cal). There weren’t any practices with full pads this week, so it was tough to get a great feel for the running backs, but Tyler is finally healthy and he looked faster than he did on tape to me. He’s caught the ball better every day this week and seems to have pretty soft hands. He has impressed me the last couple days, but I’m excited to see him run through contact on Saturday.

Wide Receivers:

Jarius Wright (Arkansas) and Devon Wylie (Fresno State) continue to lead this group. They’ve both helped themselves this week, but Wylie has definitely opened more eyes I think. Unfortunately Junior Hemingway (Michigan) seems to have suffered a hamstring injury and may not be able to play in the game on Saturday. Here’s hoping his injury heals up and he is able to go. Greg Childs (Arkansas) has had a solid week and the defensive players I have talked to have been impressed with him. I’m still not sure if he is 100%, but I will know more after I get to talk to him at length in an interview.

Offensive Line:

Brandon Brooks (Miami Ohio) continued his strong play today. He still looks like the top offensive line prospect in St. Petersburg. DaJohn Harris told me he thinks he’s the only lineman who hasn’t lost a one on one battle this week.

Defensive Line:

Dominique Hamilton (Missouri) continues to display his strength and power, but he stood up too much out of his stance for my liking today. But he has the potential to play at the nose in a 4-3 or MAYBE in a 3-4 as well as a 5 technique. He’s been strong all week, but I’m ready to see him in the game on Saturday.

When I spoke to DaJohn Harris he spoke highly of teammate Justin Francis (Rutgers) saying he has a non-stop motor that impressed him. I’ve noticed Francis’ motor as well and I think it might help him stick on a NFL roster.

Linebackers:

Tank Carder (TCU) had a pick 6 today and continues to play well in coverage but his lack of physicality has been very apparent this week. Obviously they haven’t been in pads and haven’t been tackling, but he has struggled to shed blocks and has stayed blocked too often. Brandon Marshall (Nevada) has looked good as well, and I believe he had an interception today. He may not be flashy, but he’s a reliable football player.

Defensive Backs:

I still believe Shaun Prater (Iowa) is the top corner on the West roster and the second best corner in St. Petersburg this week. He has pretty good footwork and good hips. I like something about Rodney McLeod (Virginia) as well. He’s got good feet and hips and I think he has some developmental potential as a corner. He hasn’t had a great work of practice, but I think he has tools that a coach can work with.

West Roster Notes:

Boy did it rain a lot at this practice. Just when it seemed to be letting up it seemed to pour rain. It rained literally the entire time, though it did let up towards the end when they called it. Not ideal conditions, but there was still information to be gleaned.

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) didn’t have a great day in the wet, rainy conditions. He didn’t measure in with big hands (9 ¼ inches) so I think that as well as the rain made it a little hard for him to grip the ball at times. He fumbled a couple exchanges when I was watching him early in practice and he missed high with some wobbly spirals when I watched him later in team drills.

Running Backs:

I continue to like Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) and I think he has a chance to open some eyes on Saturday. Marc Tyler (Southern Cal) doesn’t look like a great athlete, but he sure does look strong and he has caught the ball better the last couple of days. He doesn’t look like a NFL starter to me, but if he can stay healthy I think he can make a roster and possibly work himself into a contributing role.

Wide Receivers:

Devon Wylie (Fresno State) continues to make me look like a fool for not including him in my prospect preview at the beginning of the week as he had a strong day despite the rain today. He’s not perfect, but he looks like one of the top receivers on the West squad. Jarius Wright (Arkansas) continues to impress and run good routes, but his hands aren’t quite where I would like them to be. Dale Moss (South Dakota State) has the size and he can catch the ball, but I am still not sold on him from an athletic perspective.

Tight Ends:

Kevin Koger (Michigan) got nicked up late in practice, not sure what happened or what his ailment is, but hopefully he is alright. David Paulson (Oregon) had one drop in team when I was watching which was frustrating; his sure handedness is something I like about him.

Offensive Line:

Tom Compton (South Dakota) had a solid day run blocking but he got absolutely blown by on the outside by Tyrone Crawford in team. Crawford isn’t exactly a speedster, so while Compton has flashed some upside at times this week I have a feeling he will end up an undrafted guy who will try to make a team as a right tackle. I’m not sure I saw Marcus Zusevics (Iowa) out there today. Maybe I am just oblivious, but I don’t have a single note on him and I don’t recall seeing him at any point. He looked like he hurt his ankle on Tuesday, so hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Ryan Miller (Colorado) and Matt Reynolds (BYU) continued to struggle today. Miller is going to have to stay inside at guard which won’t be easy to do at his height. Traditionally guards at that height are mauling offensive linemen who were outside at tackle in college but had to move inside at the next level. Miller is no mauler and has struggled with hand placement all week. He doesn’t have a strong lower body and has struggled a lot versus bull rushes as well. He looks like a 6th round pick to me at this point. Reynolds is a guy I haven’t been high on for well over a year and that hasn’t changed this week. He continues to bend at the waist, struggles with balance and doesn’t have the lower body strength to anchor against quality bull rushes. He’s barely a draftable prospect in my eyes at this point.

Brandon Brooks (Miami, Ohio) continues to shine as the best offensive lineman on the West squad. His size and power is impressive and he earned high marks from Coach Mangino during practice today in 1 on 1’s when he said “Brandon, do you realize how much better you are now than you were on Monday?” You love to see a prospect progress during the week with coaching, and Brooks has done that. He looks like a future NFL starter at guard with some coaching.

Moe Petrus (Connecticut) has not impressed me this week. He looks like a late round/undrafted player at this point and really struggled in one on one drills today. David Snow (Texas) wasn’t much better, and I think he will end up going undrafted as well.

Ben Heenan (Saskatchewan) and Al Netter (Northwestern) have both flashed ability at guard. Heenan looks like he is a late round pick or undrafted player at this point, but he has flashed ability here and there. He doesn’t look like he anchors very well against bull rushes at times though, and has been beaten badly at times. He might be an alright fit in a zone-blocking scheme though as he has looked comfortable combo  blocking all week and looks fairly mobile. Netter has improved considerably during the week after shifting inside to guard on Monday. I like him a lot better as a guard as expected and he has done a good job using his length and his lower body strength to anchor against bull rushes. He struggled with this at times on tape, but he has looked better this week. He’s a draftable guy that I think could end up being a quality reserve or possibly a solid starter inside at guard.

Defensive Line:

Tyrone Crawford (Boise State), Dominique Hamilton (Missouri) and DaJohn Harris had good days today. Hamilton and Harris have looked good all week, but today was the best Crawford has looked to me. He beat Compton bad off the edge in team drills and looked strong at the point of attack. He looks like he could be a solid left end in a 4-3 even though I don’t think he offers a whole lot as a pass rusher, but he might also be able to bulk up and try playing defensive end in a 3-4. More than likely he will end up being a rotational guy in a 4-3 defense in my opinion and go in the 5th or 6th round range. Hamilton continued to demonstrate his size and strength and did a good job bull rushing today. When he stays low he can be tough to handle. Coming into the week I thought he might be a nice 2-down 3-4 NT or 4-3 NT, but I think his best position is probably 3-4 defensive end at this point. He has some burst and can penetrate at times versus the run, but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and I don’t think that is entirely likely to change. Harris, though, has some upside as a pass rusher. He continues to penetrate into the backfield in team drills and has been tough to handle for most in 1 on 1 drills. He has helped himself this week and should go in the 4th round range and contribute to a rotation early in his career.

Linebackers:

I liked what I saw from Brandon Marshall (Nevada) today, he sniffed out a screen and seemed to have a solid day today in the rain. He’s a late round guy like most of the linebackers in St. Petersburg are, but I like what he brings to the table as a tackler. Josh Kaddu (Oregon) and Jerry Franklin (Arkansas) are my top two linebackers on the West squad, with Tank Carder (TCU) earning a 5th or 6th round grade from me.

Defensive Backs:

Shaun Prater (Iowa) continues to look solid in coverage this week and I think that Rodney McLeod has some ability at corner. I’m not sure what role he will be in once he gets to the NFL, but I think he can make a roster. He hasn’t been great this week, but he has been solid.

Defensive Ends:

-Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: 6’2”, 275 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Francis isn’t a freak athlete but he did demonstrate production at Rutgers, especially this season, when he produced 64 total tackles (33 solo), 13.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 5 pass break-ups, 1 interception and 3 blocked kicks. That was a stark increase from his production as a junior and while he isn’t necessarily projected to be drafted right now this week is important for him. It gives him a chance to demonstrate his potential as a 4-3 defensive end (likely at LE if you ask me) and gives him a chance to improve his stock to a draftable level or he can help make himself get signed as a priority free agent.

-Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: 6’4”, 273 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
-Crawford was overshadowed at Boise State but was a significant contributor to what was a very talented and experience defensive line. This is his chance to shine now that he isn’t surrounded by the talent of his former defensive line. He’s a mid-to-late round pick right now but in a defensive end class desperate for pass rushing talent he could improve his stock considerably if he can demonstrate those skills this week.

Defensive Tackles:

-Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: 6’5”, 305 pounds, 5.24 40 yard dash
-Hamilton could be a big riser this week in my opinion. He’s not very well known and while I personally haven’t seen him much he has demonstrated the ability to stuff the run inside at defensive tackle. Hamilton was a critical part of Missouri’s defense that bottled up a very talented running back in Giovanni Bernard in their bowl game against UNC. I really like the West’s talent along the defensive line and on the defensive side of the ball in general, but defensive tackle seems to be a strength of the roster. Hamilton may end up being one of the highest rated of the group, so keep an eye on him. He’s not a big-time pass rushing threat, but I am very interested to see how he holds up against double teams in the run game.

-Vaughn Meatoga, DT, Hawaii: 6’1”, 295 pounds, 5.02 40 yard dash
-Meatoga is another big, strong defensive tackle that I am anxious to see in the trenches. I haven’t seen much tape of him, but he’s definitely a player to keep an eye on. He’s a guy who could definitely help his stock this week if he holds up well at the point of attack and demonstrates the ability to clog running lanes up the middle. Like Hamilton I’m not expecting a lot from him from a pass rushing standpoint but his strength should be in the run game.

-DaJohn Harris, DT Southern California: 6’4”, 310 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Harris is a very underrated guy that I have been high on all season. He hasn’t gotten much love and he may not have eye-popping stats but every time I watched USC this year he was effective. I rarely (if ever) saw him get pushed off the ball, he made plays at or behind the line of scrimmage and he consistently did his job for USC’s defense. I really expect him to rise this week because he’s got NFL defensive tackle size, he’s athletic and looked pretty fundamentally sound when I watched him. Like Hamilton and Meatoga I think he will make his money stopping the run, but I think he has more pass rush potential than both of those guys. Keep an eye on him, I guarantee Harris will be making plays this week.

Linebackers:

-Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas: 6’1”, 245 pounds, 4.60 40 yard dash
-Franklin doesn’t get a lot of love because Arkansas’ defense has not traditionally been a powerhouse SEC defense. That overshadows him a bit, but I like him at linebacker. He’s not the biggest or the strongest but he has showed ability defending the run, seems to be a reliable tackler, and has flashed upside in pass coverage. I will be very interested to see where the coaches line him up on defense but I am also curious to see how he does at stacking and shedding near the point of attack. I don’t think he does that very well and if he can be reached by an offensive lineman he can be taken out of the play. But because he has never gotten a lot of attention I think he has chance to boost his stock this week.

-Tank Carder, LB, Texas Christian: 6’2”, 237 pounds, 4.67 40 yard dash
-Carder is a well-known prospect thanks to TCU’s win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last year. He’s not a very big linebacker and many are projecting him outside in the NFL, but regardless of where he plays I have concerns about his ability to shed blocks and to hold up at the point of attack. He’s demonstrated his value in coverage but this week is going to be about his run defense. If he can defend the run well and tackle well (he has a reputation as a good tackler but I question his tackling a bit) then he should solidify himself as a 4th/5th round linebacker that warrants drafting. I have a feeling Carder is a guy who is going to let people down though because he has a reputation as a stud linebacker of sorts and I think some of his shortcomings will be exposed this week.

-Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada: 6’1”, 245 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Marshall is another overshadowed linebacker that will be at the Shrine Game. He was overshadowed by James-Michael Johnson’s ability at Nevada but he may be the more fundamentally sound and reliable linebacker at the end of the day. I think he is a guy who will definitely help himself this week and show people that Nevada had more than one talented player at linebacker this past season.

-Ronnie Thomton, LB, University of Southern Mississippi: 6’2”, 240 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
-Thornton is a guy that I like. He’s not a stud linebacker prospect but I think he has draftable talent. He impressed me when I watched Southern Mississippi ruin Case Keenum’s day in the Conference USA Championship Game as well as in their bowl game. He looked like a very reliable tackler but I didn’t get to see him much in coverage. I will be watching him in that aspect this week without a doubt, but I think he can be a quality special teamer and reserve linebacker in the NFL if nothing more.

Cornerbacks:

-Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: 5’10”, 185 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Prater is a quality cover corner that can play man and zone coverage. His size hurts him a bit in man coverage and he doesn’t have great ball skills, but he is still relatively effective. He will peek into the backfield at times which helps him in zone, but hurts him in man coverage at times. He has pretty good recovery speed though, which helps him in both man and zone coverage. He’s not a great tackler but he gives pretty good effort in run support. Overall he’s a solid corner, so it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with a pretty talented group of receivers all week.

Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: 5’10”, 199 pounds, 4.54 40 yard dash
-Tandy isn’t an ideal man coverage corner as he doesn’t have great size or recovery speed to react when beaten. He does have speed so there’s a possibility he could develop in man coverage, but his value is as a zone corner. He doesn’t have great hands but he does have good ball skills and he has good instincts in coverage. He’s also a pretty good tackler and definitely has draftable talent. It will be interesting to see how he does this week. If he excels in man coverage and takes well to coaching this week he could definitely improve his stock.

Safeties:

-Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.52 40 yard dash
-Henry is likely one of the best safeties in this game and is pretty well known. He was one of Wisconsin’s captains this season and has plenty of starting experience in their secondary. Despite that I have never been overly impressed with Henry. I think he leaves something to be desired in pass coverage and Wisconsin had serious issues defending the pass this year and some of that had to do with their struggles to keep things in front of them on the back end. Some of that has to be on Henry, and it makes me wonder how good he is in coverage. I’ll absolutely be watching that this week, because if he has struggles in coverage then his stock is going to take a serious hit. His tackling worried me at one point but while he isn’t a great tackler I think he is solid in this aspect. So overall he’s a solid safety prospect, but I have my concerns about him. I’ll definitely be watching him closely this week and hopefully I will be able to land an interview with him.

-Blake Gideon, S, Texas: 6’0”, 205 pounds, 4.64 40 yard dash
-Gideon is a unheralded safety from Texas and considering Texas’ proficiency when it comes to churning out talented defensive backs he is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Gideon isn’t a flashy player but he strikes me as a reliable, fundamentally sound player. I’m not sure how much potential he has to be a starter in the NFL, but he strikes me as one of those guys it would be unwise to bet against. I am looking forward to evaluating him this week to see if I think he has starter upside, but even if I don’t think he does I would be surprised if he didn’t end up on a NFL roster.

-Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: 6’0”, 205 pounds, 4.60 40 yard dash
-Ihenacho is my favorite safety at this game and I can’t wait to see him in person. He looked very impressive to me when I watched coaches tape of San Jose State this summer and I can’t wait for him to ball out this week. He’s definitely going to be a riser and I think everyone who hasn’t seen him play will be very impressed with what he brings to the table. I think he could end up going in the 3rd or 4th round because this strong safety class doesn’t have a lot of high-end talent or depth to it. Keep an eye on Ihenacho, I’ll be trying to track him down for an interview without a doubt.

Apologies for getting this up so late everyone. I didn’t have internet access all day today and just got my internet working a bit earlier. I will be covering all the Shrine Game practices this week so check in every day for your updates on the action. Thanks for reading!

–Tom