In a pad-less, slower, special teams-focused practice for both teams on a Shrine Game Thursday, there wasn’t a whole lot of great information to gather. Being what they expected, most NFL teams (minus Packers GM Ted Thompson and a handful of others) opted to leave the even early, per usual.
Despite it being a slower day, I felt, WR John Brown, CB Jemea Thomas, and CB Bene Benwirke impressed.
-There wasn’t a whole lot to gain from the quarterbacks at either practice, and none really showed anything they hadn’t earlier in the week. However, I felt only Keith Wenning and especially Jeff Mathews were able to cut the wind the best today. Mathews arm strength and composed lower body mechanics to generate velocity are really impressive in person. He may have earned his way into the 3rd or 4th round for teams.
–Matt Hazel showed off his physicality at the catch point for the third straight “legitimate” practice. He and Jeremy Gallon are the most likely receivers to get drafted from this game. This week of practice certainly helped their grade in my eyes and helped solidified it for NFL teams.
–John Brown of Pittsburg State thoroughly impressed once again. Today, he (and all of the receivers), got the chance to go one-on-one with defensive backs in the red zone. The coaching staff was stressing for the receivers to force the defensive back “outside of his frame” in their short area routes. Brown repeatedly beat his man, both safeties and cornerbacks. He won on an inside-out fade in the back corner, and two stutter steps outside-in that left his defender on the ground. Brown could easily make a case for himself as the best receiver at the Shrine Game, that’s how impressive he was all week.
-Toledo’s Bernard Reedy also impressed in the draft, shaking his receiver with his quick steps and ability to stay balanced in his routes. He didn’t win nearly as much as Brown, but he had his moments, enough to merit the praise from coaches.
-While the East linebackers didn’t get a chance to show much, I was especially focused on the West linebackers and how they were able to drop in coverage. I remained impressed with Devon Kennard of USC and his ability to sink and transition much better thana player of his college background should. Prince Shembo of Notre Dame also showed the transition skills I wasn’t expecting, and Tyler Starr of North Dakota doesn’t bend at a high level and seems very inexperienced in his steps, but his quick feet and burst when he’s attacking the ball should be able to make up for it in the short area
-On the other side, I thought Nate Dreiling of Pittsburg State struggled to show fluidity in his drops and breaks laterally. Not all that crucial to his report as he’ll likely be primarily used as an inside or strong side linebacker in the NFL, but he may never be able to do it at an adequate level. The same goes for Colorado State’s Shaquil Barrett.
-For the east, the clear impressing defensive back was Jemea Thomas of Georgia Tech, who finished with two interceptions, both due to his positioning related to his receiver and his ability to play under control when playing vertically. Also adding a handful of breakups, and it was a very good ending of the week for a defensive back who didn’t shine all that much during the week. Also, Ross Cockrell added an interception, and he was solid in his transitions much of practice.
-In the aforementioned drill at the West practice in the redzone, the best cornerback for me was Bene Benwikere of San Jose State. He impressed on film at both safety and cornerback, exploding with great hip fluidity and lower half quickness. In drills today, he used that controlled burst to play physical at the line of scrimmage and force (legally) the receiver off balance. He came over the top of inside routes with plus timing, and only got beat once on a fade route, which was perfectly placed by Keith Wenning.
-I was expecting much more from Carrington Byndom of Texas this week, and he continued to disappoint in his physicality at the catch-point and throughout the receiver’s route tree. He’s fluid and has well controlled feet to gain speed/transition slower, but doesn’t get to take advantage of it often enough because he allows cushion to be eaten up far too easily. He ends a mediocre week with a lackluster practice that may push him down my board.