After a very long first day to the Senior Bowl week, I’ve gotten so much information. I’ve done my best to tweet it all (www.twitter.com/OptimumScouting) and I tweet live at the practices all practice long, so be sure to check it out and I’ll do my best to answer questions.
Outside of our usual notes that’ll be here all week, I also included some interviews. I interviewed ten NFL draft prospects with some great information on that character and injury. Also, I had a very productive and insightful talk with former Falcons and Raiders running back Justin Griffith, and he answered a lot of my East-West Shrine game, Oakland Raiders management, and the looming NFL Lockout questions.
Justin Griffith Interview
I got the chance to sit next to former Falcons and Raiders fullback Justin Griffith on the plane ride down to Mobile on Sunday night, and we talked for about an hour. I wasn’t taking notes or recording so I can’t quote him, but he had a lot of great stuff to talk about.
-First off, he just coached the running backs at the East-West Shrine game. He pointed out how Alex Green of Hawaii looked uncomfortable in the I-Formation, which just goes to show that not only quarterbacks are affected by the spread offense. He also mentioned Da’Rel Scott, who he liked alot as a compact back. Apparently the Senior Bowl did too, he’s now on the roster as well. He also said he sees a lot of potential in fullback Patrick DiMarco, who fits into a West Coast system very well like Griffith did in Atlanta. Finally, he was impressive with Tyrod Taylor’s passing ability, but quickly pointed out that he flat out couldn’t see over the line and his short passing game is based on timing and anticipation alone, as he literally can’t zero in on targets. He said he was a high character guy though.
-Justin talked about his time with the Raiders, which was a treat. He talked about JaMarcus Russell first, saying the classic concept of his waste of talent. He said that everyone in the locker room was ready for Calvin Johnson, including the front office. He said when JaMarcus came in for a workout, he looked sloppy, lazy, and disinterested, and players felt that was it for his chances. Justin also told a story about how on the Saturday before a game, the team was going over the gameplan. For whatever reason, JaMarcus had rented a $300,000 car for the night, and was completely disinterested in the meeting once he saw that his car was getting towed. Safe to say he lost the next game while he was the starting quarterback.
-Overall, Justin talked about the dysfunctional nature of the Raiders. He said the front office was great and he really respected Tom Cable because they were together in Atlanta and Oakland, and it was awful that he was fired after being 8-8 with that team.
-Justin was going to Mobile to try and latch on as a running backs coach with an NFL team, as that’s his next step in life. After an 8 year NFL career as a productive fullback, I think he’d be great.
-Finally, as we begun our descent, we talked about the looming NFL Lockout. Simply put, Griffith said it’s going to happen. He said that he wouldn’t be surprised if it lasts right up until late August. The real losers, he said, are the coaches, who won’t get paid in this situation. However, since 2007, the NFLPA has been taking a little extra money from players to save for them so that once this Lockout happens, they’ll still get a salary, albeit a severely smaller one. He said that the rookie salary cap is going to happen, but the biggest concern is how it affects veterans. On the outside, it looks like a win-win. But for example, if Sam Bradford is getting 20 million guaranteed and a 5 year contract, then most other starters are going to get that too, which isn’t fair to them. Rookie contracts keep other contracts high. Also, Griffith talked about the greediness of the owners. The owners won’t release their numbers, but the NFL makes 6-8 Billion dollars a year. He said that Green Bay had to release their profits, and they made 25 million in a recession year, proving that New York and other bigger markets are probably doing double that. They have the money in their pockets before the season starts with TV and endorsement contracts. Justin also pointed out the idea of replacement players. He said he’s talked to former coach Dan Reeves about that, and Reeves coached when the league went through a lockout and used replacement players. He said that won’t last long, as if it gets to that point, he expects players to start to cave in because they can’t pay their mortgage. Overall, he said it’s an ugly situation, one he doesn’t expect to be resolved anytime soon.
I got a chance to speak with ten players at the Media day, great time with most of the interviews being very productive.
-First and foremost, I wanted to get to Christian Ponder. He dealt with what was thought to be an elbow injury all year, but when I spoke to him he said it was his forearm, not his elbow. He said he lost flexiability and hard to bend at times, but he’s 100 percent now, velocity returned. He said they just scooped out the scar tissue, and it healed within 2-3 weeks with no ill effects and no rehab. He said the doctors said it was basically a “really bad Indian burn”.
-I talked to Kendric Burney, one of my favorite cornerbacks from North Carolina. I asked him about the way he plays and he feels that he has “gotta be physical” and plays with a “never scared” attitude, despite his 5’8 size. He said he’s still getting used to the schemes here, and I think he’ll improve over the week. We also talked about the UNC program, and he said that it was great playing against guys like Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate, and made the gamedays much easier for him as a player. He also said that this year was a great testament to the coaching ability of Butch Davis and the overall talent on this UNC roster.
-Virginia Tech Hokie Rashad Carmichael was a great interview. He was very humble, talking about his respect for the receiver, singing praises to Titus Young and Austin Pettis, and really knew the rest of the receivers and quarterbacks, showing he’s focused. I asked about his size concerns, and he simply said “that’s why body builders don’t play football”. A great point, and despite his size, his two interception day on the first day of practice proves that quote.
-I asked Colin Kaerpernick about his system at Nevada, and he said he wasn’t a perfect fit to start, but Coach Ault made him more mobile and grew into the system. He said that his quarterback coach at Nevada was great over his career and he feels comfortable now dropping back because of him, though I still seem room for improvement. I asked about his accomplishments to reflect. He said Virgil Green and Vai Taua were great this year, but he’s had “alotta great teammates”.
-I tried to interview all the Division II guys here, and while I didn’t, I got my first interview with Brandon Fusco , center from Slippery Rock. Josh Buchanan at www.JBScouting.com knows Brandon fairly well, and gave me the heads up on some things to ask. Fusco said he’s been trying to play lower, as he knows he can’t win battles with poor technique here. He was very humble and proud of the experience, as he should, but really looked at it as a starting point rather than a climax to his career. He said he’s hoping to run a 4.9 forty time and get over 30 reps in the bench press, both would be very impressive.
-As for the other five interviews, nothing major to be gained. Nate Solder said he could have played basketball at Dartmouth, but choice Colorado to play left tackle. He said he’s working on keeping his hips low this week, should be tough match-ups against Cameron Jordan. Austin Pettis made sure to point out his “five losses in four years” point and talked about the growth of the Boise State program. He said he learned a lot so far, a quick learner, and that he should run in a 4.4-4.5 range in the forty. Cedric Thornton didn’t seem overexcited in the interview, frustratingly. Nice kid, but the character issues will be there because of his suspension. He said scouts know and he understands it might push him down boards, but he’s hoping a big week here can combat that. Kendall Hunter said he’s worked very hard to get his weight to 199, which is huge for a guy at 5’7. And finally, Jason Pinkston said he learned alot over his career with Jeff Otah and Charles Spencer being there before him. I pointed out the fact about his height and arm length concerns, and he said he understands that he probably won’t play left tackle in the NFL, but said he has played right tackle in his career at Pitt and it wouldn’t be a problem. Said he talked to the Eagles, and I think he’d be a good fit at right tackle to block for “Shady” McCoy once again.
-First off, Jake Locker has been a big topic of discussion, and it’s easy to see why. Coming in he is the most talented quarterback, and for sure in consideration for the Top 15 picks. He looked shaky today, but his footwork and arm is there, and should improve over the week. The Redskins and Titans showed the most interest, and at least one scout felt he’ll run in the low 4.4s at the Combine
-As for the Titans, they were really watching Locker and Colin Kaepernick closely at North Practice today. The Titans staff on hand seemed to know Kapernick well.
– Overall, I think the Titans and Chiefs are the most represented here at the Senior Bowl, but I’ve seen Rob Ryan, Jerry Jones, and Bill Polian, so the Cowboys and Colts are represented with the big pieces of their franchises.
-As for teams not overly seen, I saw very few Jets, Steelers, Bears, Packers, and Patriots. While it’s not uncommon for playoff teams, especially Championship game teams, not represented because of their focus, they’ll need to play catch-up at the Combine
–Curtis Marsh, cornerback from Utah State is out for the practice due to a hamstring injury. He said he’ll be out for 2-3 weeks, so that kills his chances for the game itself.
-People I talked to feel that Courtney Smith and Leonard Hankerson were very impressive today. Smith may be taking over for Edmond Gates as the top small school receiver, and Hankerson is doing just what we expected in terms of being a ball grabber, tough receiver, and being a perfect fit as a number two receiver.
-On the note of Hankerson, apparently the Eagles flocked to him right after practice, we’ll see what that means, but he could be a solid fit to push Jackson or Maclin inside to the slot. He’d fit their system well, he’d be an upgrade over Jason Avant.