Steve and I are back again with your Senior Bowl coverage this week. Steve is out there with the players right now, so we'll have his thoughts a little bit later on. But for now, here's my notes as I followed along on NFL Network's coverage of the North team's practice.
The first thing on show was running backs and receivers working in pass-protection drills one on one against linebackers and safeties. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner was the early stand out, with a good pick up on a blitz from USC safety TJ McDonald. Barner followed that up by stonewalling a linebacker blitz up the middle. Barner has been thought of as a change of pace, speed guy. If he can prove he can be relied upon as an effective blocker, he could easily grow into a third down role, potentially even more.
On the other end of the spectrum was Robbie Rouse, the 5'7", 190 pound back from Fresno State. He really struggled to pick up any sort of block, getting beat on all three reps televised. It's tough to expect a small guy like him to take on blocks against guys half a foot taller than him, but he was struggling to even delay the rush, let alone stop it.
Tight end Nick Kasa, who the Redskins spent time with earlier today, was solid against straight up rushes, but struggled to adjust to any sort of inside move, getting beat there on a couple of occasions.
Safety Phillip Thomas flashed his athleticism and ability to blitz, one particular inside move stood out, knocking down the hands of the blocked and coming back inside with great burst.
Then things moved on to the receivers against the corners in one on ones. Desmond Trufant had another fantastic outing. He impressed me most out of the entire group yesterday, and continued in the same fashion today. He, like all the corners, were cheating on the quick outs early, but Trufant was one of the few that never got caught on the double move that they were being set up for. He sat in off-man and drove on the ball on those quick outs, not allowing a reception on any short out route. In press coverage, he allowed his receiver to get inside, but recovered extremely well and the ball ended up falling incomplete. His only bad play came when he forced his way into a rep against receiver Markus Wheaton. He was too hot-headed after getting worked up about having the rep and allowed Wheaton to just fly by him. He argued the ball was out of bounds and therefore incomplete, but as Charles Davis on NFL Network told him, it was a clear pass interference. Overall, he was impressive again.
But the top corner for the North squad today was Jordan Poyer. He was almost flawless in coverage, displaying good technique and incredibly quick feet in both press and off-man coverage. He's amazing fast to break on the ball when other corners would still be back-pedaling. He was beaten once on a comeback route, but he covered it as well as he could be expected, the ball was just timed to perfection and placed where only the receiver could catch it.
Utah State corner Will Davis had a rough time of it from what I saw today. On his first rep, he ran well on a go route, but failed to turn and locate the ball, resulting in a completed pass. He got caught cheating on the outside routes, Denard Robinson making the most of a out and up double move and ran by Davis.
Only saw one rep from safety Phillip Thomas in this drill. He was assigned Denard Robinson, who looked extremely slow to make his cut inside, but Thomas still gave up the inside leverage. Credit to Thomas for being able to recover and force Robinson to drop the ball, but I expect a receiver who hasn't been a quarterback for long spells of his college career would probably have caught that pass.
On to the offensive line and Justin Pugh. At 6'5", 297 pounds, he looks made for the zone blocking scheme run by the Redskins. Interestingly, Mike Mayock and the NFL Network crew mentioned a couple of times how he will be a better fit at right tackle than left, but in his first rep, he looked fine on the left side. He showed excellent quickness and met an outside speed rush easily. He set an anchor and controlled the block easily. When he moved to the right side, he faced a couple of bull rushes, but Pugh got low and got his hands under the defender, giving him the leverage to win the block. He won both blocks back to back. Pretty good day for Pugh.
Eric Fisher continues to look every bit of a top 10 pick at left tackle. He stonewalled Alex Okafor twice. Okafor has given just about everyone problems, but Fisher looked very composed and displayed rare patience from a left tackle, allowing the block to come to him and not reaching for the defender. He was almost perfect until Datone Jones from UCLA came back at him with an inside move and ran right past him. I expect it was just a hiccup for Fisher, but it will be interesting to see how he copes with those inside rushes as the week progresses.
Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner was a guy I was eager to see today, so I was disappointed when NFL Network only televised one of his reps at right tackle. On that rep, Alex Okafor batted his hands down and ran right past him without breaking a sweat.
This is getting on in length now, so I'll leave you with two final notes from the North team practice. Poyer took his success from the one on one drills into the 11 on 11 practice. Poyer read the quarterback well and pealed off his man to tip a pass intended to go behind him to an open receiver. The only other play of note from the 11 on 11 drills came from TJ McDonald. The offense ran a play-action bootleg, dragging the tight end on a deep route across the field. McDonald read the play well, not biting on the play-action fake. He ran with the tight end and stuck with him all the way to the sideline, forcing the quarterback to throw the ball away.
That's it from me for the time being. Be sure to check back for my notes on the South team's practice and Steve's take on the events taking place at the Senior Bowl today.