January 21, 2015
MOBILE, Ala. -- Day 1 of the Senior Bowl is by far the busiest of the week down here in Mobile, Alabama. It kicked off with the weigh-in, followed by a pair of practices in different locations, and capped off by "Media Night," in which we have an opportunity to speak with the players. Here are my Day 1 practice notes:
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah is a baller. He has a burst like no other back here, and is a nightmare to get a hold of in open space. There was one play where Abdullah ran a quick out. With his back turned to the defender, he faked back to the inside while he was catching the pass, then burst to the sideline and ran right around the linebacker covering him, who was frozen in time.
- One of my favorite players here is WR Antwan Goodley of Baylor, who we profiled in our WR positional preview. He's 5'10, 210, he can run and he's strong. He's basically a stronger, faster version of Josh Huff. It's tough to gauge whether the Eagles will be collectors of that kind of compact receiver with the ability to break tackles, or if they'll stop loading up because they like Huff. Goodley had a play on Tuesday in which he broke away from the DB on a post pattern, make a reaching catch on a ball that was a little too far out in front of him, stayed on his feet and accelerated up the field.
- Another receiver I had my eye on was Auburn's Sammie Coates, who averaged 21.4 yards per catch in his college career. Coates is comfortable going deep, but I was impressed with the way he used his big frame (he's 6'1, 213 and jacked) to shield defenders from the ball on quick slants. He made a few nice catches right in front of where Chip Kelly was standing. Coates will be a work in progress as he heads into the NFL, but his ceiling is very high.
- I missed it, but there was a lot of buzz on Miami WR Phillip Dorsett, who is small (5'10, 183) but can fly. I'll keep a closer eye on him going forward. I was very impressed by another small WR, Duke's Jamison Crowder. At 5'8, 174, he's tiny, but he has great speed and runs good routes. On one play early in practice, he toasted Miami (OH) CB Quinten Rollins deep for a TD. As practice wore on, he was able to easily create separation on shorter patterns as opposing DBs did not want to get beaten deep and were giving up big cushions. Speedy receivers tend to dominate in non-padded practices, when there's less contact. Also, it's unknown if the Eagles would even have any interest in smaller receivers like Dorsett or Crowder.
- Rollins is a CB generating buzz down here this week. He's an extremely athletic CB who was formerly a star basketball player at Miami of Ohio. Rollins and some other defensive backs were scheduled to meet with Chip Kelly last night.
- A couple of the other players the Eagles spoke with were CB/S Eric Rowe of Utah and S Kurtis Drummond of Michigan State. Rowe played both corner and safety at Utah, but the Titans staff had him playing safety during Day 1 of practice. Drummond, meanwhile, seemed to be around the ball all day. Another safety to watch is Samford's Jaquiski Tartt, who has the best name here. Tartt is big safety (6'1, 220) who can pop. He made a nice play on an intermediate throw that he nearly picked off. Mississippi's Cody Prewitt, another big safety at 6'2, 212, had a pair of interceptions.
- Baylor QB Bryce Petty is a name that makes some sense for the Eagles at QB, since he is coming from an offense that has similar spread concepts as the Eagles. Petty threw 61 TDs and just 10 INTs in his career at Baylor, but there is some concern over whether he can operate from the pocket at the next level. Learning a whole new group of receivers in one day is difficult, but Petty really struggled with accuracy on deep and intermediate throws.
- Alabama's Blake Sims (QB) also had a shaky first day, and was similarly inaccurate on intermediate and deep throws.
- The QB with the best arm in Mobile this week appears to be Garrett Grayson of Colorado State. Grayson was fifth in the nation with a QB rating of 166.2, as well as second in yards per pass attempt, at 9.5. He not only has the best arm, but probably had the best day among all the QBs. He threw the ball deep... a lot. I like that he had the confidence to show off his deep passing ability.
- Utah OLB Nate Orchard had a great day as a pass rusher. They were in shorts on Day 1, so there was limited contact, but it's clear to see that Orchard has a good get-off at the snap, and he was able to consistently beat a variety of offensive tackles.
- The tight ends here aren't good. One that we profiled last week was Delaware's Nick Boyle, who just didn't look very smooth running routes.
- A corner I thought played well was Mississippi's Senquez Golson, who is 5'9, 178. The Eagles obviously don't like vertically challenged corners, but I wonder if that extends to the slot position. If they don't mind their slot corners to be a little shorter, then players like Golson or Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be in play as mid-round picks as replacements for Brandon Boykin, who may leave as a free agent after the 2015 season. Golson had 10 INTs for the Rebels this season.
- Miami CB Ladarius Gunter (6'1, 200) is either outstanding at jamming receivers at the line, or he's going to be called for holding repeatedly at the next level.
- We'll talk more about the linemen after Days 2 and 3, when they'll be in full pads.
During the first practice at Ladd Peebles Stadium, Chip Kelly stood in an area of the field where he can't be bothered by the media. The second practice, however, was held at a local high school, where Chip couldn't hide. As the practice began to end, the Philly media conglomerate began to swarm, and Chip rushed off the field with the media in pursuit. It's almost embarrassing, but we were chasing him around like he was Austin Powers:
During the weigh-in, which is the most awkward event of the NFL calendar, Senior Bowl director Phil Savage revealed several players who backed out of the Senior Bowl for varying reasons, which he lumped into four buckets:
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