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Senior Bowl Notes: Underway In Mobile – PhiladelphiaEagles.com

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The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama is a huge step forward for many collegiate players as they move closer to the NFL Draft. Alex Smith and Fran Duffy are on the scene, as is Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, to give the latest updates from Mobile.

Here are some notes from the first day of practice …

8:30 A.M.: Phil Savage takes the stage and the weigh-ins are officially underway. The first order of business at the Senior Bowl week, the weigh-ins allow teams and media members to get the official weights and measurements for every player in attendance. It’s a good way to see who passes the “eye test”. – Alex Smith

By my count, 27 players who were invited to the game will not be playing in it, but all of them either responded to the Senior Bowl and politely declined or dropped out because of injury. No players were flat-out no shows, as has been the case in previous years. -AS

8:50 A.M.: Troy’s Antonio Garcia crosses the stage, and he looks the part of a left tackle. His announced weight was 293 pounds, which is still very light for a tackle prospect, but I think he’ll take that as a win considering the rumors that he played much lighter during the season. Still, I wonder if some will ding him for his 32 ⅞ inch arms, that’s right on fringe of what some evaluators want at the tackle spot. – Fran Duffy

8:54 A.M.: The crowd audibly reacts to Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon when he walks on stage. He looks like an adonis at just under 6’7 and 280 pounds. As Tony Pauline tweeted, that’s how every man wants to look. Really impressive frame, and on tape his athleticism is very, very intriguing. Not a lot of people are that big and move that well. – FD

9:07 A.M.: An interesting number to remember; Tennessee’s Cam Sutton registers an arm length of just 29 ¼’’. That would be shorter than any cornerback drafted in the last five years, and to some teams that arm length matters at that position. A four-year starter, Sutton is one of my favorite players in this class because he’s instinctive, athletic, competitive, and has great ballskills – all traits you need to succeed on the perimeter, but that number could be a factor down the line for some teams. – FD

9:34 A.M.: A monster of a man steps onto the stage in USC’s Zach Banner. The son of former All-Pro tackle Lincoln Kennedy, Banner stands 6’8 3/8 ‘’ at 361 pounds! A former basketball player earlier in his career at USC, Banner is tough, strong, and more nimble than you’d think for a man that size, and he’s got monster-sized hands at just under 11’’ long (10 ¾). – FD

9:39 A.M.: Another behemoth on the offensive line is called up in Bucknell’s Julien Davenport, who stands at just under 6’7, 310 pounds but with much better length than Banner. Davenport’s arm length of 36’’ and wingspan of 87 ½’’ are both in the 90th percentile of tackles drafted in the last five years. A lot of teams will look at his size and factor that into his upside moving forward. – FD

9:58 A.M.: Taylor Moton from Western Michigan is called and he looks smaller than I expected. Little did I know that he’d weigh in at 330 pounds! He carries the weight well, and with arms coming in over 33’’ he won’t be eliminated by teams as a possibility at tackle in the NFL. – FD

10:04 A.M.: Toledo’s Michael Roberts comes up on stage, and when I look at his measurables I remember just how big his hands are. Roberts has 11 ⅝’’ long hands, a number only three players at any position have beaten in the last five years. Arizona State’s Christian Westerman (11 ⅞), Oregon’s DeForest Buckner (11 ¾), and Alabama’s Josh Chapman (11 ⅞) in 2012 are the trio with bigger mitts. That’s pretty impressive for a tight end. – FD

South Practice

1:05 P.M.: We arrive at Ladd Peebles Stadium and take our seats in the stands. It feels good to be back here in Mobile. It’s very interesting to think about how one year ago, we were watching Carson Wentz burst onto the stage in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams. Who will be the standout this year? – AS

1:15 P.M.: The first practice of the day (finally) begins. I’m really excited about a lot of the talent on the South roster, coached by the Cleveland Browns. I think there are a lot of players on both sides of the ball with bright NFL futures. – FD

1:25 P.M.: Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is arguably the best all-around NFL prospect here this year, and it doesn’t take long for him to prove why. Early on, Howard makes a couple of one-handed grabs on passes that required him to reach with full extension. It will be interested to see how he blocks throughout the week, but at 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, Howard is clearly a name to watch this week. – AS

1:53 P.M.: It’s very early in the week, but California’s Davis Webb is emerging from the rest of the quarterbacks here. He’s got a very quick release and throws a very clean spiral. The ball comes out quickly in team drills, and while his accuracy was a little up and down, I think he was the most impressive quarterback on the South roster. -AS

1:56 P.M.: One-on-one drills have begun, and I’m focusing on the running backs and tight ends running routes against linebackers and safeties. South Alabama’s Gerald Everett gets the action going with a great route for a catch against Texas A&M safety Justin Evans. This is Everett’s home stadium, and he separated at the top of his route just like he did throughout his career in this building against one of the best defensive backs in the SEC. He’s one of the sleepers at this event as an athletic tight end who is great after the catch. – FD

1:58 P.M.: Alabama’s OJ Howard jumps up soon afterwards with an outstanding contested catch over Oklahoma State safety Jordan Sterns. One of the biggest things Howard needed to prove was consistency at the catch point, and that certainly has not been an issue today. Whether he’s securing passes with defenders in his face or making one-handed grabs look easy, he’s had a really impressive performance. – FD

1:58 P.M.: We get one of our first premier one-on-one matchups of the week, as Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor lines up across from LSU’s Tre’Davious White. Taylor may just be the best receiver in this group, and White is arguably the best corner. Taylor gets the best of the first matchup, running a hitch route and then juking to get outside of White after he caught the ball-AS

1:59 P.M: The longest play of the day so far in drills. Cal quarterback Davis Webb hit Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram for a touchdown against Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson. That’s a mismatch down the field, and on that play you got to see both Webb’s natural arm talent and Engram’s game-breaking speed at the tight end spot. Really impressive play. – FD

2:00 P.M.: A few reps later, Taylor lines up against Tennessee’s Cam Sutton, another standout corner in this year’s very deep group. Fran leans over to me and says “I’ve been dreaming about stuff like this for the past six months.” I know he’s half-joking, but I know he’s also half telling the truth. He lives for these weeks. – AS

2:06 P.M.: On to team drills now, and BYU linebacker Harvey Langi ups the physicality with a really hard hit on an inside run. Langi has good size and surprising range, but his athleticism shouldn’t be a question for the former running back. He has a lot to gain this week in what is not a particularly strong linebacker group overall. – FD

2:20 P.M.: Fran talks about his foot quickness, but look at Garcia’s knee bend and pad level. That’s another example of how athletic he is. Make no mistake, his film is very good and he’s showing that talent again today with the way he moves. – Tony Pauline

2:25 P.M.: The South jumps into a special teams period, and I can’t help but notice the effort from Engram in these drills, and he’s getting a lot of positive reinforcement from the staff on the field. He seems to be taking the coaching well. As an undersized tight end, special teams will be a huge part of Engram’s role in the NFL, much like the Eagles special teams maven Trey Burton. – FD

2:30 P.M.: There’s a huge crowd of media circling on the near sideline. That’s Alabama head coach Nick Saban in the middle speaking with reporters. He makes this trip every year. – TP

2:30 P.M.: It’s time for one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive line. Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis shows off a nice spin move early on. Later, Mississippi State tackle Justin Senior has no choice but to grab a hold of Villanova defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon. His name may be hard to pronounce (Passin-oh was the pronunciation they used during weigh-ins), but it’s easy to see why he’s here this week. He measured in at 6-foot-6, 280 and he’s built like an NFL lineman. –AS

2:34 P.M.: I took a peek at the offensive line against the defensive line in one on one drills and tuned in at the right time. Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, a personal favorite, is going up against Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon – and the local kid wins! It’s a run blocking drill, and the Villanova product used his length and displayed a strong first step up the field to get initial push on Lamp, who overall had a really, really strong day at practice.– FD

2:36 P.M.: That Lamp / Kpassagnon battle was enough to keep me locked in on this group as they transition to pass rush drills. First up is a battle between Troy tackle Antonio Garcia and Texas A&M defensive end Daeshon Hall. This is a matchup between the top offensive lineman and the top pass rusher on the two teams by my eyes, and one I was anxiously awaiting to see. Hall won with his hands early and pushed Garcia back, but the athletic tackle dropped an anchor, pushed back on Hall and displayed strong hands at the point of contact, stopping the rush cold. That was a good rep from both sides and a potential sign of things to come for the rest of the week from the two talented linemen. – FD

2:40 P.M.: Hall gets back into the drill a couple minutes later from the other side, and he wins easily against another one of the tackles in attendance. Outside of Alabama’s Anderson, I think Hall has the best ‘pass rush plan’ of all of the pass rushers on the South roster. He’s long, he knows how to use his hands, and I love his high motor. Hall has a definite future in the league. – FD

2:42 P.M.: Speaking of Anderson, I took a quick look over at the 7-on-7 action in the middle of the field just in time to see the Crimson Tide star break up a pass right in front of us on the left sideline. He dropped in coverage as an underneath zone defender, read the route from the receiver at the sideline, and met the ball at the catch point to force an incomplete pass. Anderson wasn’t used a ton in coverage with Alabama, but outside of the long pass he gave up earlier to Engram he’s been pretty impressive in space today. – FD

2:43 P.M.: Back to the trenches. Lamp is matched up on Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson, this time as a guard, which is his more likely position. Lamp dominates this rep. He locked on and never let go, completely stalemating Tomlinson’s bull rush. – FD

2:44 P.M.: The action is whirling right now. I turned around just in time to the 7-on-7 to see Howard catch a long pass for a touchdown from small-school quarterback Antonio Pipkin. Howard’s speed was evident on the play, as he strolled wide open down the seam, and the passer from Tiffin University dropped a touch pass for a score. – FD

2:45 P.M.: Whew. The first time I saw Lamp lose all day. UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes beats the former Hilltopper with a quick swim move inside in a pass rush drill for what would’ve been an easy sack. This is like when Balboa cut Drago in Rocky IV – ‘See?! He’s not a machine! He’s a man!’ Lamp will learn from that play, I’m sure, but I noted in the preview piece that I thought Vanderdoes was the best interior defensive lineman at the game. – FD

2:49 P.M.: The entire team gets together for an 11-on-11 team drill, and Ryan Anderson gets things going with a great play in the backfield, reading a screen pass from the offense and hugging up the back in the backfield to destroy the play before it even starts. Great instincts from the outside pass rusher. -FD

2:52 P.M.: Evans makes an outstanding play downfield as South practice nears it’s end. He lined up as a single-high safety and got a pass breakup near the sideline, displaying great range against a vertical route. Evans got outside, climbed the ladder and got the football on the ground, something that will certainly help his stock. – FD

3:49 P.M.: I turned to Tony to get his feel for who the best player was during the South practice. He answered quickly. “OJ Howard, for a few reasons, namely because he showed how he was so athletic, he only had one drop that I saw all day, and made catches from so many different positions. He had to pull in catches from awkward positions and with one hand sometimes because the quarterbacks were a bit erratic. It was a really impressive day.” (I agree with Tony). – FD

North Practice

3:40 P.M.: North Practice is now underway, and it gets off to a very slow and methodical start. It’s always interesting to see what tempo the teams will go at, and the North team, coached by the Chicago Bears’ staff, is taking things a little slower as things begin. -AS

4:14 P.M: Watching some of the quarterbacks throw, Colorado’s Sefo Liufau catches my eye with a strong arm. He has a long delivery and puts a lot of effort into his throws. Fran makes a great comparison: Colin Kaepernick, who has a long motion but a very strong arm. Liufau reminds me a lot of the former Nevada QB. -AS

4:24 P.M.: The North offensive line and defensive line are going head to head, and Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson beats Kutztown’s Jordan Morgan easily off the ball with his quickness. I think Vanderdoes from UCLA is the best all-around lineman, but Johnson is the best one-gap penetrator from the defensive tackle spot at this game. – FD

4:26 P.M.: Johnson is up again and tries the same pass rush move against Temple’s Dion Dawkins, but the New Jersey native stops him cold. Dawkins played left tackle for the Owls but at his size many analysts view him as a guard, and that’s where he spent a majority of the afternoon on Tuesday. – FD

4:26 P.M.: Time now for one-on-one drills. Pass protection drills for running backs and tight ends against blitzing linebackers is one of the most exciting parts of practice. Temple’s Haason Reddick is all over the place. He plows over a would-be blocker to get into the backfield with ease. Reddick has also been around the ball in team drills all day long. He’s been very impressive-AS

4:27 P.M.: Here’s a good battle. Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton against Illinois’ Duwayne Smoot; the two best at their respective positions on the North team. This is a rematch of sorts, because the two faced each other back in September in a game where both got the better of each other at times throughout the game. I asked Smoot later on Tuesday night who the best blocker he faced all year was, and he said pretty quickly that it was Moton. On this play, the two battled hard, with Smoot getting a good initial push but Moton dropping his anchor and finishing the play for a stop. – FD

4:28 P.M.: Smoot goes to the other side on the very next rep and beats Pitt’s Adam Bisnoway with an inside swim move; very impressive quickness from the former Illini star. – FD

4:29 P.M.: Now Moton again, this time against Notre Dame’s Isaac Rochell, a big-bodied defensive lineman with versatility. Rochell tries a bull rush and Moton stops him cold; he’s got such strong hands at the point of attack. – FD

4:31 P.M.: Moton and Dan Feeney from Indiana have been the best offensive linemen so far in this practice. Dominating performance from both players. – TP

4:36 P.M.: Over in 7-on-7 drills, Lindenwood’s Connor Harris returns an interception all the way back for a touchdown. His abilities in coverage will be put under the microscope this week, so that’s a big rep for Harris, arguably the most productive linebacker in the history of college football. – FD

4:40 P.M.: FIU tight end Jonnu Smith is looking much better as a blocker than I would’ve ever expected coming into the week. He’s had a solid day so far. – TP

4:42 P.M.: Nate Peterman from Pittsburgh has displayed his accuracy in the short and intermediate parts of the field as well as along the sideline. He’s been the best quarterback on either roster today and has a big chance to help himself this week in front of the quarterback-needy Bears. – TP

4:45 P.M.: Temple’s Haason Reddick bursts into the backfield for a tackle for loss in an Inside Run period. Reddick has been meeting ball carriers at the line of scrimmage all afternoon in their walk-through periods, and this is the first time I got to see him in full-speed action. The former defensive end for the Owls led the country in tackles for loss on the season, so this is not unfamiliar territory on the other side of the line of scrimmage. – FD

4:46 P.M.: Looking over to the wide receivers and defensive backs going one-on-one, Iowa’s Desmond King has a great rep against Michigan’s Amara Darboh on a comeback route. That route is a great litmus test for both the receiver and the corner, with the wideout trying to display his ability to separate as a route runner and the cornerback displaying his instincts and ability to ‘hip pocket’ in man coverage. King won the rep there. – FD

4:48 P.M.: ECU’s Zay Jones makes a great contested catch against West Virginia’s Rasul Douglas on a fade route. The ball was a bit underthrown and Jones had to outjump the biggest corner at the event to come down with it, and he pulled it off perfectly. – FD

4:55 P.M.: Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson gets what would’ve been a sack in a team drill. He’s been so disruptive all day long and honestly has been one of the top performers for the North squad. His quickness has allowed him to win off the ball all afternoon. – FD

5:00 P.M.: Wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo continues to impress in team drills. He again plucks the ball out of the air in traffic late in practice. Has done so all day. – TP

5:02 P.M.: On a reverse play during team drills, Pitt tackle Adam Bisnowaty unleashes a huge block on Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis, which allows East Carolina’s Zay Jones to get free down the far sideline. -AS

That’s all for Day One. We’ll have our Day Two Recap posted tomorrow night. 

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