2013 SENIOR BOWL GAME REVIEW:
PART I - THE LINES
by Colin Lindsay, Editor and Publisher, Great Blue North Draft Report
January 29, 2013
That’s a wrap… Another Senior Bowl is in the books after last week's game capped off activities in Mobile. And while most NFL teams generally place far more value on what the players do in practice than in the game itself, it's more than likely that this year NFL personnel people were hoping to get some answers from the game itself on a number of players about whom they have lingering questions. And while some questions were answered, others weren't, or at least had pro teams wanting to see more. Here's a quick rundown on some of the player that stood out at this year's Senior Bowl game, as well as some of those that struggled..
Zigging and zagging with Ziggy! The star of this year's Senior Bowl game was BYU DE Ziggy Ansah, who made plays all over the field on Saturday including a couple of sacks and a forced fumble. That came after a very disappointing week of practice for the one-time immigrant from Ghana, who orginally came to the U.S. as a track athlete and has only been playing football for three years. First impressions, though, can sometimes be deceiving.No question that Ansah showed tremendous athleticism in the actual Shrine game. For a 270-pounder he has exceptional acceleration and sideline-to-sideline range as he is a long strider who just eats up ground in space; he can also plant and change direction and with his long arms is a nightmare for QBs to throw over, especially when he gets off his feet into the air. However, the tape aso showed that just about every play that Ansah made in the game came on plays in which he wasn't blocked at all or was blocked by a TE. He also got some penetration when going against Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner, but just about everybody that Wagner faced all week got a lot of penetration. In fact, in normal pass rush situations against other OTs, Ansah made very little impact. As he did during the week, Ansah's only pass-rush technique was to put his hands into the blocker's chest and try and bull-rush him into the pocket. And while he did try a couple of spin moves, there was virtually no evidence of any even rudimentary pass-rush technique. Even the highlight reel sack on which Ansah forced the fumble came after his initial charge was stopped, but he was able to track down the QB after he left the pocket. All that is going to leave NFL pro personnel evaluators with a tough job grading Ansah, because so much of his ultimate grade is going to be based on potential. In fact, after watching Ansah in the Senior Bowl game, a pretty good case could be made that he might just be best suited to playing some kind of OLB role in a 3-4 defense at the next level where he could best take advantage of his ability to track the play in space. At the same time, though, there are going to be a number of teams in divisions such as the NFC East and West with more than one athletic QB running a pistol offense which are going to be intrigued by Ansah's ability to track the ball whether or not he can get off an initial block.
The other DE in last week's Senior Bowl who turned heads was Georgia's Cornelius Washington, although there's not much fancy to his game. Washington is pretty much a pure power rusher who likes to set up very wide and then goes 100 miles an hour at the pocket. And while there isn't much lateral agility there, Washington was effective getting the edge by driving into the shoulder of opposing blockers and knocking them off balance. At the same time, though, Washington did not show much in the way of ball awareness or change of direction ability; he was also much less effective when he lined up over the OT and too often was taken out of the play when influence blocked. Meanwhile, UCLA DE Datone Jones was as stromng during the game as he was in practice as he again showed a nice combination of strength, agility and quickness. As an added benefit, Jones also showed that he could move inside on passing downs and pressure the pocket from the inside.
Arguably, the player who made the most improvement in this year's Senior Bowl game from the practice sessions was Penn State DT Jordan Hill. The somewhat undersized (6-1, 295) Hill struggled in the one-on-one drills during the week, but in the actual game showed good quickness off the snap, excellent agility and a non-stop motor, although he was generally better ranging laterally along the line as opposed to getting into the backfield. Purdue DT Kawann Short also gave pro scouts plenty to chew on with a strong game in Mobile. In fact, NFL teams have never doubted Short's physical tools and he showed natural explosion and strength as he spent much of Saturday's game camped out in the South backfield. If there is a concern with Short. though, its the tendency to take plays off and he appeared to have done that in the game also. In particular, Short appeared to have a tendency to give up on plays when he didn't get penetration with his initial charge. At the same time, Tennessee-Martin DT Montari Hughes showed some nice quickness early on in the game, but appeared to wear down in the second half; in contrast, Everette Dawkins of Florida State spent too much of the first half on the ground, but made some plays in the latter stages.
On the other hand, not a whole lot went right for massive Georgia DT John Jenkins in the actual Senior Bowl game after a solid week of practice. Jenkins is primarily a NT and looked out of place trying to fit in as a prototype 4-3 DT. Nobody was able to move Jenkins off the line of scrimmage, however, all he did on just about every play was simply pop up out of his stance and engage the blocker(s) in front of him as he showed almost no ability to get upfield. And while its odd to call a 360-pound man 'dainty' Jenkins takes the tiniest steps when he runs such that he really doen't cover much ground when he does 'take off'' so to speak.
Pro scouts watching the Senior Bowl game film will also be left with as many questions as answers by the play of SMU DE Margus Hunt. Hunt worked hard and did get one pressure when he was able to dip his shoulder and drive around the outside of an OT, but for the most part, the one-time Estonia shot putter got hung up at the line of scrimmage hand-fighting with the man assigned to block him. In fact, it looked at times that Hunt was just too tall and wasn't able to generate any quickness or strength.
The Senior Bowl game was another opportunity for rising OTs Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson to show off to NFL personnel people. Fisher only played the first quarter, but nce again impressed with his lentgth and light feet. Meanwhile, Johnson struggled on a couple of running plays when he lunged at his target and lost his balance, but was close to dominant protecting the pocket. Indeed, on the majority of those snaps, the pass rusher Johnson was blocking was farther from the ball when the whistle than he had been at the snap. Kentucky OG Larry Warford also had a strong game as he continued to show nice feet and good technique for a wide-body interior offensive lineman. Kent State G/T Brian Winters also had a very strong game playing inside from the opening kick-off. Winters was technically solid, moved his feet well and showed off a bit of a nasty side; he also moved well in space and showed decent agility when he got to the second level.
Maybe the undersized Winters got a break in that he played the entire game at OG as several other G/T types including Justin Pugh of Syracuse, Kyle Long of Oregon, David Quessenberry of San Jose State, and Xavier Nixon of Florida all appeared much more consistent when they lined up at OG rather than at OT where they struggled to close down the edge. It figures that it would been a similar story for Louisiana Tech OT Jonathan Mills who absolutely engulfed people at times drive-blocking, but just didn't have the feet to cut off the edge. Same story of sorts for Cal C Brian Schwenke who was very good when he played his natural position, but struggledwhen he slid over to OG. At the same time, several offensive linemen did not have good days in the Senior Bowl game including Virginia's Oday Aboushi, who just didn'tshow much lateral agility either in the practices or the game, while Garrett Gilkey of DII Chadron State, looked like a DII guy trying to block quicker guys from BCS schools as he was consistently late off the snap and struggled to keep his pads square.
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"