Archive for October, 2011

Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina) vs Miami

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Last week I argued that Quinton Coples (DE, UNC) was over rated. He’s universally graded as a top ten pick, something I cannot agree with. What position will he play at the next level? He’s not quick enough to provide a consistent edge rush, he hasn’t got a strong repertoire of moves – in fact he hasn’t even mastered one specific move which he can turn to in college. He’s not big enough to move inside and play the three-technique. You generally end up settling for the five-technique in a 3-4, but it’s a compromise. There’s a lot of physical potential, but nowhere near enough evidence on tape to warrant a high pick.

Coples picked up a sack in Saturday’s 30-24 defeat to Miami. Here’s the tape courtesy of JMPasq:

Week seven as it happens

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) met Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor) in a game seemingly played without either defense taking the field. Tannehill won the day (55-28) with six touchdown passes and an interception, to go along with 415 yards passing (25/37). Griffin went 28/40 for 430 yards three touchdowns and a pick.

Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State) hasn’t done a great deal this year to boost his fading stock, but he recorded a 28-14 win against previously unbeaten Michigan with two touchdowns and 120 yards passing in difficult conditions. I have the tape of this game and will review it later in the week.

I’ve been promoting Dwight Jones (WR, UNC) as the best receiver in the class of 2012 and he again flashed consistency with nine catches for 82 yards against Miami. He scored a touchdown – his 8th of the season – in what was actually his worst statistical performance of the season. He has 687 total receiving yards in seven games, but he couldn’t prevent a 30-24 defeat today. Jones is the complete package at the receiver position and with his new found consistency should be a high draft pick.

Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) isn’t as hot right now – largely due to an inconsistent QB situation for the Gamecocks. He had just 24 yards today from five catches but did score a touchdown. I’ve maintained a late first round or early second round grade for Jeffery.

Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss) is another player we’ve been pushing on this blog. He didn’t play today because of a bye week, but it’s worth noting that #12 Georgia Tech lost on the road to Virginia today 24-21. One of Davis’ best performances this season for the Golden Eagles came in leading his team to a victory away to the Cavaliers.

Davis defeated Navy comfortably last week, today they faced off against Rutgers in a tighter 21-20 defeat. Mohamed Sanu recorded ten catches for exactly 100 yards and his big season continues. He’s a sure-fire first round talent in my eyes. He also ran the ball twice for 11 yards, something that can be used more heavily at the next level.

Matt Barkley (QB, USC) vs California game tape

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The video below contains every passing attempt by Matt Barkley in last night’s 30-9 victory over California. Game tape supplied by JMPasq.

Seattle Luck’s out, so what happens now?

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Andrew Luck: Quarterback, leader, owner of a large beard

I have to admit a large degree of shock when the Seahawks went into New York and beat the Giants. This is a team that played very poorly against San Francisco and Pittsburgh, did just enough to beat a hopeless Arizona team and for one half was thoroughly dominated by the Atlanta Falcons. Then someone flipped a switch at half time of the Falcons game and this has been a completely different team.

Maybe it’s the injection of quality provided by a playmaker like Sidney Rice, forcing teams to gameplan a Seahawks receiver (what a novelty) drawing pressure away from the offensive line and opening up space for other players like the emerging Doug Baldwin? Maybe it’s a case of the offensive line – robbed of crucial work time with Tom Cable during the lockout – suddenly starting to play like a group that warranted the high level of investment?

Whatever the reason, suddenly what looked like the NFL’s worst offense in week two is now doing quite well. The defense continues to thrive against the run and while consistent pressure is not being created on passing downs, Chris Clemons continues to produce sacks to draw attention away from the reality that Seattle’s pass rush still needs improving.

They had a bit of luck against New York – the kind of luck that was maybe lacking to crown that comeback against the Falcons. The end result, for better or worse, is zero luck . Andrew Luck. He is but a distant memory for those who at one point projected – not unfairly – that the Seahawks may be worst team in the NFL this year. That isn’t going to happen. Even two wins might be too much of an ask for Indianapolis, Miami or even struggling St. Louis. This Seahawks team will not ‘lose out’ from here, particularly with four NFC West games remaining on the schedule including two meetings with the imploding Rams.

This is a draft blog, so what questions should we ask for the long term future if the team is experiencing an upturn in form? One thing remains, unmoved – unchanged. Regardless of improved play from Tarvaris Jackson, this team needs to draft a quarterback. People can try and believe there’s some magic winning formula that doesn’t include an upper echelon quarterback, but consistent winning does coincide with owning an elite trigger man. Undoubtedly the best way to secure that quarterback is to draft one early in the first round. Not just any random player, the right player. It just so happens that more often than not in the modern era of scouting and public attention, the right players are identified and leave the board early.

Perhaps Jackson (or Charlie Whitehurst) does enough to remove the previously hideous prospect of this being anything more than a one-year fix at the position post-Matt Hasselbeck? Ideally you’re not starting the rookie, but then ideally you’re not starting a freshman quarterback in college and that’s something Pete Carroll didn’t shirk away from. This is a young team, it might as well have a young quarterback, right? Let’s just draft a guy first before we get into that.

So working under the assumption Seattle is improving enough to at least be competitive, what is realistic for the rest of the season? Can they go to Cleveland after the bye and beat a Browns outfit experiencing a similar transitional period under a new front office? Have they got the momentum to follow it up by beating another young team in Cincinnati at home? At 4-3 you wouldn’t be intimidated by a trip to Dallas, right?

Suddenly your imagination runs wild when a mere seven days ago only the most optimistic of fans would be predicting anything but a 1-4 record going into the bye week.

People were considering the draft this season earlier than maybe they ever had before. It wasn’t just Andrew Luck, the question being thrown around was basically ‘is this team bad enough to finally get a good quarterback?’ It’s now switched, with people now considering whether this team will end up being too good to draft a good quarterback. Quite the turn around.

Interestingly I’ve had more people asking about defensive lineman on Twitter and via email since the Giants win. It seems like a world of possibility has opened up at other positions, while one has potentially been slammed shut at quarterback. Are the Seahawks going to win their way out of drafting a franchise QB?

I look at this two ways. Firstly, while the win over New York was impressive, there’s still a lot of mystery about this team. We’ve seen so many extremes – really bad, really good, incredibly mediocre and superb. What’s the truth? Is it somewhere in the middle? Basically a middle of the road situation? Win the next two and people will be talking about the playoffs. Lose the next two and people will start asking about Andrew Luck again. Either appears to be a realistic possibility, meaning guarded optimism may be the best approach.

Secondly, what should we make of the quarterback situation if the team does continue to improve? Hyperbole about an other worldly group of quarterbacks in 2012 has died a death – hardly anyone is saying that anymore. People clung to Ryan Tannehill but that settled down quickly. Now Mel Kiper is claiming Robert Griffin III is a first rounder, an assesment I respect but don’t agree with at all. I’ve never moved from this being a two-horse race in round one with Luck and Matt Barkley. Should Barkley return to USC (very possible) what are we left with? Even against a rank bad Texas, I found issues with Landry Jones. When you look at the tape (see below) he makes some nice throws. The play action on the first offensive snap was well executed to allow the receiver an opportunity to make the most of the situation.

He’s mastered the left side fade to Kenny Stills and goes to it often with a degree of success. It’s a scripted play that wouldn’t work this regularly at the next level, but college teams are so focused in on Ryan Broyles Oklahoma can pair him next to Stills and Jones just has to pump the flare or short route to create the space downfield. Florida State got caught watching Broyles and so did Texas at the weekend. A pro team would see that play work against FSU and work to remove it, Texas failed to do this. It’ll be interesting to see if Oklahoma can keep going back to that play.

Jones is at his best in the shotgun, not needing to move his feet (or using a basic three step drop from the gun) and directing traffic from a clean pocket. In that environment, he’s able to pick his passes and move the ball. If you notice the vast majority of his snaps come with very little movement or footwork and he’s afforded a clear vision of his routes and what’s available. He benefits from this as much as Oklahoma benefits from his talent as a passer, but he’s sharp when protected and the misses are outnumbered by the crisp slants and solid intermediate completions. He won’t enjoy such luxuries in the NFL.

Let’s talk about the issues with his play…. He’s less mobile than I originally considered based on 2011 tape and knowing that he can’t move away from pressure he panics. Look at 1:24 on the video below and tell me that’s the level of composure you want to see against a one man rush in the QB’s line of vision? Jones has a huge zone of space in front of him to step into the pocket taking the defensive end out of the play and buying more than enough time to complete a pass. Instead, he panics and bails on the play. He looks so uncomfortable running with the ball (see the bootleg at at 1:52) and he’s not going to extend plays consistently using his feet.

In all but one game I’ve watched of Jones he consistently fails to check out of a deep pass in good coverage. I’m not sure if he’s just too zoned in on specific calls or whether it’s a decision making or progression problem, but I hate seeing him throw careless deep balls to receivers who have no reason to expect the pass to come their way in double coverage. Also, if the deep route is receiving extra attention there should be a nice single coverage options if not on a second or third receiver, then certainly to your checkdown whether that’s a back or one of the wide outs.

I was a fan of Ryan Mallett last year – a player you would never describe as ‘elusive’. Technically, however, Mallett was a surgeon in the pocket with an arm to die for. He was clinical, precise and for all his well advertised flaws had an excellent football brain. What’s more he was an extreme big play threat, providing that rare ‘touchdown with one pass’ ability anywhere on the field. You could bring the heat against Mallett, but you ran the risk of being burned. Jones isn’t anywhere close to that level of polish and he lacks the excellent physical skills and big play ability. Very little was scripted about Mallett’s game in a complex pro-style offense and despite his awful straight line speed he did a better job – in my opinion – avoiding pressure to extend plays than we see from Landry Jones. They are very different prospects, despite having one similar weakness.

What is slightly contradictory about this is Jones’ ability to operate a great screen game under pressure. It’s hard to diagnose Oklahoma are going to run a screen, a team will have Jones in a difficult situation yet he has a knack of one tilt of the arm and dumping off to a receiver or running back. It’s completely deceptive and brilliant – something clearly the Sooners spend a lot of time on. How much of this will reciprocate to the next level? I’m unsure, but one of the big problems I have with Jones is the little things he’s mastered through game planning and execution (screens, left side fade after a pump fake) are too basic to work with such regularity in the NFL. Can he open his game out, or will he be found out instead?

Tape supplied by JMPasq

It’s important to mention at this stage that some people do view Jones as a potential high pick. He’s high on both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper’s boards, Tony Pauline on the other hand had a pre-season grade of round four. My own view is round 2-3, but I can see a situation where he can go much higher. I have to say I hope that’s the case, particularly if it allows a player like Matt Barkley (should he declare) to remain available later on. I can also see a situation where I’m proven somewhat correct about Jones and while he might be the 3rd best quarterback available next year, the Seahawks and several other teams are faced with a dilemma of possibly committing to someone perhaps not worthy of the investment – a potentially fatal mistake if it backfires – or again ignoring the position.

Do they wait until later, again ignoring the most important position in the NFL? By next April it’ll be 19 years since the Seahawks last drafted a quarterback in round one, an astonishing fact. Some fans will have witnessed the drafting of Rick Mirer in 1993 and since had children that are now in college. Incredible. There are players who will be available later on – such as Southern Miss QB Austin Davis – with starting potential down the line. Can the Seahawks afford to coast along at quarterback until such a player is deemed ready to start? If that’s the plan, will Josh Portis be afforded the opportunity to stake his claim?

I suspect this isn’t going to be a deep draft pool of high end talent. In fact, as things stand today it’s the weakest looking class I’ve covered to date. Undoubtedly it’ll be glorified due to the presence of one brilliant prospect in Andrew Luck. I come to this conclusion – if the Seahawks really are a bad team that picks in the top 5-10 range, for pity’s sake take a quarterback. If the Seahawks are middling or – heaven forbid – back in the post season… do what it takes to ensure one of two excellent quarterback prospects in Luck or Barkley are swapping California for Seattle. Yes it may be very expensive. It may take a deal of worrying proportions to get it done. Sure, maybe fortune favors the conservative and ‘the guy’ just falls into your lap like Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. I wouldn’t necessarily take that chance, you have to be pro-active.

The dreaded situation would be one that is almost permanently short term. Stop gap is a more frightening word than short term, but that’s what it would always be. Seattle won’t get anywhere looking for their version of Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee without the Jake Locker waiting in the wings. Carson Palmer in the 2011 off season for a modest price in preparation of drafting a quarterback in 2012? Sure, why not. Carson Palmer as a justification for looking at other positions next April in a pre-draft trade? Not so keen. Tarvaris Jackson is a guy who truly deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s done so far in getting on with things in a difficult situation. Even so, rightly or wrongly he is never going to be accepted as anything but a seat warmer for an eventual successor.

This Seahawks team has shown a lot of promise, a lot of improvement and it has – with Pete Carroll – got an identity. It deserves a proper investment at the quarterback position to really get things moving.

Alexander, Lewis catch the eye against struggling Texas

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Frank Alexander enjoyed playing against Texas

A cautionary note here: the tape you see below is very impressive. You will see two Oklahoma defensive lineman dominating their opponents in a manner which will leave you impressed and hoping they’ll swap red for blue next season when they enter the NFL. What’s more, they’re both possible scheme fits in Seattle – which kind of helps.

However, try not to read too much into what you see – at least only on this evidence. The Texas team they were facing is a complete mess. The offensive performance in the game was quite frankly unacceptable for a school with the well earned reputation Texas has. The Longhorns are used to promoting NFL talent and winning football games with style, yet this current version is so bad you’re tempted to question what on earth is going on?

Partly it’s down to two freshman quarterbacks who clearly are nowhere near ready to start sharing the responsibility of trying to create something like a functioning offense. It’s not working, but it’s not just down to the quarterbacks. The effort, the organisation, the playcalling is so bad it makes a mockery of the ridiculous #11 AP ranking Texas carried into the game where they were blown out by the Sooners 55-17 – a scoreline that totally flatters the Longhorns.

Frank Alexander (Senior DE, 6-4 255lbs) had three sacks and flashed the kind of range, technique and speed to warrant serious LEO consideration. He now has 5.5 sacks for the season after a seven sack campaign last year. Ronnell Lewis (Junior DE/LB, 6-2 244lbs) is probably too small to play in a four man front as a LEO, but could offer a long term option at outside linebacker while playing some rush downs up front in certain situations. Lewis had two sacks in the game, taking his tally to 3.5 for the season.

Watch the videos, enjoy, keep this pair in your minds for the future as Oklahoma move through their schedule with some tougher tests ahead against much greater offensive opponents. You can only beat what’s in front of you, but this shambolic Texas team was no match for a Sooners defense which is under rated and fun to watch. What we have to judge now is whether this was a case of a serious difference in class for one week, or whether players like Alexander and Lewis are capable of adding a needed boost to the sadly lacking group of talented defenders shaping up to be part of the 2012 draft class.

Tape supplied by JMPasq

Year of the wide receiver?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Dwight Jones is pretty good

With a cluster of talented players, 2012 could be a big year for the receiver position. Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina) is my top rated wide out so far but he tops a long list of players who are primed to hear their names called early next April. Although the class lacks a true ‘freak of nature’ type in the form of A.J. Green and Julio Jones (Robert Woods (WR, USC) appears to be the next in line for such a grade, however as a true sophomore he will not be eligible for the 2012 draft) but this is still a deep group with several players likely to go in the first two rounds.

Dwight Jones (WR, UNC)

Jones is the complete package, whether you’re talking about physical size (6-4, 225lbs), speed, ability to adjust to the football and make difficult catches, YAC threat, fluidity as an open field runner, a hands catcher who doesn’t drop easy passes and big play ability. He previously lacked consistent production, but he’s started the 2011 season with 605 yards and seven touchdowns in his first six games (better production than Justin Blackmon so far).

I have no issues projecting Jones as a someone with true top 10-15 potential. For team’s like St. Louis who lack a consistent do-it-all go-to receiver for their young quarterback, this is a player who truly fits the bill.

 

 

 

Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)

At his best Blackmon reminds me of Roddy White – with similar all round skill set and physical qualities (he’s 6-1, 211lbs – White is an inch shorter and a pound heavier). Unfortunately there are too many little things that bug me about Blackmon to really promote him into the top-10/15 bracket with Dwight Jones. For starters – contrary to popular opinion – he will drop the occasional easy pass. His mass-production at Oklahoma State clouds this fact a little bit, but he’s not a pure hands catcher who’s always going to be that reliable target. He does pair this frustrating streak with spectacular plays and his body control when catching the ball – particularly in the red zone – is fantastic.

You want to see a level of intensity at the position and Blackmon has a competitive streak. Combine that with experience running a variety of routes – most of which he’s mastered – an excellent double move and enough speed to be a deep threat and it’s easy to see why Blackmon will be a first round pick next April. He’s not a rare talent and won’t run a stunning forty yard dash, so his stock in my view will remain in the 16-32 range along with Alshon Jeffery (see below). 

Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)

Another big bodied wide out at 6-4 227lbs, Jeffery has great control for his size when locating the football to make downfield plays. He’s deceptive in that it takes him a while to get up to full speed, often surprising the defensive back who’s caught a bit flat footed from the initial break. There’s a bit of Jonathan Baldwin to Jeffery, but I actually prefer Baldwin’s potential because he was a little more explosive and had superior deep speed. Jeffery doesn’t have the same effort problems and is considered to be a hard worker and integral part of the South Carolina team. Yet without those surprising athletic abilities for a big receiver, it’s difficult to project him as anything more than a really solid #2 wide out at the next level.

His production suffered for a patch this season when Stephen Garica was starting and playing like a guy who’s spent the entire off season in chaos (which he has). Receivers rely a lot on stable quarterback situations to maximise their draft potential and Jeffery is unlikely to match his 1517 yard effort from 2010. He may not be the universal top ten pick many are projecting, but he’s certainly a player who will find a home in the first round.

A.J. Jenkins (WR, Illinois)

This was my first opportunity to watch Jenkins – he’s one of only two wide outs to have more yards than USC’s Robert Woods so far. Like Dwight Jones he’s entered his senior year without really maxing out his potential so far, but with 815 yards in six games including seven touchdowns – he’s become the focal point of Illinois’ offense. Having entered the season with a nominal grade in the late rounds or even as an UDFA, this is an impressive response. A consistent hands catcher with good deep speed who runs relatively good routes will interest NFL teams and he could be a surprise riser this year who breaks into the top band of draftable receivers.

The one thing he does need to do is add some muscle. He tends to get pushed around a lot and to cope at the next level, he’ll need greater upper body strength.

Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)

A true all rounder who could be used on running downs, trick plays and on special teams – Sanu has developed into an excellent pure receiver who offers rare benefits as a blocker. I’ve been a fan of Sanu’s ever since his freshman season and have tracked his progress since. Continual quarterback controversies at Rutgers threatened to stall his career, but it’s pleasing to see that he’s come through it strongly and is reaping the benefits of a more settled environment in 2011. Sanu has 45 catches for 455 yards and five touchdowns this year – in the entire 2010 season he had 44 catches for 418 yards and just two touchdowns. The difference is palpable.

Sanu’s biggest asset aside from the physical qualities are his hands and experience running a full route tree. Teams will be able to utilise his speed downfield while also finding ways to get him the ball in open space – he could be a 6-2, 215lbs version of Percy Harvin in that regard, but I see him developing into a very dangerous complete wide out in the right system. An under rated player with undisputed first round ability in my mind.

Jeff Fuller (WR, Texas A&M)

Fuller has first round tools and may well play his best football at the next level. However, he’s had a disappointing start to the 2011 season and I’ve had to downgrade him from a player with top-15 potential to borderline first round pick. The Aggies have switched to a pure spread system using a lot of option reads and screen passes, which has taken away a lot of Fuller’s effectiveness so far. He’s still making catches (27 receptions) but not for big yardage (280 yards). To compare, last season he was recording 14.8 yards per catch, it’s now down at 10.4 yards.

He’s still the one player last season who gave Patrick Peterson a headache and if his production picks up throughout A&M’s remaining schedule, there’s still a chance he could get back into round one contention.

Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech)

The triple threat offense accounts for big downfield plays from it’s receivers when the cornerbacks cheat up in run support, but it doesn’t provide a steady stream of receptions. It’s the main reason Stephen Hill’s had an up and down year in terms of production in 2011. Even so, the Yellow Jackets have created a production line of talented, physically excellent receivers and Hill is no different.

He’s only a junior but may turn pro if he receives a high grade from the draft committee. He’s capable of the spectacular, but he lacks the kind of polish seen with players like Dwight Jones. He’s not a huge guy at 6-5, 210lbs – but if he combines it with a fast forty yard dash (which he’s capable of doing) his stock will sky rocket. Hill also has the frame to add a bit of extra weight without losing any of his quickness.

Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)

Off the field issues concern me about Floyd, particularly the chaos that followed him from the end of last season to finally taking the field in 2011. We’ll not dwell on that now, because his production has been good for Notre Dame and it’s testament to his natural physical talent that there’s been no side affects to all of the problems away from the game and time spent away from practise.

However, good production won’t hide those problems in the eyes of NFL teams and I maintain that Floyd isn’t so good that they’ll be swept under the carpet. He’s a big guy with big production, but he’s a sloppy route runner who still body catches too much for my liking. He won’t run a blazing time at the combine and he didn’t receive a particularly favorable report from the draft committee when he was considering entering this year’s draft.

Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)

Wright has actually been a consistent performer for Baylor over the years, but with Robert Griffin III’s recent boost in popularity suddenly his top target is getting some deserved attention. Just behind Robert Woods for receiving yards this year, Wright has been in sensational form with 690 yards and eight touchdowns in just five games.

At 5-10 and 190lbs he’s smaller than the other receivers listed here, but he has track speed and presents a real deep threat ability. His complete game will need polish because he’s not a strong route runner and he wastes time getting into his breaks, but he could offer an instant boost on kick returns and on deep routes.

Honorable mentions: Juron Criner (WR, Arizona), Nick Toon (WR, Wisconsin), Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma)

Quinton Coples is over rated

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Quinton Coples: Unimpressive pass rusher and painful looking tattoo's

I’ve just finished watching the Louisville vs North Carolina game from Saturday, focusing on UNC defensive lineman Quinton Coples. I’ve never been that impressed when I’ve watched him in the past, but this was a game I thought he had a chance to dominate. Louisville are struggling a bit – losing at home to Marshall the previous week and starting a freshman left guard who had only recently converted from defense.

However, much to my disappointment, Coples was again largely ineffective. This is a player everyone is touting as the best defensive prospect for 2012 – without fail. A lot of high profile pundits have Coples ranked very highly – he’s #2 on Mel Kiper’s big board and several others have him in the top five of their mock drafts. Sorry, but I don’t see a top five pick when I watch Quinton Coples. I’m not even convinced I see a player with first round potential period.

One of the biggest problems I have with him is figuring out what kind of player he’ll be at the next level. He’s not a great speed rusher or a player who creates consistent pressure with technique, power or by mastering one particular move. That says to me you’re fighting a losing battle trying to force him into a right end role in the 4-3 (the position he mostly plays for North Carolina). He’s about 275-280lbs which isn’t ideal size to kick inside and play three technique where I think he’d really struggle against the run and would have major problems against interior blocking. I end up looking at the five technique position, but even then I’m not completely convinced because he doesn’t do a great job shedding blocks after engaging an offensive lineman. He can hold the point of attack to free up room for on-rushing linebackers, which is probably why I settle for the orthodox 3-4 five-tech with some remaining suspicion.

Whatever position you think he fits, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that this guy is worth the hype. He might be the most over rated 2012 draft eligible player – which says a lot given who he’s competing with for that honor.

Case in point… it’s third down on Louisville’s 5 yard line in the first quarter and Coples is playing right end. There’s no explosion off the snap and he engages the left tackle but can’t beat him round the edge. He tries a move to pull inside, but the tackle just passes him off to the freshman guard who just completely stones him still with a two hand punch to the chest. It was such a laboured move that didn’t threaten either offensive lineman – initial burst lacking, not enough speed and he’s beaten for power by a guard who’s learning the position on the run.

Coples doesn’t play with any real urgency or fire. He could make up for a lack of edge speed by just competing at 100% and flashing the kind of power you expect from someone at 280lbs and 6-6, but it’s never there. He hasn’t got a bull rush. He hasn’t got a spin move. He hasn’t got a good club or swim. What does he bring to the table other than a big frame and above average athleticism for that size? His hand usage needs to be much better, too often he gets tied up with a lineman when a sudden jolt or a club would free him up to get that extra space needed to work into the backfield. I don’t see a guy who finishes plays – the one time he did have an effective splash it was only to jolt the running back backwards for another defender to complete the move. Coples beat a converted wide out playing tight end who was hopelessly misplaced in that situation, hardly a moment worthy of great praise.

Another big problem I have is how often Coples is subbed out of the game. I didn’t keep an official count but he seems to be in on around 60% of the defensive snaps, switching with Donte Paige-Moss. Really?A top five pick who plays right end but you’re subbing him out for four consecutive plays when Louisville have moved from their own 35 to inside UNC territory? It would’ve been five plays but for a time out. I think back to defensive lineman I’ve watched in recent years and rated highly and how ridiculous it would be to think of those guys stood watching from the sidelines on key first downs. That’s Coples for you. Why? Does he get tired easily? Are the coaches not telling us about an injury? Is it a conditioning issue?

I’ve been critical of other players in the past for relying on speed and not mastering a technical move or owning a strong repertoire (eg another former Tar Heel – Robert Quinn). Coples doesn’t have the speed or the moves. He looks so laboured as a pass rusher, without lacking the obivous qualities to move inside. To some degree he reminds me of a poor man’s Carlos Dunlap – who has almost identical size at 6-6, 277lbs. During his time at Florida, Dunlap was pretty frustrating because he had excellent physical qualities but coasted through games. Every now and again though he’d turn it on for a series and look like an elite prospect. He went from a potential top-10 pick to a late second rounder, taken by Cincinnati, mainly due to attitude and inconsistency.

It was a bit of a wake up call for Dunlap, who registered 9.5 sacks in an impressive rookie season for the Bengals. Coples’ all round play reminds me of the worst of Dunlap, just without the ability to really turn it on every now and again. If the elite potential is there, then maybe I could buy into a little of the hype. Sometimes a guy’s best football really is in the pro’s. With Coples, I just can’t see it. He looks like a player I’d possibly take the chance on in round two (like Dunlap) but wouldn’t invest much more based on his body of work so far.

With regards to the Seahawks, I don’t see how he fits into the scheme and projecting him to Seattle would be a misguided projection in my mind. He isn’t a LEO candidate or a player who could spell the Red Bryant position. I don’t see him moving inside to the three technique.

I’m surprised so many people are willing to throw Coples into the top five of a mock draft or big board. The only thing more confusing to me is how established draft pundits actually give his time-share buddy Donte Paige-Moss a first round grade – a player who at no point during his career has flashed anything but average pass rushing ability and mid-to-late round qualities. Is it the real lack of elite defensive talent and people need someone to invest their faith in? I’m not sure, but I’d keep looking for a defensive player worthy of the grade.

The real stars on UNC’s defense come at linebacker and Zach Brown is a proper first round prospect (see video below, courtesy of JMPasq). In this game he was again all over the field, showing great recognition skills and the physical qualities to react and make an impact as the play develops. He had an interception reading the QB like a book and showed surprising strength when engaging lineman as a pass rusher.

Alongside receiver Dwight Jones, Brown is the Tar Heel who excites me the most in terms of the draft. Certainly I don’t see Coples being an early pick as the foregone conclusion many appear to have drawn. There’s still plenty of time for this assesment to change and certainly he has time to add to the 2.5 sacks he has this year (2.0 came against James Madison in week one). A major improvement is needed however to come anywhere near to justifying the lofty expectations.

Austin Davis spring game helmet cam

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Austin Davis Helmet Cam Spring Game from Steven May on Vimeo.

Week six as it happens – Oklahoma hammers Texas

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Landry Jones enjoyed beating a high school team wearing Texas jerseys

I’ve just finished watching Oklahoma vs Texas – a completely one sided game that made it difficult to learn anything new about Landry Jones. He made some pretty throws, particularly on fade routes to the left looking for Kenny Stills, but he also missed a few times and had a lot of unnecessary drops from his receivers. He ended 31/50 for 367 yards and three touchdowns – but I can’t say I learned any more about him against a shambolic Longhorns outfit. The game ended 55-17, but Oklahoma probably should’ve won 70-0.

When he’s given time in the pocket and when most of the work is done pre-snap, Jones looks sharp. He’s capable of precise throws, he can put it into a tight window or simply just make life easy for his receivers. Unfortunately it’s inconsistent and he will miss in the same comfortable environment too. There’s a lot of screens and blind throws into the flats in this OU system. He received precious little pressure off the edge in this one, and when Texas brought a safety blitz he picked it up easily to drop back and dump off to the checkdown or screen. He’s a lot less effective when teams bring the edge rush and force him to move, thinking on his feet isn’t a big positive and it’s where the accuracy departs. Outside of the pocket, Jones is not comfortable.

We’re going to have to wait a while to see the Sooners and their QB really challenged. Ryan Tannehill and Texas A&M got the better of them in 2010, but they don’t meet this year until November 5th. Kansas State the week before could be a test on the road, but the game that stands out is Oklahoma State in the final week. That’s a game we can really judge Jones’ progress – whether he can keep up with OKSU’s prolific offense without making mistakes, because that’s where he’s come unstuck in the past when the pressure was on. There was no pressure today from Texas – on either side of the ball – and the Longhorns made a mockery of their ridiculous #11 ranking for a team that is a million miles away from relevance.

Last night I watched the first half of the Fresno State vs Boise State game, which was another one sided affair and a big win for the Broncos. I’ve spent a lot of time talking up Fresno’s defensive lineman Logan Harrell and he didn’t disappoint here. He’s not a big guy who plays at around 285lbs but he just finds ways to get into the backfield. He was never going to carry his team to a competitive level against the Boise State offensive machine, but he was consistently quick off the snap and exploding into the backfield to disrupt plays. He has an effective swim move but his real asset is speed. On one occasion he just ploughed his way through a lineman to meet the running back for a loss, so he does have some power with room to add some weight. His role at the next level isn’t obvious, but I think he has a role at five technique potentially moving inside on passing third downs. An under rated player with a big future who deserves more attention.

Elsewhere, I have tape from Louisville vs North Carolina to watch tomorrow. I’ll be taking another look at Quinton Coples – a player I’ve criticised this season and questioned his legitimacy as a top pick. I’ll also be watching receiver Dwight Jones who had another productive day with four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Jones has all the skills to be a very good NFL receiver and for me he’s the #1 at his position right now. Linebacker Zach Brown is another player to monitor for the Tar Heels.

Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) is back among the big numbers. With Stephen Garcia benched, Jeffery had six catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks took apart Kentucky 54-3. Georgia Tech wide out Stephen Hill struggles for the same level of production in the triple option offense, but he’s a big play threat with NFL skills and had two catches for 50 yards in a 21-16 win over Maryland.

Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) continues to prosper and is still a quarterback with some pro potential. Today he had 450 yards passing, four scores and zero turn overs as WVU defeated Connecticut 43-16. Bruce Irvin (DE, West Virginia) also had his first sack since week one. It’s been a disappointing year so far for Irvin, who had 14 sacks in 2010.

Tyrann Mathieu (CB/S, LSU) is a star in the making. He had an interception against Florida today to going along with the cluster of big plays he’s made this year. He’s not going stunning physical qualities (5-9, 175lbs) but he’s just a pure playmaker who finds ways to impact a game. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s one to watch for 2013.

Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss) had another big day. He’s an underrated, talented quarterback who deserves much more attention than he’s getting. The Golden Eagles defeated Navy comprehensively 63-35, with Davis throwing three touchdowns for 283 yards and completing 21/23 passing. He added another touchdown on the ground, with 75 rushing yards from 12 attempts.

Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) had a slow day in an easy win over Pittsburgh. He finished the game with just two catches for 27 yards and no touchdowns.

Arizona have been a bad team for a while now, not making the most of the talent they have at their disposal. Today they lost to previously disastrous Oregon State, with Nick Foles throwing two interceptions and one touchdown in a 29/39 354 yard performance. I wouldn’t draft Foles, I suspect scouts are starting to have similar thoughts with more evidence to pick through. He’s a late rounder at best.

Matt Barkley vs Ryan Tannehill – game tape

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Some people believe Ryan Tannehill could be better than Matt Barkley. I strongly disagree with that suggestion. Very strongly. Below you’ll find six videos – the first three are all of Barkley’s throws against Minnesota, Arizona State and Arizona. The second three feature Tannehill’s throws against SMU, Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

I appreciate the significant difference in competition level and ideally we’d be able to compare both quarterbacks against the same opponents. We also have to take into account these are two of Barkley’s best performances at USC, including a record setting display against Arizona. I still believe there’s enough evidence here to prove my point – on every level but running ability, Barkley comes out on top. His ability to jump through reads, his grasp of play action, his accuracy on short, intermediate and deep routes and his technique/mechanics are all better in my view.

Despite certain claims that this will be a quarterback class for the ages, there really are only two players I can offer first round grades at the moment – Andrew Luck and Barkley. I have Tannehill in the second tier group of quarterbacks, alongside Austin Davis at Southern Miss and Landry Jones at Oklahoma.

Videos supplied by JMPasq