I will update this post as the game goes along…
— Otito Ogbonnia made a nice interior rush to shut down a running play on the first drive.
— Malik Willis began by showing exactly what he is. When the play breaks down he can take off, find the space and make gains with his legs. He is very much one-read and run. We’ve seen with players like Colin Kaepernick that this can work effectively in the pro’s, with the right scheme. It’s worth noting that Greg Roman made this work with Kaepernick and he’s done the same with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. I’m not sure how it translates to many other schemes though, especially ones requiring the QB to stay on script and make progressions.
That said, this is what separates Willis from the other quarterbacks. He does have plus athleticism and strength as a runner. But we also saw in this opening drive his hesitancy to pull the trigger and when things break down, it’s play over unless he finds a running crease.
— I love how decisive Channing Tindall is. There’s no wasted time. He reads the play and gets downfield — whether he has to sprint to the sideline or get into the meat-and-bones of the LOS. Tindall is quick and violent, which I’m afraid to say is the opposite of what Bobby Wagner showed in 2021. Tindall drops well in coverage and knows where the sticks are to make sure the defense gets off the field (he defended a pass to Trey McBride on his first defensive series).
— The American team lined up in a 3-4 on defense with three defensive tackles and D’Angelo Malone rushing across from Kingsley Enagbare. Malone recorded a sack, demolishing a tight end (Charlie Kolar) with power before exploding to Kenny Pickett. Malone has showed well in Mobile but at 230-ish pounds he’s very much an OLB rather than an EDGE.
— Travis Jones just made a terrific play to bring down Brian Robinson. Jones just easily disengaged from one of the two Georgia guards and met Anderson at the LOS, giving up only a yard. They kept him on the field for third down and he shoved his blocker right into the face of Malik Willis. Jones is a real force of nature working inside. He can collapse the pocket with power and quickness.
— Willis’ problems again show up at the end of the first quarter. If you can get him out of the pocket and on the run, then it’s just a question of keeping him in contain and he’ll throw it out of bounds. He can’t throw with timing or poise and he’s hesitant. When he takes off, so often he’s just trying to find space and keep things alive that he isn’t looking downfield for an outlet.
— Myjai Sanders beat Max Mitchell at right tackle with a speed rush. Mitchell was desperately trying to stay with him but Sanders was too good. He grabbed Willis shoulder pad, forcing him off the spot and allowing Tyreke Smith to get a clean-up sack. This was a terrific play from Sanders though — who should be a legit option for Seattle at #41 — and it was a bad play for Mitchell.
— Malone had another really nice rush, this time on a stunt inside. It forces an underthrown pass by Kenny Pickett, which he was fortunate still ended up in a completion. On the next play, Pickett scored on an easy dump-off pass to the Baylor running back to Abram Smith. It was a total bust by the defense.
— Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway is down with an injury. That’s not good news. He’s had a good week. Thankfully he came back on to the field during the next drive.
— Desmond Ridder seemed panicked during scrimmages. When play’s broke down, he just threw wildly. He’s started the same way in this game. On a boot-leg that didn’t go to plan, he was incredibly antsy and threw it away. There’s very little composure on show.
— Zion Johnson flagged for a false start. No doubt Twitter is saying it was the most stylish false start in Senior Bowl history.
— Very good block by Bernhard Raimann on Zach Carter to create a running lane for Abram Smith for a nice gain. Sealed off his edge. Smith dropped a flare pass on third down to end the drive. Should’ve been caught. I know I’ve said this a lot but I couldn’t be more impressed with the way Abraham Lucas drops and sets at right tackle. He is a legit, legit NFL prospect.
— Sam Howell’s first pass was badly dropped. I couldn’t see the receiver involved. The NFL Network is giving the hard sell on Malik Willis, even going as far as to ask Dan Campbell the Lions Head Coach ‘how much do you want to draft him?’. I’m not sure why they’re doing this.
— Boye Mafe sacked Howell and forced a fumble with a tremendous speed rush off the edge. As we’ve been saying all week, Mafe is silky smooth as a pass rusher. It was effortless the way he reacted to the snap, brushed by the left tackle and finished the play. The offense recovered the ball. Mafe, as with Sanders earlier, should be on Seattle’s list of options at #41.
— Wow — Channing Tindall just flew across the field to make a play on special teams. I love Tindall and have been talking about him all season. He is a top, top prospect (there are many, predictably, from Georgia).
— Zion Johnson is working at center again. I have to say, if he’s really as good as Twitter says (as in first round lock at guard) — why is the NFL trying him out as much as they are at center this week? I know it’s a bad center class but it’s not exactly loaded at guard. I’ll reiterate, for me he’s a fairly decent middle-round guard. That’s it.
— Bernhard Raimann is blocking really well in the running game today. That’s the second big edge-sealing block he’s made to spring a run, producing a nice big running lane. On the next play, Abram Smith danced his way for a nice gain. Raimann was involved again, burying Phidarius Mathis on a double-team with Marquis Hayes.
— Fourth down conversion on 4th and 1 by the National team. Terrific job by Abraham Lucas again, ploughing bodies forward and getting a great push to enable a short but successful run. They keep running well to the ride, which isn’t a surprise.
— The second touchdown to make it 13-0 was a nice play-action move by Desmond Ridder. Trey McBride ran a good route, the defense was caught off guard and it was a fairly simple completion for a score. They went for two and Rachaad White ran into Ridder off the snap, ending the play really before it started (White tried to pick it up and run it in but was unsuccessful).
— Sam Howell hesitates and throws a fairly basic short pass. The ball is caught with a thud sound, meaning the commentary team put it down to Howell’s ‘arm strength’. I thought, watching practise, Howell lacked pop in his throws. It appears the QB hype train has moved out of the Malik Willis station and has arrived at the Sam Howell stop.
— Boye Mafe had another pressure attacking the left tackle before half-time. He engaged the blocker with his hands, disengaged and just burst past him with great quickness. Howell scrambled away to avoid the sack but it was another example of Mafe’s quality as an edge rusher.
— Jesse Luketa sacked Howell to end the half. He really needed to get rid of the football but it was a good, quality speed rush by Luketa.
Half-time — 13-0 to the National team
— Carson Strong started at quarterback for the National team to start the second half. He began with a screen pass and Cole Strange looked very mobile and athletic racing to the second level. Strong fumbled the second snap from Strange. It was on the QB. Strange then had a horribly high shotgun snap that Strong did well to handle.
— Dameon Pierce had a run to the left side and then levelled Coby Bryant with a great hit. To Bryant’s credit, he clung on and made the tackle.
— Perrion Winfrey had a sack which was mainly on either coverage or Sam Howell. The quarterback took far too long then tried to scramble, running into Winfrey’s area. He shrugged off the block to chase down Howell. He either needs to get the ball out or credit needs to go to the secondary. This has been an especially underwhelming day from the QB’s.
— Carson Strong threw a floaty, miserable interception to Alontae Taylor on the next drive. It was hideously underthrown, with the receiver wide open. As I was saying — the QB’s look awful.
— Dylan Parham just worked a nice double-team on Travis Jones. Parham has looked good at times working inside. He has a nice frame (6-2, 313lbs) with 33.5 inch arms and 10 1/4 inch hands. As a center prospect, he’s one to watch.
— Myjai Sanders just beat Max Mitchell again. He failed to bring down Sam Howell, who scrambled away from pressure. The main thing is, though, that Sanders again showed his quickness and agility attacking the edge. Mitchell has struggled at times this week. He did, in fairness, just produce a really nice block on Perrion Winfrey in the running game to spring a nice run by Dameon Pierce up the middle.
— Wow, Boye Mafe is incredibly explosive and so dynamic working in space. He just exploded to the quarterback to Sam Howell and created a pressure on a play-action boot-leg. He was flagged though for a pretty ticky-tacky facemask penalty. Howell scored on a scramble on the next play. He had 11 rushing touchdowns for North Carolina in 2021. I’m just not sure he’s quick enough to be a big factor at the next level as a runner.
— D’Angelo Malone just shoved Trevor Penning right into Carson Strong’s lap. Malone is 230lbs and he just owned Penning. Not a good look for the tackle but a great play by Malone who’s had a good game. I maintain that he’s very much a 3-4 OLB at his size but could be a SAM/LEO for Seattle I guess. He’s flashed. Penning, on the other hand, has been a bit disappointing overall.
— Velus Jones just completed a decent +20 yard pass from Bailey Zappe. He created good separation on the route and Zappe found him with a lofted pass.
— You can’t leave Boye Mafe unblocked off the edge. He’s too good in space and he shut down a running play. Then on the very next play Mafe absolutely destroyed Spencer Burford with violent hands and outstanding speed. Mafe obliterated Zappe for a big sack. Wow, just wow. Mafe has had an outstanding game. It forces a field goal for the American team and they trail 13-10 with a quarter to go.
— I just answered a request from Mike Florio who is hosting a Twitter Q&A by asking his thoughts on where Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins will play next season. Here’s his answer:
Denver. Las Vegas. Pittsburgh. Minnesota. Wild guesses at this point though. Feel strongest about Cousins.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 5, 2022
— Darrian Beavers just did a really good chasing down a trick play. He’s had a good game, mixing in some rangy linebacker play with some edge rushing. He’s expected to test well at the combine.
— The NFL Network are interviewing Jets coach Robert Salah, who praised his GM for doing a great job acquiring extra picks. Salt in the wound. There is no escape.
— Perrion Winfrey just had a big sack with a fantastic, athletic pass rush. He just blew by the guard with such ease. He was so quick and dynamic. He brushed off the attempted block like a NFL player playing a college player, then ran of the field amped to celebrate. He has brought a lot of energy and athleticism to Mobile. His consistency will always concern teams — and rightly so. We’ve discussed the concerns there and you can’t forget them just because of a good Senior Bowl. However, you can’t help but appreciate what he’s showing. Great size, amazing frame, long arms, agility and quickness, plenty of power. He looks the part — and I like his energy and intensity. He’s got the eyes of a killer.
— Desmond Ridder’s back in the game and he just completed a nice pass to Jake Ferguson. He showed patience, let Ferguson develop his route and nailed an accurate throw. Rachaad White followed it up with a really nice burst on a run for a big gain. Shortly after, Ridder had a play-action bootleg leading to another pass to Ferguson who showed what he’s all about by finishing for a touchdown. Ferguson ran right across the line, looked very athletic and that’s what he does. He ran a 4.15 short shuttle at SPARQ and should test well in that drill at the combine — leading to a high grade from teams.
— Of all the quarterbacks, Ridder has looked the best in this game. That hasn’t been particularly difficult to pull off.
— Bailey Zappe is getting a beating. Jesse Luketa got a second sack. Zappe has to be aware of the pressure there. He just moved into space and was a sitting duck waiting for things to develop. Then on the next play, Travis Jones absolutely destroyed Dylan Parham and drove him right into Zappe (who fell over for another sack). Jones has had an incredible week. Pure power and he collapses the pocket time and time again by moving people backwards.
— D’Angelo Malone was unblocked off the edge and just pressured Carson Strong to break up an attempted screen. I don’t know, it feels a bit of a cheat to be lining up with 3-4 concepts here and having players like Malone enjoy the benefits of some creating rush looks. On a bit third down to follow, Strong made a nice completion to Nevada team mate Cole Turner.
— It’s staggering, really, just how average Carson Strong has looked this week. I know he lacks mobility and can’t avoid pressure. He does have arm talent though and we just haven’t seen any evidence of that this week. It’s hard to imagine where he’s going to end up after this display in Mobile.
— Bailey Zappe almost ended the game by throwing a reckless pick-six. It was a little too high for Chad Muma. He followed it up with a floaty near-interception on the next play, that was tipped a couple of times. Then on 4th and 22, two American team players somehow found themselves wide open downfield and they nearly tackled each other. They were lucky it was completed. Yet on the next play, Zappe had a receiver running open again for a touchdown but he horribly under-threw the pass, it was finally picked off and the game ends with the National team victorious 20-10.
Full-time — 20-10 to the National team
I think Boye Mafe was the star of the game, with multiple impressive plays off the edge. He finished with two sacks, three TFL’s and a forced fumble. You can’t overreact to the Senior Bowl game but alongside what he showed in practise, he could easily work his way into the first round. Myjai Sanders, Abraham Lucas, Perrion Winfrey and D’Angelo Malone also deserve a mention for their consistency — while Channing Tindall, Jake Ferguson Travis Jones, Bernhard Raimann and Darrian Beavers created an impression.
The play of the tackles was largely unimpressive and it was particularly disappointing to see continued issues for Trevor Penning and Max Mitchell.
Thank you to those who followed along with the Senior Bowl coverage this year. Bring on the combine in a month’s time.
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