Before I get into the game notes, Brandon and I recorded a podcast reflecting on the week of practise in Mobile. Check it out below…
Senior Bowl game notes
UCLA running back stars
Despite a strong week of practise from the likes of K.J. Hill, Van Jefferson and Denzel Mims, the most impressive skill position player on the field during the game was UCLA running back Joshua Kelly.
He flashed immediately on the North squad’s opening drive. Nick Harris, Ben Bredeson and Hakeem Adeniji all did an excellent job creating a huge running lane, dominating the interior. Kelly showed off his superb acceleration and quick feet with an 18-yard run to take advantage.
With nine minutes left in the first half, he got to the perimeter and exploited good blocking to break off a big run. He scored a touchdown late in the third quarter with a decisive cut, fighting through traffic and finishing in the red zone. It was called back for a hold by Nick Harris but it was no less impressive from Kelly.
He finished with 102 yards on 15 carries. At 5-10 and 214lbs he’s pretty much in Seattle’s preferred ballpark for size. He did a terrific job during the week catching the football and running routes. He could be on the Seahawks’ radar as a potential replacement for C.J. Prosise.
Small-school safety impresses
Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger looked terrific on three impact plays. On one red zone session he matched up against tight end Adam Trautman (reportedly a second-round target for many teams). Dugger prevented Trautman making a difficult catch with tight coverage. Shortly after he delivered a brilliantly timed open-field tackle to prevent Trautman running in for a touchdown. Late in the game Dugger came up to the LOS and hammered Joshua Kelly on a third and 1 short of the line to gain to force fourth down.
Dugger is said to be a fantastic athlete and he thinks he can run in the 4.3’s at the combine. He’s driven, plays with attitude, is a fantastic special teams returner and just has that look in his eye. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being ranked quite highly on Seattle’s board.
The offensive tackles were a mess
Part of the reason why the other skill players were unable to get involved was the truly abysmal play of the offensive tackles — especially on the South roster.
It was painful watching Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton. He was a late call-up from the Shrine Game but he was beaten like a well-worn drum in this game, putting up barely any resistance. The North-squad pass-rusher’s were likely cueing up to have a go at him. It’s tough to switch straight from one all-star game to another.
He wasn’t alone though. Terence Steele struggled badly too as did Alex Taylor. There was one series where Steele and Taylor might as well have had a muleta on the field facing off against Joshua Uche and Bradlee Anae. I’m sure much of the reaction will be about how well both Uche and Anae played in this game. To be fair, they can only beat what they were up against. Yet had they propped up a pair of tackle dummies bookending the O-line it would’ve been a similar challenge.
The tackles on the south squad virtually destroyed the game for the entire roster. The quarterbacks couldn’t settle, they were hit frequently and nobody had a chance to shine.
At least the guards played well
Strangely though — as badly as the tackles played, I thought the interior line play was very impressive at times. In particular, it was a lot of fun watching Logan Stenberg and Lloyd Cushenberry working together at left guard and center respectively.
With 11:14 left in the first quarter, Stenberg handled Neville Gallimore. He placed his right hand to the outside shoulder and controlled the chest with his left hand, then flipped Gallimore and turned him to create a huge running lane on 3rd and 2 for Lamical Perine to get a first down. Cushenberry on the same snap let Jason Strowbridge take himself out of the play by being too aggressive, knocking him down and using his own momentum to send him to the turf. He then he progressed to the second level and took the linebacker out right at the line to gain. It was superb from both players.
On the next snap, Cushenberry blocked down on a screen then progressed to the second level with LSU team mate Damien Lewis, who sprung the key block. Stenberg handled Davon Hamilton at the LOS. Perine scored on the screen.
Stenberg had a key second-level block with 6:38 left in the first half. Harrison Bryant pulled inside to seal off one defender. Cushenberry had the block at the LOS. Between the three of them they created a huge running lane for a big gain.
With 14:27 left in the fourth quarter, Stenberg and Cushenberry combined again to create a massive lane up the middle. The full back ran through it to reach up to the second level, springing another big run.
Cushenberry in particular appeared in complete control. I’m not sure I saw a bad rep. Stenberg was impressive but seemed to play within himself. There was no hammering finish on any of his blocks like we saw at Kentucky. He did a good job getting to the second level frequently but needs to actually execute when he reaches up. Too often he was in position to make a big second-level connection and missed. Was he told to play with more control this week by coaches? He still played well — it just would’ve been nice to see the nasty edge he clearly has.
Stenberg’s still a player of major interest I think, along with other less-discussed prospects like Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland), Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan), Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia), Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State), Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU), Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina), Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU) and K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State). I would’ve added Brandon Aiyuk but he’s received a lot more publicity over the last seven days.
Aside from the holding call that took off the Joshua Kelly run I thought Nick Harris did a lot better in the game than he did in 1v1’s. In fairness to Harris, he also excelled in the scrimmages. He’s not going to block 1v1 at the next level and he looks the part when lined up in a full formation. Hakeem Adeniji had several really impressive blocks at guard. Ben Bredeson, like Harris, looked more comfortable in the game compared to a hit-and-miss time in 1v1’s.
Damien Lewis was impressive playing at right guard. Colt McKivitz looked good when he kicked inside. He absolutely destroyed a linebacker after reaching to the second level with 7:17 left in the game (the running back ended up fumbling on this snap). On the previous play he did a terrific job stoning a defensive lineman on a flea flicker. On this evidence a switch to guard could be a big option for McKivitz.
This week in Mobile has really flashed that there are some good interior offensive line options in this draft class.
Defensive linemen fail to spark
Anae and Uche had the flashy snaps mainly due to the horrendous tackle play — yet the rest of the D-line class struggled to make an impact. There was nobody who really stood out along the interior.
Even if we want to spend time considering Anae and Uche, let’s look at both players. Anae has 31 7/8 inch arms. We know by now the Seahawks don’t target defensive linemen without +33 inch arms. Length at defensive end is vital. Whether he has the quickness or twitch they also value is a major question mark. We’ll find out at the combine.
Uche is very athletic and he also has the arm length too (33 1/4 inch arms). However, we’re talking about a SAM linebacker who is 6-1 and 241lbs. He isn’t going to rush the edge frequently and be the solution to Seattle’s problems. Uche at best would be a situational rusher.
Reportedly he looked very comfortable dropping into coverage when taking part in the linebacker drills. He’s a terrific character and a leader. He’s a really good player. He isn’t going to solve Seattle’s pass rush issues though and taking a SAM linebacker early in the draft seems like a stretch. And before anyone points to Bruce Irvin — he might’ve ended up in that role but let’s remember two things. They drafted Irvin calling him the ideal LEO (speed, frame, length). He moved to SAM to get him on the field because it didn’t quite work out that way. Plus they needed to start Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
The Seahawks are almost certainly going to have to solve their pass rush crisis in free agency (where there are some good options) or via the trade market.
Anthony Gordon looks like a project
In terms of natural feel and arm-talent, the Washington State quarterback might’ve only been second to Justin Herbert in this game. He was composed, delivered an excellent scoring drive and has a lot of the tools you can work with. Somebody will take him to develop.
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