Trent Richardson (AP)
When I studied running back Trent Richardson before the 2012 draft, I really liked him.
He was naturally powerful. I thought he had good short area quickness. I never worry about long speed for NFL running backs. Lateral agility and movement is more important than long speed, and he had that.
I know he was playing through injuries last year, but I didn’t think he showed those traits he way he did at Alabama, and that concerned me a little bit. I didn’t see the lateral quickness in a confined space. It’s not college, and there’s very few gaping holes. You have to get through small cracks with lateral quickness, and he didn't show that. I can’t say he won’t be a great back, but he didn’t look the same in the NFL as he did at Alabama.
That said, I think the trade for Richardson this week was a great move for the Colts. It makes sense for the Browns too.
I think the Browns have made a decision that Brandon Weeden is not their guy at quarterback. That's just my personal opinion, and I haven't talked to anybody with the Browns about it, but I think they're trying to stockpile draft choices for a quarterback. I don’t think they’re looking to throw away the season, but I think they’re probably figuring they can get a top 10 pick, and they want to have the ammunition to move up to No. 1 or 2 if needed. My guess is general manager Mike Lombardi has done a ton of research on the college quarterbacks that have been talked about, guys like Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Brett Hundley of UCLA, if he comes out.
I think Lombardi also has the belief that no good at how good a runner is, without top level quarterback play you’ll always be lacking something. I think they’ve acted accordingly.
The Colts have that guy at quarterback, Andrew Luck. They look at their team and probably see their offensive line is not very good, especially in pass protection. Part of that is they don’t have a running game, so Luck gets hit too much and is under pressure too often. Now they’ll create balance. Their line is best suited for a power run game, and Richardson fits that. He’s a downhill runner, he’s not a zone runner. He fits what offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to do. So for the Colts it’s a really good move.
Offensive tackles went with four of the top 11 picks of the draft. Eric Fisher went to Kansas City first overall, Luke Joeckel went to Jacksonville second overall, Lane Johnson went to Philadelphia fourth overall and D.J. Fluker went to San Diego 11th overall. Fisher, Johnson and Fluker have all struggled a bit early on (I haven't broken down Joeckel's game film yet). I think they’re all struggling for similar reasons: The speed and athleticism of the rushers they’re facing.
Johnson is having a worse time. He’s a guy who is a natural athlete and right now he looks non-athletic. Johnson hasn’t played tackle for a long time and he doesn’t have refined footwork. His base isn’t always good. His feet get too wide. He’s not a refined tackle and he’s learning on the fly, and he’s learning at the speed of a NFL game.
Before the draft, I said Fluker could probably play at tackle, but he would have chance to be an all-pro at guard. I just don’t think he’s naturally quick enough to play tackle in a passing league. Maybe 20 years ago, it's a different story.
However, I would say that I’m never surprised when rookies at any position struggle. I think there’s a mistaken belief among fans now because there’s so much football on TV and it’s talked about all the time that college football and the NFL are similar. Nothing is further from the truth. Bill Polian talks about it all the time, and he knows better than I do, there’s such a difference between college football and NFL football that guys have no idea what it’s like until they get on the field against NFL athletes.
No matter what conference you played in, when you're Lane Johnson blocking Dwight Freeney, it's not same as blocking some end from Kansas State.
In looking at Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, we’re not seeing the kind of improvement you’d expect to see in his third year. If you reduce it to simplest terms, he’s very scatter-shot with his accuracy. It’s hard to be a NFL quarterback like that. You miss too many throws that are there.
The other thing, based on experience in watching film, is I don’t think he sees the field well. That creates problem with timing. It creates late throws, and it creates wrong throws.
Quarterback to me is a subtle nuance position. It’s a disciplined craft position. It’s not an athletic position. There are a lot of things that go into that. Small details. I don’t think at this point Newton has begun to master those small details. Is he a great athlete with a strong arm? Absolutely. But there’s not a lot of refinement.
I think St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn is emerging as one of best 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL. He beat Arizona's Levi Brown in Week 1, and schooled Atlanta's Sam Baker in Week 2. You could tell Baker was surprised by what he was facing.
Quinn is really athletic and can transition from speed to power. He can get under the pads of an offensive lineman, which is about leverage and velocity, it’s not a matter of size.
One of the things you look for in a pass rusher is the ability to bend the edge and get low. It’s almost like with pitcher in baseball, when their knees almost hit the ground when they throw. Quinn has that ability to get really low and still explode. When you watch college pass rushers you have to see if their upper body and lower body move separately. If not, they’re stiff and they can’t bend the edge. Quinn has the ability to do that.
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