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Shutdown Corner

Mike Tanier’s Senior Bowl Report: Tuesday Afternoon Practice

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Quarterback Nick Foles barks signals during Tuesday afternoon practice. (AP)

We've got a special treat for all you draftniks — Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders is down in Mobile for Shutdown Corner to cover all the sights from the Senior Bowl. This is his second of many practice reports. You should also follow Mike at @FO_MTanier for further updates and general football wisdom!

MOBILE, Ala. -- The real action was in the trenches during the South squad's Senior Bowl practice on a warm Tuesday afternoon. The Redskins coaching staff devoted a great deal of time to offensive line versus defensive line drills, which showcased the skills of some excellent pass rushers, as well as one or two solid blockers.

Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina) frequently lined up against Zebrie Sanders (OT, Florida State) in individual and in 9-on-9 running game drills. The pair engaged in one of the day's biggest collisions, with Sanders' helmet flying off as he stopped Ingram's outside rush in individual drills. Ingram later got the better of Sanders several times, overpowering him once and using a swim move to get inside on another drill. Ingram got mixed reviews in Monday's practice but looked strong and explosive Tuesday.

Matt McCants (OT, Alabama-Birmingham) performed  better against Ingram and looked solid against most of the defenders he faced. McCants is the biggest guy on the field at 6-foot-7, and he used his size well in pass protection while also staying low when run blocking. McCants bent at the waist instead of the knees a few times, and he ended up on the ground more than he should have, but he has the size and athleticism to be outstanding if he improves his mechanics.

Kheeston Randall (DT-DE, Texas) showed exceptional agility for a 300-plus pounder during individual drills, and he was a handful to block because of his ability to work inside-out against blockers. Randall looked less comfortable pass rushing from the outside, but his size-athleticism combination may make him an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end for a Steelers-type scheme.

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Kheeston Randall made Tuesday afternoon tough for opposing blockers. (AP)

Tydeke Powell (DT, North Carolina) also displayed impressive agility, and he frequently got the better of blocker Philip Blake (G, Baylor). Powell tossed Blake aside in one drill and drove him back with a bull rush in another. Powell also handled other blockers well. Blake called Powell the hardest player on the field to block, though Blake improved as the drills wore on, and he looked far more competitive late in practice. "I was a little hesitant on knowing some of the plays," Blake said of his early practice struggles.

The South offense worked hard on installing a zone rushing and rollout passing game during 11-on-11 drills. Nearly every play was old-school Mike Shanahan: zone stretch runs, boot passes, and the occasional draw play. The defense dominated the early part of practice, but Vick Ballard (RB, Mississippi State) ripped off a few long runs late in the session. Ballard caught Emmanuel Acho (LB, Texas) too far inside when pursing the back of one run, and made a nifty move to get around the penetrating Ingram on another run. Ballard rarely ran behind zone blocking in college but started to look like a natural fit as a Redskins-Texans style running back by the end of the day. He said after practice that he is starting to figure things out. "Sometimes, you have to make the cut before you see it," he said of zone-stretch running.

As for the passing games, one veteran beat writer I spoke to said it best. "The only quarterback who looks good on either squad is Brandon Weeden. And I don't want to get too excited about Weeden, because he may just look good by comparison." Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) has a smooth delivery, but he rarely had time to do anything but throw the ball away during 11-on-11 drills. Nick Foles (QB, Arizona) threw behind Terrance Ganaway (RB, Baylor) on what should have been a simple checkdown. In fairness, with the offense running so many variations on the same pass plays, the quarterbacks didn't have much of a chance to show off a diversity of skills.

With the quarterbacks on the run, wide receivers had little opportunity to show what they can do. Patrick Edwards (WR, Houston) looked very quick in individual drills, but at 5-foot-9, he has to be quick. Edwards put a fine double move on his defender on a deep route during 11-on-11 drills, but the pass from Weeden was about 5 yards too long. Completed passes were a rarity in the full squad session.

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