January 27, 2011
MOBILE, Ala. -- While some will tell you that the late-week practices aren't as interesting because the contact lessens and many of the NFL personnel people have left town by Thursday morning, there's still a lot to be revealed around the special teams practices. Specifically, on Thursday morning, the goal-line practice scenarios allowed a different level of evaluation for many of the players on hand.
Of the three north quarterbacks, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick has shown the most steady development from day to day. On Thursday morning, he surprised with his quickness on a quarterback draw and threw a couple of beautiful downfield passes. Those included the throw of the day, a deep sideline throw to East Carolina's Dwayne Harris, who dropped the ball in the end zone. And after a rough early stretch on his touch with short passes, Kaepernick started throwing nice fades in goal-line situations. On the down side, he threw what should have been a pick to North Carolina cornerback Kendrick Burney (who's been one of the defensive stars of the week), which Burney dropped and subsequently disciplined himself with 10 push-ups. Kaepernick is rising at the right time and starting to put it all together.
Washington's Jake Locker, on the other hand, is coming to the end of his Senior Bowl week pretty much as he came in -- as a quarterback with nonpareil physical ability and highly questionable decision-making ability and accuracy. He sold a beautiful hard play fake on one goal-line play, and then overthrew Boise State speedster Titus Young in the end zone. He later had a nice quick throw to Young that the receiver dropped -- it was that king of day for Locker. He tried to hit San Diego State's Vincent Brown on a quick out, but overthrew the easy pass. When he rolled out of the pocket and ran, he blazed past the linebackers trying to chase him, but in rolling out looking to make a quick pass from the red zone, he couldn't throw into the tight window and just threw it away instead. There's a lot to work on here; Locker will have a lot to prove beyond the Pro Day and scouting combine process.
Iowa's Ricky Stanzi is also a work in progress, showing little dynamism or accuracy when rolling out- - he seems to be really gangly on the run. He throws high, and the lack of velocity he has on intermediate throws allows defenders to converge far too quickly. This could prevent him from being a good thrower against zone defenses; a major liability at the NFL level. He did hit Dwayne Harris on a nice crossing pattern, his best throw of the day, but overall, Stanzi has been relatively unimpressive this week.
Among the linebackers, Oregon's Casey Matthews impressed with a goal-line pick; something that personnel execs will like to see from a guy who blitzed so often in college. Like his brother, he may surprise when dropping back at the next level.
Washington's Mason Foster had my eye Thursday; I think he could be a very good linebacker in zone defenses where nickel is frequently used. He reminds me of Indianapolis' Clint Session(notes) in that he's as good going backward as he is running downhill. Not an incredibly physical guy, not a dominant tackler, but he's good at covering tight ends on crossing patterns, passes off receivers well in zone, and he has excellent redirect when the play goes away from him.
Also talked to Boston College's Mark Herzlich about his recovery from cancer and how much he learned about himself and his love of the game. More on his and other players later, but we're off to afternoon practice!
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