Mondays throw that aside because the morning is given over to the weigh-in and the evening is the dinner with the media, so the window for practice is shorter than usual.
They have one of the practices at the normal venue (Ladd Peebles Stadium, where the game is played) but ship the other team off to Fairhope Stadium, about a 30 minute drive from Mobile itself.
Once upon a time, these practices happened simultaneously, which meant you only saw one Monday practice. Now that Phil Savage (former scout, NFL GM, player personnel director and coach) is in charge, staggering these practices so you can catch most of both.
I traveled to Fairhope, but was able to catch a lot of the other practice as well. As I didn't get a full look at the North practice Ladd Peebles, rather than cover each practice individually, I'm just going to give you my basic thoughts on players who stood out.
Before we get too into it though, one thing to keep in mind. This is Day One of practice. Especially for the skill position players, this is a tough day. Quarterbacks and wide receivers don't know each other and that can often provide a skewed look at what they are capable of. We'll get a much more accurate look at those players during Day Two and Day Three.
All that being said, I am not very excited by this group of quarterbacks.
Until last year, every time I have come to Mobile, some quarterback has "jumped out" at me. Once it was Colin Kaepernick, another time Russell Wilson.
It's early but I just don't see that guy here.
Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo showed off a cannon of an arm, but zero touch. He did everything at 110 percent. Handed the ball off hard, pitched it hard, threw it long hard, threw it short hard. He looked like he was trying to go through his receiver.
I'm all for a show of arm strength, but Garoppolo took it a bit far. You have to take something off your shorter passes, but the ball came out just as hot on a short route as it did on a long or intermediate pass. I want to see some touch on his throws before the end of the week. He could just be hyped up, especially coming off a very good Shrine Game. It happens, guys try to prove themselves a little too much on day one.
Sometimes it works out, as it did with Russell Wilson, who looked aggressive and exceptional during his first practice. Sometimes, it doesn't work as well, as was the case today.
Fresno State's Derek Carr looked solid at the South practice, showing overall solid mechanics and a smooth motion on his throws. He didn't blow me away but he threw a nice ball.
I can't say the same for David Fales, the San Jose State quarterback who didn't seem to finish a throwing motion. It looked like his throw stopped early and whenever I saw that, his pass floated. His accuracy (and the float of his passes) went up drastically whenever he had to go long.
The North didn't have anyone stand out positively, at least when I was watching. Tajh Boyd had accuracy issues, though he was probably the best of this group. I'm not sure I buy Tony Pauline's comment that any team - including the Packers - think Boyd is 'undraftable' after a day of practice. Even after looking at his tape. Is he Teddy Bridgewater? No, but he's not a disaster.
At least I won't judge him that after one day. It sounds more like either 1) a team not in need of a quarterback downgrading a guy or 2) smoke and mirrors.
Pauline is good at parsing info, but I can't buy undraftable based on today. It's knee jerk reaction at its worst.
That said, I didn't much like what I saw from Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, whose day was summed up perfectly by CBS Sports' Dane Brugler.
Logan Thomas threw some strikes that hit the WRs numbers. But he also threw some that bounced/sailed past the WR. Consistently inconsistent
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 21, 2014
Consistency will be key for him the rest of the week.
Stephen Morris of Miami had the same issue. One minute a decent pass, the next a high overthrow.
The other group I watched closely was the South's wide receivers.
I felt like Texas wide receiver Mike Davis was solid as advertised. I saw him come off the line quickly, adjust to bad balls and make some nice leaping catches. He also did a good job of catching the ball away from his body. Far too many of the other receivers let the ball hit their chest, a good way to produce a bobble and drop.
He also showed very soft hands, which made it even easier to control the ball.
Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt had an up and down day. He had more than a few drops, but he also had a beautiful leaping catch where he high-pointed the ball. If he can clean up his drops, he could have a great week.
At 5'8", 179 pounds, I had concerns about Florida's Solomon Patton. Would he get beat up at the line and overpowered by the secondary? At least for today, the answer was yes, sometimes. He was overpowered at the line a few times, but he also fought for the ball and used his hands as well to fight off the defender. He may find his rhythm as the week goes on.
Another smaller guy, Jalen Saunders from Oklahoma, had less success. He was repeatedly overpowered by the secondary and had a few drops on what should have been easy passes. He wasn't happy about it, and gave himself penalty pushups. That's great and all, but we need to see him improve this week and not just at pushups.
A few other quick notes on positions I didn't get to watch in depth:
- Good friend and Denver radio host Cecil Lammy has been coming to Mobile since before it was trendy and is an incredibly sharp evaluator. So when he tells me to keep an eye on West Virginia running back Charles Sims, you know I'll do it. I only got to see Sims briefly today but he impressed with his speed and vision.
- I loved the pace with which the Jacksonville Jaguars practiced. It was intense and energetic but everyone was having fun. When we got the the North practice, shepherded by the Atlanta Falcons, the pace was laconic. And I might be wrong but it seemed as if they started special teams early and went a long time with it.
- I watched some of the defensive line drills at Fairhope and came away impressed with a few guys. I loved the short, violent use of hands by Princeton's (that's right PRINCETON) Caraun Reid. He ran his drills through the tackling dummies fast and hard. I felt Arizona State's Will Sutton also ran the drill well, though he seemed off balance once or twice. And Tennessee's Dan McCullers seemed to struggle during the drill, standing too upright and not delivering powerful blows with his hands. I intend to spend more time with these guys over the next two days.
So that's all for Day One from Mobile, Alabama. I'll be back tomorrow night (or Wednesday morning) with some thoughts and observations from both the North and South practices, as well as some quotes which I gathered during Monday's Media night.
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