Getting Out of Mobile … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs

On America’s highways and byways with Mobile in the rearview mirror

It was not a performance or outcome that will lead to lifelong memories. No the 62nd Senior Bowl that went down in Mobile’s Ladd-Pebbles Stadium look like an all-star football game where the players had four practices to put together a cohesive team.

In this January, the team that got as close to being a team was the South squad that was coached by Chan Gailey and his Buffalo Bills coaching staff. The South team grabbed a fairly early 24-10 victory over the North squad.

But the winner and the score do not matter. The Senior Bowl was largely about the week of practices leading into the game. The guys from the NFL love it because it provides them with a forum to evaluate young players while they are doing football moves. At the NFL Combine it’s running, jumping and lifting in their underwear.

In Mobile, the pads and helmets are on and there’s a far greater chance to judge players by the strength of their football character, rather than pure 40-yard dash times.

That’s why the big winner from Saturday was the game MVP, Florida State QB Christian Ponder. He came into the game with questions about his healthy, specifically some shoulder problems he had during the 2010 season with the Seminoles. He showed throughout the week that whatever problems he might have had were not a problem in Mobile. He threw with authority and good – not great – accuracy.

There’s plenty of tape on Ponder and his career at FSU, so the personnel types will not overreact to any performance in an all-star game. But what Ponder did by completing seven of 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns was allow his name to be taken off the board under questionable. Generally, that can be a nice jump for a player. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Blog – Chapter 3

From Mobile, Alabama

The Senior Bowl was a ghost town on Thursday. At the game’s headquarters the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel, the lobby was about 75 percent less crowded than the first part of the week. Attendance at Thursday’s practices was down about the same amount.

Most of the NFL’s 32 coaching and personnel staffs escaped Mobile Wednesday night, or Thursday morning. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley got back to Kansas City early enough Wednesday evening to see one of his daughters in a gymnastics meet.

NFL teams get tape of all the practices during the week and the Senior Bowl game. Given that, why do they come at all and then blow out before the week is done? “Good question,” answered Jets and former Chiefs personnel maven Terry Bradway. “It’s a busy time of the year in scouting, so time is at a premium.”

Some teams were still there on Thursday. Bradway’s flight back to New Jersey was cancelled because of the snowstorm that hit the east coast. But the personnel staffs for the Packers, Browns and Saints were still there, sitting together in the stands and comparing notes.

Given the fact the Saints won last year’s Super Bowl and the Packers are playing in next week’s championship game, maybe some other teams should take notice.


Take a look at the picture above. That’s Alabama QB Greg McElroy and he’s not just posing for a picture, he’s being taped for an interview that will be shown Friday night at some sort of Crimson Tide booster club.

It is quite an amazing scene to watch McElroy as he rolls through the hotel lobby and deals with fans after practices. Despite the fact he’s probably only a mid-level draft prospect, McElroy is easily the most popular player on the South team. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Practice Report – Thursday 2X

From Mobile, Alabama

Thursday was the final day for full practice sessions for both the North and South teams as they head towards Saturday’s Senior Bowl.

But the Thursday work was a lot more low-key than what was seen in the previous three days. The players were in shorts without shoulder pads. South coach Chan Gailey cut his practice to just about 65 minutes, while North coach Marvin Lewis tried to dial down the intensity of his team’s work.

There was a bit more individual coaching during the sessions like the picture above. On the left, that’s former Chiefs assistant coach and now Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris working with Baylor’s Danny Watkins on snapping the ball. Watkins has never played center before and this was his first taste of firing the ball between his legs.

It was pretty typical Senior Bowl moment for the coaching staffs that are coaching and not scouting, and the players. The coaches do everything they can in a very short time period to not only create a cohesive team, but show the players ways they can make themselves more valuable to NFL teams.

Here are some observations from the Thursday morning and afternoon sessions. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Stud … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

From Mobile, Alabama

If the good folks that run the Senior Bowl presented an award called “Stud of the Year” then there’s no doubt the winner of that honor in 2011 would be Von Miller.

The Texas A&M linebacker has established during three days of practice here that he’s at the head of the class among the 100+ players taking part in the week of practices leading up to Saturday’s game.

“I don’t think anybody would argue that he’s probably the best player out here,” said Jets and former Chiefs personnel man Terry Bradway. “He’s a play maker.”

SCENE: The ball is snapped by the South offense and RB Charles Clay (Tulsa) leaks out of the backfield, plants his foot and cuts to his left, running a drag route across the second level of the defense. After back pedaling a few yards into coverage, Miller spies Clay and reacts immediately, pasting himself to the hip of the running back. There’s no space for the quarterback to throw the ball to Clay, so he passer looks elsewhere.

Coming off his sterling career at A&M, Miller seems to be one of those tweeners – he’s too small to play defensive end, which is essentially what he did in the Big 12 Conference. But can he play linebacker and can he cover receivers on the short field? If there’s one thing that Miller has done with his week of practice work in Mobile, it’s been to diminish any concerns teams would have with his ability to play the outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Practice Report – Wednesday 2X

From Mobile, Alabama

It was a glorious day here on the Gulf coast, with clear blue skies, a warming sun and chilly temperatures in the morning for the North squad’s third workout of Senior Bowl week.

We’ve combined our reports, starting with the A.M. session, followed by the P.M. practice. Here’s the skinny.

North/A.M. Practice

It would have to go down as one of the most unusual sites of the week. Monster OT Nate Solder (Colorado) was leading a sweep to the left, all 6-8 ¼, 319 pounds of him in full pads. Coming up to try to stop the run was CB Kendric Bruney (North Carolina), all 5-9, 181 pounds.

But hand it to Bruney, he did not bail out of his run support. He engaged and bit Solder in the ankles … no I’m kidding there, but it would have been a great scene. Solder put his hand on Bruney’s shoulder and the cornerback fell to the ground. Luckily, Solder did not fall on him, because given the nearly one-inch and 138-pound advantage they may have needed a backhoe to come on the field to dig the little man out.

“That’s football,” Bruney said after practice. “You can’t run away from stuff like that. It’s what makes the game fun.” …Read More!

Quarterback Talk … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

From Mobile, Alabama

Everybody always wants to talk to the quarterbacks. Put six of the biggest names among college quarterbacks in the same place for a week, and there’s no doubt they will lead the scoreboard when it comes to interviews and autographs.

But then, these guys are used to being in the spotlight and having every part of their game and life under the microscope.

And there’s a chance – maybe even a good chance – that one of these six quarterbacks could be joining the Chiefs for the 2011 season.

GM Scott Pioli isn’t about to pull his cards away from his chest and divulge draft strategy. But the circumstantial evidence creates a scenario where Pioli almost has to grab a QB with one of his draft choices.

First, backup QB Brodie Croyle is without a contract for the coming season. There was little he showed in relief of starter Matt Cassel that screams for the Chiefs to bring him back. That will create an opening. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Blog – Chapter 2

From Mobile, Alabama

It’s football and that means injuries and there was a big one in the last 24 hours here at the Senior Bowl.

Oregon State DT Stephen Paea will undergo surgery on Thursday for a torn meniscus in his right knee. He suffered the injury during Monday afternoon’s practice and was diagnosed on Tuesday after an MRI and conversations with doctors.

Paea was considered one of the top interior defensive line prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Injuries on the North team led to the addition of WR Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State) and CB Richard Sherman (Stanford). They were on the field for practice on Tuesday …

Not working in the Tuesday practice was South WR Edmond Gates out of Abilene Christian …

One of the best sights of the week so far came after the Tuesday morning practice where LB Casey Matthews (Oregon) stood at mid-field talking with his father, former NFL LB Clay Matthews, Sr., and his uncle, former NFL blocker and Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews … …Read More!

Senior Bowl Practice/Tuesday P.M.

From Mobile, Alabama

Everyone was back at Ladd-Pebbles Tuesday afternoon for the South team’s practice under the direction of Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey and his staff.

We spent most of our time eyeballing the South offense. The play of the P.M. practice came from TE Luke Stocker (Tennessee) who made a nice catch over the middle, took a fairly hard hit from Safety DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson) and held on to the ball.

Here are some other observations from the 90-minute session:

QUARTERBACKS – Check out my report on all the Senior Bowl QBs coming Wednesday morning. Quick analysis on the South three – Christian Ponder (Florida State) looked the most polished of the trio and showed a strong deep ball. Greg McElroy (Alabama) was accurate on the short balls, not so much on the longer throws. Andy Dalton (TCU) showed the most mobility when chased out of the pocket.

TIGHT ENDS – the South group is a step up from the North squad at this position. Stocker is big – 6-5, 255 pounds – runs well and as he showed, has good hands. D.J. Williams (Arkansas) is more of a receiving TE and runs very well, more like a wide receiver than tight end. Preston Dial (Alabama) lumbers a bit when he runs his route, but seems to have a good pair of hands. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Talk – DE Cameron Jordan

From Mobile, Alabama

Any NFL team that’s looking to improve their defensive line situation is going to consider Cameron Jordan.

The 6-4, 287-pound product of the University of California has been very impressive in Senior Bowl practices. Jordan has shown a burst off the edge and he’s also displayed power to hold his spot against the run game.

During his time with the Golden Bears, Jordan played in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, so he believes he can handle any position in the defensive front.

Jordan is also a very enthusiastic and well-spoken young man, as you can tell if you listen.  cameron jordan1

Senior Bowl Practice Report-Tuesday A.M.

For the second day in a row it looked like the skies could open up at any time and dump a lot of rain on Ladd-Pebbles Stadium while the North squad was practicing. But just like Monday, coach Marvin Lewis got his team through a 90-minute session with nary a rain drop.

Here’s some of what I saw with the North team, and I was concentrating on the defense, and specifically the back seven – the North is playing a 4-3 defense in this game:

– The most impressive player in the North secondary is the smallest – 5-9, 181 pounds – CB Kendric Burney from North Carolina. What Burney lacks in size, he makes up for in fundamentals and the ability to compete. The only times he was beaten during the practice is when a receiver as running away from him. When there was a jump ball, or the receiver stopped to catch a ball, Burney was knocking passes down. He also had the most impressive defensive play of the day, when he made a diving interception and had sense enough to jump up and beginning running. Remember, college football rules say when the guy with the ball’s knee touches the ground, he’s down. Not so in the NFL, where the ball carrier has to be tackled. A lot of times college players forget the difference, but Burney did not. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Practice Report – Monday

From Mobile, Alabama

It was a busy day for all parties involved in the first full day of Senior Bowl week.

It started in a convention center ballroom for size and weight. Next was the practice field, like the photo left of former Chiefs TE Jonathan Hayes, now TE coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, working with a pair of North squad tight ends. By the end of the day, the players were enjoying an evening of food at the U.S.S. Alabama.

It all started with the annual weigh-in, or an exercise that easily could be called “Mr. Universe-Senior Bowl.” The ballroom in the Mobile Convention Center of is full of NFL types sitting in chairs, some with laptops and others with clipboards.

From one corner of the room parade all 104 players taking part in Senior Bowl week. They walk in wearing only a pair of workout tights, in essence underwear. No shoes, no shirt, no hats, no pants.

They walk to a stage, where one person measures them and yells out the height. From there, they move to another spot on the stage where they step on a scale. Once their weight comes up, another person yells it out for all in the room to hear. The player then steps down from the stage and walks down the middle aisle of the audience, with several hundred people watching.

It all seems so silly, evoking a cattle call and beauty pageant at the same time.

“It’s not intimidating or anything, but it was kind of weird,” said Oregon LB Casey Matthews. “I’m sure they want to make sure we aren’t hunchbacks and have all our limbs, but I think they can get that information with a lot less fanfare.

“It’s all part of the process, so it’s no big deal.”

This is how the NFL gets eyeballs on these guys and collects information on height and weight that’s not been filtered by the coaching staff or pr staff on campus. Sometimes, the difference can be striking. West Virginia running back Noel Devine was listed by his school as 5-8, 180 pounds. …Read More!

Senior Bowl Blog – Chapter One

From Mobile, Alabama

It was a dark, cloudy day along the Gulf coast on Monday. Temperatures in the 50s, making it perfect weather for the first day of practices at the Senior Bowl.

We’ve got a lot of information coming on the players, but this is also the place to see and be seen in the NFL. Owners, general managers, head coaches, coordinators, assistant coaches, personnel leaders, scouts and agents are everywhere. Oh … and there’s about 100 players hanging around as well.

Everyone expected some rain drops during the team practices Monday afternoon, but at least for the North team that worked at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, there was no precipitation, although there was plenty of perspiration. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and his coaching staff kept the players moving from one drill to the next. With the South team practicing at the same time, the crowd was about half of what it normally will be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday when the practices are staggered.

Here are some of the familiar faces seen at the North practice on Monday afternoon: …Read More!


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