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Jene Bramel

Senior Bowl practice reports

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Combined musings from Matt Waldman, Cecil Lammey and I from Day 1 at the Fifth Down Blog this morning.

Will get to see both the North and South practices today. Hoping for a little better weather, but the field turf today should remove some of the poor footing vs iffy footwork questions I had watching the South defenders yesterday. Won't get a chance to add to this thread until later tonight, but I'm planning to add some quick impressions to my Twitter feed throughout the day. You can send me questions there as well.

Cross-posting my extended thoughts from the main thread on the Senior Bowl in the Shark Pool here.

Some of this will be redundant from our Fifth Down blog article, but here's what caught my eye while watching the South practice yesterday.

Quinton Coples was the best defensive lineman of a group that included Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw today. Played a little high (frequent issue for him) but showed a strong inside rip and swim move, a good bull rush and the ability to win on the edge. If he finishes the week as consistently as he started it, he’ll both allay concerns about his so-so senior season and be forced to answer questions about his effort when teams interview him before the draft.

Melvin Ingram is incredibly athletic for his body type. He and Courtney Upshaw are sharing reps in a role that will have them play in both a two and three point stance. Ingram was mostly successful with a bull rush, but seems to lack a consistent finishing move, which could hurt him if he’s unable to beat better offensive linemen off the edge. I didn't find Ingram as impressive in team drills as Russ Lande did yesterday, but didn't feel like he hurt himself with his play either.

Upshaw looked really thick at the weigh-in (273 pounds) and seemed to lack flexibility during stretches, but was athletic during drills. He didn’t stand out as a pass rusher, but I was usually watching Coples and Brandon Thompson during his reps.

I really like Brandon Thompson. Low pad level, anchors well, controls blockers when he’s not moving forward. Probably not much of a pass rusher, though.

Bummed that Devon Still and Andre Branch bailed this week with minor injuries. Particularly bummed on Branch, who I wanted to see in person.

They’ve got Jake Bequette playing strong side linebacker in practice. In these practices, that’s had him dropping in coverage in passing situations rather than rushing the passer. He’s struggled and it’s almost certainly due more to athletic limitations than comfort level and experience in a two point stance.

I really want to like one of these inside backers.

I saw Emmanuel Acho and Nigel Bradham today. Bradham was a little more impressive at the weigh-in. Both were inconsistent on the field. I think Bradham has more upside as a potential sideline-to-sideline MLB, but he needs work in coverage. I liked what I read about Acho, but Chad Reuter told me that he felt he was iffy between the tackles and probably not fast enough to survive outside. He seemed more instinctive in today’s limited sample than Bradham but looked very much like Reuter’s assessment.

The North guys may prove to be the better talents. Both James-Michael Johnson and Bobby Wagner looked good at the weigh-in and the scouts here seems to be high on one or the other over both the South guys. Reuter likened Wagner to Donald Butler, a guy I’ve always liked. Love to see him live up to that standard.

Keenan Robinson looked great in individual drills, very fluid for his size. Seemed to change direction well enough, but was often a step behind when the TE broke down out of his route. Not sure what to make of those differing observations.

Sean Spence and Zach Brown have been the weak side linebackers. South used under fronts all day, which left both guys as chase OLBs and zone depth cover backers. Good fit for both. Spence weighed in at 228, a great number for him. He held his ground when blocked, but didn’t shed well. Looked as instinctive as billed, though. Brown was underwhelming during individual drills – Robinson moved through the pad drills better – but looked better in the team drills. Have a feeling he’ll pop tomorrow and Wednesday.

Lavonte David also measured well at 225, but doesn’t have a frame to add much more. Most seem to favor him over Spence as the better undersized Will. Looking forward to watching him tomorrow.

Didn’t watch the corner play at all, though reports suggest that Alfonzo Dennard disappointed on the North side. Did hear that Ryan Steed had his moments in man coverage, but was also told that he struggled badly on other plays.

South coaches had Antonio Allen as the deep safety when they worked Cover-1. Didn’t watch closely but he wasn’t as impressive as Brandon Taylor in that role. That’s not all that surprising, but Allen could keep his stock relatively high if he proves he can handle some zone coverage reads. George Iloka measured 6-4, 222 at the weigh-in. If he’s as good a two-way prospect as advertised, he’s arguably right with Taylor as the next most versatile safety behind Mark Barron (who also decided not to come to Mobile at the final hour).

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At the end of the week can you comment on who you think is the fastest player there and who has the best work ethic from what you've observed?

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Day 2 Defensive Notes | North

Scouts and team observers flocked to the fence to watch Mike Singletary take the North linebacker group through individual drills. The Vikings moved through individual drills at a fairly brisk pace, but Singletary could be heard giving tips on footwork, maintaining good body position when changing direction, alignment and run fits and recognition skills throughout practice. The North defensive roster doesn’t have the depth of talent that the South has, but a few players turned in notable performances on Day 2.

Lavonte David, Nebraska

David’s measurable aren’t elite, but he looks the part on the field. Singletary wanted him to slow down and keep his feet underneath him during individual drills, but David settled quickly after that. He pancaked Washington RB Chris Polk, who had been otherwise solid, on a 1v1 pass protection rep and was impressive throughout unit drills in coverage. He dropped to his coverage landmarks more quickly than any linebacker on either roster thus far and showed good change of direction skills and awareness in man coverage underneath. He didn’t stand out as a run defender today, but wasn’t a clear liability either.

Bobby Wagner, Utah State

Wagner drew praise early for his hustle and speed in special teams drills then earned a compliment from Singletary for his good body lean while changing direction in individual footwork drills. He was on the line of scrimmage at OLB today and consistently showed the ability to anchor at the point of attack and shed blocks. Through two days, he’s ahead of Emmanuel Acho, James-Michael Johnson and Nigel Bradham as the most impressive between the tackles run stuffing linebacker prospect.

Audie Cole, NC State

Cole drew coaching from Singletary for chopping footwork and body position during drills and for a couple of missed coverage landmarks in 7v7 reps. But he was very good against the backs in blitz pickup drills, showing a good swim move and a quick step outside. He changed direction well for a player his size and still looks like a solid, but not spectacular, scheme-diverse every-down OLB.

Demario Davis, Arkansas State

Davis, a late addition to the North roster this week, was very impressive today. Singletary made an effort to improve his footwork during drills, hammering home the point that a wider, lower base and keeping his feet close to the ground would keep him upright when changing direction. Davis, who played inside today, was a half beat slow to react on some snaps, but was violent coming downhill after making his read. He was also extremely quick and explosive in the blitz pickup drills, beating backs and tight ends consistently. Unlike Nigel Bradham on the South roster, he had no trouble getting his players lined up quickly and correctly. He’s going to draw notice if his performance remains strong through the rest of the week.

George Iloka, Boise State

Iloka had some difficulty when matched against a wide receiver in 1v1 drills, but looked very fluid in space and coming up to make plays in zone coverage. His quick recognition and reaction on an underneath route earned him a diving interception and set the tone for the North defense early in team drills. Antonio Allen flashed improvements in coverage during the South afternoon session, but Iloka has been the better all-around safety prospect in practice and should be moving up draft boards.

Cam Johnson reportedly had a strong practice yesterday and showed a consistently strong effort with his hand on the ground today. He wasn’t an explosive pass rusher, but set the edge well against the run. Vinny Curry showed enough of a burst to beat his opponent off the edge but his body lean often takes him to the ground rather than allowing him to turn the corner. He was able to get upfield well in his run fits at times in team drills, however. Derek Wolfe, Kendall Reyes and Billy Winn split snaps at end and tackle. Winn and Reyes were more consistent than Wolfe. James-Michael Johnson flashed during the back-on-backer pass protection drills, but had a lot of difficulty changing direction and generally played too high. When his pad level was better, he showed good power at the point of attack. Shea McClellin is much smoother from a two point stance than Jake Bequette was yesterday. The North coaches also gave McClellin a couple of snaps as a down defensive end late in team drills and he showed a good spin move to collapse the pocket.

Day 2 Defensive Notes | South

Juron Criner made a couple of ahh-inducing catches, but the story of the day was the dominant play of the South defensive line One group, made up of Quinton Coples, Brandon Thompson and Courtney Upshaw (along with the solid, but not spectacular Kheeston Randall), won consistently in every drill and then blew up nearly every play the South offense tried to run in team drills. Melvin Ingram and Jaye Howard made things nearly as tough anchoring the second group.

Quinton Coples, North Carolina

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Coples won 90% of his reps in today’s practice. He again made his opponents whiff at times on his go-to inside rip and swim move and flashed a rare, but effective edge rush move with good lean. He’s been strong enough to get away with a high pad level when defending the run. His play today, albeit against what may be questionable competition, was again evoking nearly unanimous comparisons to Julius Peppers.

Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt

Most of the South corners flashed at one point or another today, but Hayward drew the most praise from vocal Washington DB coach Raheem Morris. Showing very good change of direction skills and the ability to use his hands effectively in press coverage, Hayward frequently broke up passes with a quick burst back to the ball. Juron Criner was able to get separation with his big frame at times, but Hayward was usually right in his pocket.

Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Coples will get all the headlines from today’s practice, but Thompson dominated as frequently as Coples. Thompson consistently got under the pads of his blocker and either drove him back or stood his ground and shed easily. He was in the backfield extremely quickly on a number of 7-on-7 snaps and disrupted a handful of rushing plays in team drills.

Zach Brown, North Carolina

Brown, who may have been holding back a bit on the soggy field yesterday, was arguably the best linebacker on the South roster today. He was much quicker through the footwork drills and rarely needed to look down to judge where he was between pads. He was the most consistent backer in coverage drills, never getting lost when needing stop quickly and change direction on a route. He was also very sudden shooting gaps from the backside and would have made multiple tackles for loss if the 7-on-7 session was a live tackling drill. He and Lavonte David have been the class of the Will linebacker prospects this week.

Coples’ efforts were nearly matched by Melvin Ingram, who played with better leverage today, collapsed the pocket well and even tossed a running back to the ground like a rag doll to end one play. Courtney Upshaw also had a good practice. His pass rush catalog is limited without a true edge rushing capability, but his pad level was consistently better than his opponent’s all day. Sean Spence seemed to be guessing during coverage drills, often getting lost by the running back coming out of his break. He was nearly as effective in pursuit as Brown in team drills, however, and again regularly helped Nigel Bradham get the team lined up out of the huddle. Bradham struggled today in all phases. He was turned badly on one long-gaining running play and looked especially limited in coverage. Keenan Robinson closed on routes much better today, breaking up multiple passes in man coverage, but was also grabbing his receiver too often near the end of the play. Antonio Allen was better in coverage today, breaking on underneath routes better. But he still looks stiff when backpedaling and needs to gather himself to change direction.

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I know DT's not a potition most FF leagues care about... but anything on Mike Martin?

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I know DT's not a potition most FF leagues care about... but anything on Mike Martin?

Apparently, he's been pretty good.. Via Detroit Free Press:|topnews|text|Sports

And thanks for these practice reports.. love reading them and the twitter updates

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I know DT's not a potition most FF leagues care about... but anything on Mike Martin?

Was very good in one on one drills yesterday. Great battles with Brewster. His cut 307 pound frame drew lots of discussion during the weigh-in, too. Could be a big week for him if he continues to play well. I'll watch the line more closely today. Was focused on the backers and Singletary during individual drills yesterday.

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Will have defensive standouts/disappointments for Fifth Down blog, thoughts on hybrid talents for RSP blog and more tonight and tomorrow. Thought I'd post highlights from my Twitter feed today, then add links to those when they post over the coming hours. Might read best from the bottom up...

Brandon Boykin very good again. Strong hands, quick recovery skills, stayed over his feet and didn't get lost when WR came out of his route.

Casey Hayward had a rough start, lost leverage in early reps on inside breaking routes, but was very good in 5v5 pass drills again.

Bentley had a little trouble consistently getting a jam and got him beat deep on a couple of occasions, but very good otherwise.

First long look at Janoris Jenkins, Dwight Bentley today. Both won regularly v WR. Jenkins in particular very quick feet, good anticipation.

Liked Markelle Martin more often than not in 1v1 contests with WR/TE. Antonio Allen struggled w/ recognition & footwork to hang in man.

Keenan Robinson also impressive as pass rusher. Showed good quickness around the edge and powered through block on more than one rep.

Jake Bequette finally got chance to shine in blitz pickup drills. Beat backs w/ quick step & power rush. ROLB only position for him in 3-4.

Zach Brown again strong in all phases, including flashing some power and short area quicks in blitz pickup drills with RBs.

Coples still plays high, but won't be pushed back when engaged, stoned a RB coming off tackle with one hand late in team drills.

Looked like South OL would be more competitive early in drills, but usual DL suspects (Coples, Ingram, Thompson, etc) again outclassed them.

Can't imagine anyone didn't get the Holyfield reference but here's the YouTube clip anyway.

Hard to get great sense on safety reads and finishing skills since they aren't taking receivers to the ground though.

Think there's room for Allen to separate from Iloka and Smith a bit if he shows continued improvement in coverage.

Will be watching Antonio Allen and the corner group closely. Hoping to see more good things from Zach Brown and Keenan Robinson too.

Headed to South practice. Expecting a Holyfield-Steiner feel to the South DL v North OL again today: "Come out and get your whoopin'."


Liked the physical nature of Jamell Fleming and George Johnson in 1v1 blocking drills v WR. Brought contact and shed well.

George Iloka struggled in man all morning. Still breaks well on plays in front of him but Harrison Smith better all around practice.

Singletary also had nice words for McClellin. "You're getting better Boise. Getting better. I like it," during individual drills.

Demario Davis not as impressive today but drew praise for his footwork from Singletary during drills.

Like Bobby Wagner a lot. Not as stout today but played with leverage. Hung w/ backs to the flat and wheel route all day.

Shea McClellin needs to improve playing with leverage from 2 point stance but hung with backs in coverage well at times.

Johnson too high in drills but better in 7v7 than yesterday. Nice to see the rebound but looks like a longship to play every down.

Thought Mike Singletary was going to send James-Michael Johnson to his room during footwork drills. Made him start over five times.

Kendall Reyes, Mike Wright solid all around effort. Billy Winn very good but Reyes similar swing end-tackle prospect with a little upside.

Cam Johnson not flashy but looks good. Beat tackle on the edge multiple times in team drills. Very consistent v run today.

Vinny Curry very good when he gets a jump off snap. Showed in and out rip moves today. Stayed on feet around corner. Set edge in 7v7.

Mike Martin is ridiculous. Doing straight leg kicks during warmups. As flexible as a Rockette.

My partners in crime @cecillammey @MattWaldman killing it this week. And they're only lightly hazing me on my virgin trip to Mobile.

Still haven't seen a universal consensus on any one player, eg saw one writer suggest that Quinton Coples just "had his moments" yesterday.

May be a matter of degree, limitations of Senior Bowl practice process, but felt like all three less consistent than I've seen advertised.

But I'm not sure I agreed with some of the positive reviews I've seen on Jack Crawford, Dwight Bentley and Kheeston Randall.

Most divergent opinions seem to be on the wide receivers, especially on Brian Quick and Jeff Fuller.

Been interesting to see the players about which the Twitter scout community has had such varying opinions on this week.

Won't focus as much on LB today, though. Want to see Cam Johnson, Jack Crawford, Vinny Curry in the pit and DB 1v1 work.

Headed to the North practice shortly. Eager to get another look at Demario Davis, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner.

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Senior Bowl Day 3 | Standouts and Disappointments

Defensive Standouts

DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

Coples was the most dominant player on the field this week. His game may still need some refinement, but he again proved that he’s worthy of selection in the top ten after a disappointing senior season. Comparisons to Julius Peppers, Mario Williams and Calais Campbell are all valid.

DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Had it not been for Coples, Ingram may have been the most impressive defender this week. He showed a number of effective pass rush moves and, though he did take himself out of plays at times, was more consistently effective against the run than some expected. He’s a lock to go in the first round.

DE Vinny Curry, Marshall

Curry showed his quick burst off the edge and ability to penetrate against the run against top competition. There are still blemishes in his game, but he’ll have many teams taking a second look at his tape.

DE/OLB Cam Johnson, Virginia

Johnson was listed as a LB on the roster sheet, but predominantly played with his hand down in practice. He showed a better than expected burst off the edge and anchored against the run well. He’ll get looks from 4-3 and 3-4 teams in need of a pass rusher.

DT/DE Billy Winn, Boise State

With more 3-4 and hybrid front schemes around the league, a versatile player like Winn who can defend the run and rush the passer from multiple positions is a highly sought after commodity. Winn, along with Connecticut DL Kendall Reyes, improved their draft stock significantly this week.

DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Thompson may have been just as disruptive as Coples this week. He won’t be a dominant pass rusher, but a team looking for a disruptive, penetrating DT had to like what Thompson showed in Mobile.

DT Mike Martin, Michigan

Martin’s chiseled physique had scouts buzzing at the weigh-in and his tenacious play in the pit will likely move him up the boards of teams looking to add a rotational run stuffing body with a great motor.

OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Upshaw was part of a South defensive line group that dominated practice all week. Upshaw evoked comparisons to James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley from observers who saw him beat blockers with an impressive mix of power and technique.

OLB Zach Brown, North Carolina

Other linebackers may have been slightly better in coverage or more physical at the point of attack, but Brown was the most impressive all-around linebacker this week. His measurables and speed suggest that he may be limited to a 4-3 WLB role, but similar talents (e.g. Jon Beason, Daryl Washington) have kicked inside and performed well.

ILB/OLB Bobby Wagner, Nevada

Wagner took all his reps at OLB in Mobile, but showed the strength and leverage to play inside. He also more than held his own in coverage during drills and team sessions.

ILB Demario Davis, Arkansas State

Davis was a late addition to the North roster, but impressed immediately with a combination of speed, suddenness and coverage ability. He’ll continue to rise up draft boards if he tests well as the pre-draft process continues.

OLB Lavonte David, Nebraska

David weighed in at a solid 225 pounds, then proved that he could play even bigger against the run while showing good quickness and anticipation in coverage. He’s right behind North Carolina’s Zach Brown as the draft’s best flow and chase Will backer.

OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State

McClellin, a defensive end at Boise State, showed that he can comfortably transition to OLB in the NFL. He’ll be a project against the run, but he surprised in coverage all week and showed that he can get to the quarterback. His week should earn him consideration in the middle rounds as a rotational player.

CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

Jenkins needed to prove that he still had the shutdown corner skills he showed at Florida and didn’t disappoint. He showed excellent footwork, route anticipation and closing speed and looks like a first round pick. Brandon Boykins, Casey Hayward and Dwight Bentley were also impressive, but Jenkins generated the most buzz.

Defensive Disappointments

CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

Dennard was very inconsistent in coverage this week, while most of the competition at his position met or exceeded expectations. He’ll need to rehab his stock in the coming weeks after dropping out late Wednesday with a hip flexor strain.

ILB James-Michael Johnson, Nevada

Johnson had his moments during 7-on-7 sessions, but his pad level and coverage were issues all week. His stock is likely slipping into the later middle rounds.

ILB Emmanuel Acho, Texas

Acho was solid, but not spectacular as a huddle presence and between the tackles against the run. But he struggled terribly in coverage at times and looks limited to a base defensive role.

S Antonio Allen, South Carolina

Allen got a chance to prove himself capable of making reads in zone coverage and show range in deep coverage, but didn’t inspire much confidence that he could handle either job. That may not matter to teams preferring an in-the-box safety, but it won’t improve his draft stock.

DE/OLB Jake Bequette, Arkansas

Bequette took snaps exclusively at strong side linebacker this week and rarely got a chance to rush the passer. He showed some improvement, but isn’t athletic enough to chase and cover. He looks limited to a situational 4-3 RDE / 3-4 ROLB role.

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At the end of the week can you comment on who you think is the fastest player there and who has the best work ethic from what you've observed?

Did anyone stand out? Natural leaders?

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At the end of the week can you comment on who you think is the fastest player there and who has the best work ethic from what you've observed?

Did anyone stand out? Natural leaders?
Functional speed? I think Isaiah Pead looked quick. Lavonte David was very fast in space. Most of the corners looked good, but Janoris Jenkins turned and ran well.Hard to say anything about work ethic, I guess, but I liked the way Sean Spence took control of the huddle when Nigel Bradham struggled. James-Michael Johnson and Demario Davis rallied their huddles well, too. The Nebraska kids -- Acho and Robinson -- seemed to handle media night very well as I wandered around.Thought Shea McClellin and Audie Cole took coaching well, as did Melvin Ingram. Many of the South DBs responded really well to Raheem Morris, too.

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Why is it hard to say anything about work ethic?

I think it's hard to reliably observe work ethic during 15 minutes of individual drills and then team sessions. You might get an idea of whether a guy responds to coaching over the course of a week or note something one way or another with body language, but there's really no extended look at whether a player works hard. There's not a chance for a guy do an extra rep during drills (things move too quickly during practice) or stay late/arrive early (they're bused over).

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I respectfully disagree with you. I think that you can tell a great deal about a player from observing a week of practice, even in a unique situation like the Senior Bowl. Even amongst many other players doing many other drills people will naturally stand out. It's important to know what to actually be looking for. The observation of subtlety in technique is something you are noting, but the observation of subtlety in intensity should never be overlooked. Some players are getting more out of the reps you are observing, some guys are not for various reasons. The way a player practices is very indicative of the way the player plays.

Work ethic is about a mindset and that follows them around wherever they go. Once a player is in the habit of maximizing intensity while focusing on proper technique he is doing all he can do to improve. That's work ethic in a simple visible sense. It is not necessarily about staying late and doing extra reps, it is totally about doing reps optimally. As a competitor you worry about the guy who gives 100%, 100% of the time... not the guy who stays an hour late and goes 85%.

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability." - John Wooden

I'm a believer that the way you practice is the way you play or as I like to rephrase it; the way you compete is the way you compete. That is a glimpse into my philosophy on how game recognizes game. There is more to it, but generally speaking if you are observing enough reps over the course of a week to write reports there has to have been some lasting impressions of who did it the best all the time. You know what you are looking at technically and breaking things down nicely, but you aren't giving enough thought to the difference between what a player is capable of doing and what he is actually doing or willing to do and how important that actually is.

I think that if you aren't picking things up about a competitor from being around them as they work in a high pressure adverse situation your focus, technique, and intensity is off as an observer. In reality that is how it works and some people have that mentally and it usually serves them extremely well. That is the correlation that I am curious about and that is why I asked who you would say has the best work ethic. Perhaps our definitions are different, but hopefully now you can see what I am actually asking you to comment on. Some guys just do it at a higher level both mentally and physically, that's what I look at when trying to project college players entering the pro game. Predicting the future is complex. I don't expect you to have a perfectly clear picture from a few practices, but I think you saw some things that can help me.

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Agree with all of the above, including the suggestion that my eye for observing the mental side of practice likely needs improvement.

I think I'm defining work ethic a bit differently. I generally think of work ethic as a mindset and desire to improve off the field -- with those discussions generally surrounding a willingness to work outside of practice (putting in time in the weight room, in the playbook, with extra drills, seeking out extra coaching, avoiding off-field distractions). I don't mean to minimize the importance of proper practice intensity and focus in a discussion of a player's mental focus. "Work ethic" just carries an off-field bias to me, whereas my brain wants to separate the on-field mental well-being of a player into a different catch-all term like "practice habits."

Reading back through the thread, some of these reports do read heavily skewed toward technique. I think I've included more subjective flavor elsewhere (Twitter, podcasts, other threads) -- or maybe I haven't and some of these observations only happened talking on the fence, at dinner or on the phone, lol.

Anyway, while hoping that I'll hit the point a little better this time, I'll post some specific thoughts on practice habits, focus and intensity (along with some concerns I have with my observations) later today or tomorrow.

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I know DT's not a potition most FF leagues care about... but anything on Mike Martin?

Was very good in one on one drills yesterday. Great battles with Brewster. His cut 307 pound frame drew lots of discussion during the weigh-in, too. Could be a big week for him if he continues to play well. I'll watch the line more closely today. Was focused on the backers and Singletary during individual drills yesterday.
Always reminded me of a bigger Geno Atkins with how quick he jumps the snap... his combine numbers also look a lot like Geno's. Doesn't have his top end speed, but 10 yard split, cone, shuttle, vert are all as good or better with 13 more pounds. Was in the top 5 for every drill.

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