The South practices for Senior Bowl week continued on Wednesday with the Cleveland Browns’ coaching staff in charge. Here is a recap of what went down on Day 2 of practices. You can read our Day 1 report here.
Hue Jackson on Changing the Offensive Line Coach
I thought a lot of what Hue Jackson said on Wednesday when talking to the media was rehashed talking points -- i.e. quarterback is the most important position to have, but they’ll also take the best player...and he also wouldn’t rule anything out, including trading down from No. 1 overall. If you’d like to check that stuff out, go here.
The part I did find more interesting was his explanation of why he changed offensive line coaches, as he hired Bob Wylie to replace Hal Hunter:
“[Wylie’s] one of my guys. I just thought I needed to go in a different direction. I’m trying to improve our team in a lot of different areas, and it’s an opportunity to get better. I take the responsibility for our offense last year. We didn’t play as well I think we could. It doesn’t matter what players we did or didn’t have. I just think there’s a level of performance we’re looking for, and I just felt it was best to make a change, so we made the change.”
Jackson also said that the quarterback getting hit too often last year was a big issue for him.
“When [Wylie and I] we were together [in Oakland], we didn’t get the quarterback hit a lot, and that’s the name of the game. The quarterback’s got to be able to stand up right and do what he does well. We need to improve there.”
Jeff Ridson of the USA Today had a lot more on Wylie’s coaching style during the Senior Bowl practices.
Jimmy Haslam in Attendance
It doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but Jimmy Haslam and his father (Jim Haslam) were in attendance for Wednesday’s Senior Bowl activities. The North practices were first on Thursday, so you can see him (sitting on the bench) and his father (standing up) getting ready to watch John Fox’s group.
A little later, Haslam was seen talking with Browns head coach Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams before the South practices began.
Jackson spoke about the importance of seeing Haslam engaged:
“It’s important to me. I’ve said all along I have a great relationship with Jimmy and I’m really excited the fact he comes out here and sees myself and the staff and also the talent that’s out here. I think that’s important as we move forward.”
Many Notes on the Practice Pace
It’s interesting to see the varying opinions of how the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears are handling the South and North teams, respectively. For example, Albert Breer said the following on Bull & Fox yesterday, but it came one day after there were headlines about how slow of a practice pace the Bears had worked:
But then you have other opinions regarding the North practice:
Bears are coaching the North team at the Senior Bowl. Never again, please. Total waste of time.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) January 25, 2017
Perhaps for the most in-depth look, we again turn to Jeff Ridson of the USA Today, who wrote an article about what he was hearing regarding the pace of the Browns’ practices.
Ridson says the Browns are running the practice the way they want it run, which is “drawing the ire” of many other scouts and media in attendance. Ridson says that players are in a lot of positional grouping drills and there is less offense vs. defense than people would like. That sounds familiar to me — it’s pretty much like every boring training camp practice I’ve been to over the past couple of years in Berea. Ridson makes it clear that the Browns are not being singled out, saying, “The North team is getting equal venom for pedantic pacing and wasted time, too.”
Dane Bruglar of CBS Sports also dedicated a section of his recap to talk about the Browns’ practice pace and formation usage:
In 16 years of covering the Senior Bowl, I've never seen a team run a practice quite like the Browns. There are periods of time in which the club utilizes the traditional one-on-ones and scrimmages like other teams, but a disproportionate amount of time has been spent asking defensive linemen to "run the arc" around giant hula hoops, as well as receivers and defensive backs being asked to track, pick up and lift medicine balls during special teams exercises. A trick play with five receivers and offensive line split out wide was also practiced. The exercises do illustrate the athleticism and ability of players to take to coaching but the non-traditional techniques have left more than a few talent evaluators in the stands grumbling.
Have heard from multiple people (scouts/coaches) how bad the Browns Sr bowl practices are. One exec "low energy, unorganized, just awful"— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) January 26, 2017
As a coaching staff you have a couple things to accomplish in all star games: Be organized & let the kids get as many reps as possible— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) January 26, 2017
There may be a question about whether the Senior Bowl coaching staffs should be using this primarily for their own benefit, or if they should be thinking about “representing the rest of the NFL too.” This is the approach Cleveland is taking, though, and I think you, in a losing way, “earn” the right to handle these practices as you see fit:
You mean the #Browns aren't helping OTHER TEAMS scout talent at the Senior Bowl? What a damn shame.— Ryan (@RyInCBus) January 25, 2017
Jeff Ridson of the USA Today highlights these five players who he believes have stood out for Hue Jackson and company on the South team: QB Josh Dobbs, WR Chad Williams, DT Tanzel Smart, DE Keionta Davis, and CB/S Cameron Sutton. Regarding Williams, Ridson says that Cleveland’s coaches looked to be pleased with his intensity.
What type of intensity are we referring to? Dane Bruglar of CBS Sports said the following, while also noting that Williams had indeed stood out [in a good day] for the South team:
“Williams had to be physically restrained by teammates and the Cleveland coaching staff after a brief scuffle with Miami safety Rayshawn Jenkins at the end of practice.”
Senior Bowl scrap between Grambling WR Chad Williams and Miami Safety Rayshawn Jenkins. pic.twitter.com/WTNGuluUEH— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) January 25, 2017
There are a lot more players notes (for both the North and South teams) from Bruglar here, including praise for WR Ryan Switzer, WR Josh Reynolds, TE O.J. Howard, TE Evan Engram, and QB Josh Dobbs. Sadly, if the Browns were trying to evaluate the top offensive linemen, they won’t get more than a day’s look due to injuries:
Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp (high ankle sprain), Utah's Isaac Asiata (hamstring) and San Diego State's Nico Siragusa (dislocated thumb) fared well prior to suffering the injuries and drew rave reviews from scouts who interviewed them Tuesday night. The injuries are not considered serious enough to endanger their draft stock. Each is a legitimate top-100 candidate.
The top stars from Day 2 of practice for Mike Mayock of the NFL Network included:
- QB Antonio Pipkin
- QB Davis Webb
- TE O.J. Howard
- ILB Haason Reddick
- S Obi Melifonwu
- CB Damontae Kazee
I don’t know how much the Browns really need an inside linebacker, but Reddick from the North team has seen universal praise from the media.
LB Haason Reddick gets wild dropping in coverage, but he has the athleticism to get away with it. Also dominating RBs in pass pro drills.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 25, 2017
And here is what Mayock said about him:
For a guy most consider a "tweener" he made a big statement on Wednesday. He's an ultra-versatile player. If you think of Lawrence Timmons -- and I'm not saying Reddick is Timmons -- he came out of Florida State 10 years ago as an explosive guy the Steelers put in their 3-4 scheme as a inside WILL (weakside) linebacker. They use him as a cover guy but also they bring him on the rush in certain situations. That's where I think Reddick fits. I've been told he'll test well, too, at the combine and his pro day. His arrow is pointed way up from what I've seen here.
Regarding TE O.J. Howard, one of the questions has been whether he can also be a good blocking tight end. He did a fine job on this play:
Mayock says, “You can see he's really worked on his blocking and has improved in that area.” However, he also projects Howard to be picked in the early 20s, so unless the Browns trade back or trade up, the thought of drafting him might not be a reality.
The big DE Tanoh Kpassagnon is still viewed as a raw talent, but one who is making the most of his opportunity at the Senior Bowl for the second day in a row:
Pro Football Focus elaborated some more on what Kpassagnon needs to improve on:
Tanoh Kpassagnon had an impressive one-on-one session, but it’s worth pointing out some of his struggles on double-team drills. Seeing him have difficulty in that drill wasn’t a huge surprise, as not only is the step up in competition level from Villanova likely an issue, but the fact that he is nearly 6-feet-7 makes his frame an easy target for offensive linemen. Going forward he needs to focus on maintaining a lower pad level and use his natural length and strength to prevent blockers from locking onto him.
PFF had a lot more good player notes, so be sure to check that out as well.
An Unusual Take on Pep Hamilton Leaving Cleveland
As one coach told me: "Pep Hamilton didn't leave Cleveland for a money grab, he was making a lot, he wanted to get the hell outta there"— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) January 26, 2017