The 64th edition of the Senior Bowl will be played on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4:00 PM EST. The game will be broadcast from Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama on the NFL Network.
The Senior Bowl is an opportunity for scouts from every team in the league to eyeball talent for the upcoming draft. In the past, most of the very best collegiate football players signed up for the game.
The NFL Combine, scheduled for Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis, is now the top showcase for first-round draft choices. The rosters for the Senior Bowl are primarily composed of players who will be selected in the later rounds.
Brian Gardner, Director of Pro Personnel for the Houston Texans, will likely have a large contingent of his staff in Mobile. The Texans have a history of trading down on draft day. They could receive at least three late picks as compensation for the loss of Mario Williams, Mike Briesel and Joel Dreessen to free agency.
The 13-5 team that stumbled to a 2-4 finish ended the season with a variety of holes to fill. Most of the fan base is screaming for fleet-footed wide receiver.
Texans’ owner Bob McNair has heard them and concurs. In a Houston Chronicle interview from January 19th he stated, “We need another playmaker (at receiver). We want more speed at receiver.”
What McNair did not mention in the article was how the Houston defense was responsible for their gradual collapse over the last eight games. A weakened pass rush allowed mediocre quarterbacks such as Chad Henne and Jake Locker to throw for more than 300 yards.
The Bulls on Parade turned in their worst effort of the season against Christian Ponder. The Minnesota Vikings QB led his team to an inexplicable 23-6 defeat of the Texans that sunk their chances for the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Most of the receivers in Mobile do not possess first-round potential, and the same goes for the defensive linemen. There is depth in the second round and beyond for these positions and the other areas that require attention.
Houston also has needs at ILB, DB, QB, and RT. Let us have a look at the top three Senior Bow prospects for each of these groups. The fourth player listed should be considered as a possible "sleeper."
The man who signs the checks made it clear his team needs more speed on the outside. The Texans ask for more than just speed and good hands from their wideouts.
They want them to block well enough to seal off the edge on off-tackle plays. It helps to have the size to chip an outside linebacker out in space.
The incumbent No. 2 receiver, Kevin Walter, has made a fine living doing that over his tenure in Houston. Now they want a home-run hitter who can still handle some of the dirty work in the running game.
|Quinton Patton||Louisiana Tech||6'2"||195||4.52||83.8|
Williams led the country in receiving yardage even without Robert Griffin III there to get him the ball. He did not take many routes over the middle and was just asked to go long and catch the ball.
Patton has all the qualities necessary except track-star speed. Hamilton rang up some great stats during his senior year for the tenth-ranked passing offense. Both impressed in some early workouts in Mobile.
Robinson is making the switch from read-option quarterback to pass catcher in the NFL. As a QB at Michigan, he did show elusiveness with the ball in his hands. Is he willing to knock down cornerbacks to clear the way for Arian Foster?
According to Yahoo! Sports' Doug Farrar, things may not be working out as planned:
New on Shutdown Corner -- Senior Bowl Report: So far, the Denard Robinson experiment is a major work in progress sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shut…— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) January 25, 2013
Playing the nose for the Texans is a thankless job. Your task is to tie up a couple of blockers while the defensive ends and outside linebackers swoop in and get all the glory.
The problem was that both Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell were not drawing double teams. J.J. Watt was getting all the attention while a single lineman handled Houston’s defensive tackles.
This was a significant reason why the pass rush fizzled during the second half of the season. The Texans defense had only six sacks in their five losses. Their defensive backs cannot be expected to cover when the opposing quarterback has upwards of four seconds to find the open man.
Cody is an unrestricted free agent and may not even get an offer if a proper replacement is drafted.
| John Jenkins || Georgia ||6'4"||358||5.45|| 81.3
|Sylvester Williams ||North Carolina||6'3"||320||5.08||80.6|
|Brandon Williams||Missouri Southern||6'3"||341||5.12||69.1|
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has favored undersized players in his version of the 3-4. His tackles need to be able to move up and down the line to accommodate the stunts frequently run by the ends. Any of these rookies would represent an upgrade in size over the current veterans.
Jenkins clearly has the girth at 350-plus pounds. He has trouble maintaining leverage because his lower frame does not match his massive upper body.
Sylvester Williams has the strength and quickness for the job, but not the athletic capacity to maneuver through all the traffic around the line of scrimmage. Short is long on athletic ability, but has trouble sniffing out which direction the ball is going.
Brandon Williams is intriguing due to his experience playing a wide variety of techniques on the defensive line. His play against lower-level competition may not have brought out the best in him. With a step up in effort and the right coaching, he could be a steal in the third round.
NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah singled out B. Williams as one of his "risers" in this week's workouts.
When Brian Cushing went down for the year in Week 5 game versus the New York Jets, the loss was thought to be significant. When the Texans continued to win despite his absence, it seemed they might get by with Tim Dobbins and Bradie James.
Dobbins injured his shoulder and then broke his ankle in season finale. Darryl Sharpton had trouble staying in the lineup after his return in Week 11. James played as if his 10 years in the league had finally caught up with him.
Houston needs more than depth at inside linebacker. They need to groom another starter to man the middle alongside Cushing.
| Kevin Reddick ||North Carolina ||6'3"||240||4.75||71.5|
| Nico Johnson ||Alabama||6'3"||245||4.63||69.7|
|Vince Williams||Florida State||6'1"||250||4.79||N/A|
The weaknesses in Reddick's game make him a good fit for the 3-4. He is not a sideline-to-sideline pursuer and is better when he stays at home. This Tar Heel can handle blockers, stick to his area and let Cushing get in the face of the QB.
Johnson follows in the footsteps of Crimson Tide alums Dont’a Hightower and Rolando McClain at ILB. He can take care of business in the interior, but does not have the skills or instincts to make plays outside the box.
Williams caught the attention of scouts with his ten-tackle performance against Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. Beauharnais is a worker who lacks ideal stature but makes up for it with good technique.
The base package for Houston’s defense is essentially nickel coverage. When he was healthy, the role of fifth defensive back was filled by Brice McCain.
The 5’9” McCain could be easily overwhelmed by many slot receivers. He was also vulnerable to picks set by tight ends and running backs.
CB Brandon Harris was forced to come off the practice squad to take the place of the injured nickel back. His baptism under fire coincided with the decline of the Texans pass defense.
|Leon McFadden||San Diego State
|Jordan Poyer||Oregon State||6'0"||190||4.49||74.0|
McFadden is a tough defender who excels at covering an area as opposed to man-to-man responsibilities. Although good at bringing down runners, his lack of length could hurt him when the field shortens.
Trufant is following brothers Marcus and Isaiah into the league, and has inherited the coverage abilities of his older siblings. Unlike McFadden, he needs to develop his tackling and overall strength to match up with those 6’3” WRs that populate most NFL teams. Daniel Jeremiah seemed to like what he saw of him in practice:
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 24, 2013
Some height in the defensive backfield could be helpful. Alan Ball was the tallest DB on the 2012 roster at 6’1”, but may not even make the squad in 2013. Wreh-Wilson couples size with the kind of speed that allows him to stay with all types of receivers.
Poyer looks good in the early stages of shadowing a route, but can get lost when forced to close on a receiver after his move. He needs to improve his tackling in the open field.
Matt Schaub suffered much of the blame for how the season ended. We will leave the discussion of whether he should be indicted for dereliction of duty for a future date.
His backup, T.J Yates, may have guided the Texans through a rough 3-3 stretch to close out 2011. But he also was at the helm for the first playoff win in franchise history.
That does not change the fact that Yates received very little playing time in 2012. Nor does it address his terrible passing mechanics or his tendency to throw interceptions at an alarming rate.
The immediate question is how this situation should be addressed in the upcoming draft. If head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith decide the status quo is not the way to go, here are the choices before them.
||NC State||6'6"||232||5.12|| 79.4
|EJ Manuel||Florida State||6'4"||237||4.64||68.7|
The arm strength of Matt Schaub has been an issue for some time, but that is not the case with Landry Jones. Where he does resemble Houston’s QB is his inability to avoid the rush and make accurate throws downfield.
Glennon seems to have been produced out of the same mold as Jones. Good arm, maybe a better command of medium- and long-distance passes, but he also has issues with pocket awareness and footwork.
Nassib is said to have stylistic similarities to Brett Favre, with a facial resemblance to match. He has too much faith in his arm when in trouble, but can put the ball into a tight space with some precision.
If the goal was to get a better athlete behind center, then Manuel is your man. His feet can pick up yardage à la Cam Newton, but he needs to develop significantly more accuracy throwing the ball.
Everyone take a good look at the Houston Texans offensive line.
First, start with Texans’ center Chris Myers and work your way left. All three of those guys won a trip to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.
If you look to the right, keep pen and paper handy to make a running list of the occupants.
Right guard was manned by three players over the course of last season, and so was the right tackle position. The coaching staff will try to spin it as adapting to injury situations and trying to select the proper personnel to match up with their opponents.
Eventually, a decision will have to be made whether Ben Jones or Brandon Brooks is best suited to handle right guard full-time. Each player showed promise, but Brooks was actually drafted at the position. Jones should be shifted back to center, where he gained All-SEC honors at Georgia.
The situation at right tackle is less certain. First-year starter Derek Newton took most of the snaps, but journeyman Ryan Harris did better work when called upon to relieve Newton.
In any case, someone should be brought in to audition as the anchor of the offensive line’s right flank.
||San Jose State||6'5"||295||5.18||69.2|
The zone-blocking scheme preferred by the Texans favors smaller, more agile athletes. That is, if someone such as the 6’5”, 300-pound Newton seems small in any way.
Johnson is taller than your average right tackle, but has all the necessary techniques mastered. His height could be a disadvantage in pass-blocking, when flexing your knees and hips is vital to a solid stance.
By the same standard, Fluker is oversized. Can he move quickly enough to stave off second-effort pass rushers? He does possess the footwork and strength to run-block beyond the line of scrimmage.
Wagner is another big dude who is good at clearing space for the runner. Playing at the professional level will force him to learn how to move his feet, flex his lower body, and not rely on his height to lean into oncoming rushers.
The Senior Bowl is the right time for someone like Quessenberry to move up in competition. He may need to add some weight to hold his own in one-on-one battles. His hostility when searching for someone to block should serve him well at the next level.