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NFL Combine 2014: Day 2 Notebook

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NFL Combine 2014: Day 2 Notebook
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Throughout the course of the NFL Scouting Combine, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen will bring you his daily notebook from Indianapolis.

 

Colts continue to have high expectations for Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson struggled to produce numbers with the Colts after the team sent a first-round pick to the Browns to acquire the running back during this past season.

However, after listening to general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano on Friday, the team continues to support the move along with some high expectations for 2014.

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“We think the sky's the limit for Trent,” Pagano said at the podium in Indianapolis.

A fair statement from the Colts head coach? Maybe…

During my film study, Richardson looked hesitant in a Colts uniform and lacked the necessary speed through the hole that allows running backs to work to the second level of the defense.

But I will say this: Showing up during the season to a new locker room, a new playbook and a new coach is never easy.

Whether you are a guy picked up off the street (as I was in 2001 with the Packers) or dealt to a new team (like Richardson this past year), that transition can be brutal in terms of learning the new system, meshing with teammates and understanding the techniques being taught by the coaching staff.

Does Richardson need to produce in 2014 to rationalize this deal? No doubt.

But with an entire offseason to work with the coaching staff and his teammates during spring OTAs, mini-camp and training camp, there is no reason Richardson can't produce this year given his skill set. 

 

Size at the wide receiver position

Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin has the build of an NBA power forward, and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans could line up at tight end. Both wide receiver prospects went through measurements and weigh-ins today, with Benjamin checking in at 6’5”, 240 pounds and Evans at 6’4”, 231 pounds.

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From the perspective of matchups, look at the red-zone slant/fade combo, the deep curl, post and intermediate dig route. That’s where both of these rookie prospects should make their money in 2014. Think of creating leverage on the red-zone slant, climbing the ladder to go get the ball on the fade and winning on inside-breaking concepts out in the field because of their size/length.

Looking ahead to the Sunday workouts for the wide receivers, focus on the 40 times and the vertical jump. At those size/weight combinations, the ability to showcase speed and leaping ability will factor into their overall grades.

 

Quarterback measurements are in…

Johnny Manziel’s press conference was the buzz of the media room on Friday (as Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman detailed), but we also got to see the numbers from the top players at the position during the measurements/weigh-ins.

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Here’s a quick run-down on the top three quarterback prospects:

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: 6’2”, 214 pounds (Hands: 9 1/4)

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: 5’11”, 207 pounds (Hands: 9 7/8)

Blake Bortles, Central Florida: 6’5”, 232 pounds (Hands: 9 3/8)

There will be questions on Manziel’s height (under 6’0”), but given his hand size, I don’t see this as a major issue in terms of “measurables” when you go back to the tape and study his game.

 

The first round could produce six offensive tackles

Will we see six offensive tackles come off the board in the first round? We think that could happen given the need at the position and the overall depth/talent of this year’s class.

Starting with Auburn’s Greg Robinson, we also expect Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Taylor Lewan (Michigan), Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama), Zack Martin (Notre Dame) and possibly Morgan Moses (Virginia) to hear their names called in the first round this May.

 

Odds and Ends

  • Here’s what Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley looks for when evaluating the quarterback position: “Timing, accuracy and decision making.” Sounds like a scouting report for Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
  • Packers 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones didn’t have a major impact this past season, but head coach Mike McCarthy talked about the need for the defensive end to be on the field in 2014. According to the head coach, the Packers have to do a better job of utilizing their defensive personnel and McCarthy envisions Jones making a “huge jump” in 2014.
  • McCarthy also talked about Eddie Lacy developing into a three-down player this season. That’s something to watch for with the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
  • The Cardinals plan to utilize running back Andre Ellington more this season, as head coach Bruce Arians said, “We want to build the offense around him.” A back that can press the edge of the defense, accelerate through the hole and produce explosive plays, Ellington has already added 10 pounds to his frame this offseason, according to Arians.
  • I’m excited to see Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins run on Sunday. After watching Watkins accelerate with the football on the tape, I would expect the receiver to post a 40 time in the 4.4 range (at 211 pounds).
  • Given the amount of talk every year at the combine on defensive line prospects being the right fit in a 4-3 vs. a 3-4 front, I go to what Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said about the majority of the games in the NFL being played in nickel/dime personnel. The way I see it, these prospects have to show the ability to pressure the quarterback out of defensive sub packages—regardless of the base front installed during spring mini-camp.
  • The Texans head coach also talked about the interview process with prospects and said they want to find out how important football is to them. From my experience in the NFL, this is a crucial factor with players. To survive in this league, you have to love the game. And that includes welcoming the challenges (or demands) the pro game produces every day.
  • Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo is a prospect to watch during workouts. Garoppolo created some buzz during Senior Bowl practices with a quick release and his accuracy with the football. The quarterback is going to throw here in Indianapolis and has another chance to improve his draft stock with a good session on Sunday.
  • With a solid workout on Saturday, Auburn’s Greg Robinson (6'5", 332 pounds) can separate himself as the top tackle in the draft. Robinson has an athletic skill set that should be on display during the movement drills inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Listening to new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer talk on Friday, there is no question he is a coach I would want to play for. I love defensive head coaches as they bring a much different (and sometimes needed) perspective to NFL teams. And after hearing Zimmer stress technique and fundamentals, I was sold.
  • How important is this draft for Bears general manager Phil Emery? Chicago needs to land impact defensive talent (and create some real competition) if it truly wants to rebuild that side of the ball. I’m talking about rookies that are expected to play and produce in 2014.

 

Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 

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