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Senior Bowl Week Update

by Josh Norris
Updated On: January 23, 2019, 12:48 pm ET

This will be my 7th season covering the NFL Draft “professionally.” It’s been a learning experience, including the understanding that seven years is not a long period of time. Most importantly, I’ve learned to not be certain about an uncertain subject. Early on I would dig my heels in, convinced what I saw in a prospect was fact. You learn to loosen the parameters of your certainties, and to identify different avenues that arrive at multiple answers. To me, that is improving process.


As you have heard, Senior Bowl practices for Wednesday have been closed to the media due to weather. The teams will move into a South Alabama facility, but we should be back to normal for two more practices on Thursday. I will do my best to find footage of Wednesday’s practice.

I can’t watch every position at practice. Luckily, most NFL practices are organized similarly, at least at these events. So over the last 7 years I’ve created a bit of a routine and thought it might interest (?) you if I shared it with prospect and performance notes along the way.


Phase 1 - Individual: Each position group spaces out and works on technique, so I always focus on defensive linemen and edge rushers. If there is one position where I think an athletic advantage gives players a leg up, it is along the defensive line. Each coach has their own set of drills. I am biased towards running the hoop, as I want to see if anyone pops with their flexibility while maintaining speed. I don’t have decades of experience, but pass rushers who can bend at the waist, knees and ankles while maintaining explosiveness stand out.


Phase 2 - Wide Receiver and Corner one on ones: While linemen complete run fits, corners square off against receivers in true one on ones. This section is not fair to defensive backs. Basically, every corner is asked to be peak Darrelle Revis and shut down a third of the field in order not to lose, so whenever a defensive back does win, it is notable.


Receivers and quarterbacks communicate prior to the rep as to which route will be run. For receivers, let’s simplify it and say there are three phases to watch: the release off the line, the route and the catch. Let’s take a look at a few reps from Tuesday…


You see a lot of this when watching Anthony Johnson. Separation at the line, close. Wins through contact in his route by releasing the CBs hands. Then wins on a tight catch. pic.twitter.com/OtuPe4giNU

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 22, 2019


Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson was super productive during college career. This might be one snap, but it is very indicative of his play style - assertive. Perhaps his testing will tell us differently, but I doubt Johnson posts a top end athletic profile. Therefore he must be comfortable in contact, and that certainly shows in this clip. He creates a sliver of separation in every phase.


Wanting to be the hammer on contact is not a mentality many receivers carry, yet it allows Johnson to win. Anthony Miller had this same trait last year.


As I said leading into the week, David Sills’ West Virginia games showcase a receiver who constantly wins big. On Tuesday, he showed that again.


David Sills vertical route and late hands vs Lonnie Johnson pic.twitter.com/MMeHU5h7lh

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 22, 2019


A few keys to watch here: The basketball like hesitation on his first step to hold the corner, the shoulder lean to minimize the target the cornerback can contact, veering inside on his route to himself more space along the sideline, which ultimately comes in handy when tracking the football and showing late hands for the catch so the corner can’t turn and locate the ball or disrupt the catch. Beautiful.


We know Sills can win in the big game, and he’ll continue to work on the small game and underneath routes throughout the week.


We know David Sills can work downfield, so here’s a breaking route underneath. Ball really should be on his numbers, not extended. pic.twitter.com/Ts7SAWec2x

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 22, 2019


Terry McLaurin from Ohio State intrigued when preparing for this week. His willingness to block and shine on special teams will stand out to many, but I loved his awareness to sit in zones and athleticism in routes, combining speed, pace and footwork.


Terry McLaurinpic.twitter.com/ZKKfeRSBCI

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 23, 2019


Here he slips the jam against Kris Boyd and would easily win on a vertical route, but with a comeback called McLaurin is still able to haul in the catch along the sideline. I know McLaurin is older (23, I believe), but let’s not discount his talent.


One final note, don’t undersell the advantage receivers have in this drill. A few years ago Braxton Miller would take two seconds to get five yards because of his jukes, fakes and hesitations. Separation would be created, but that does not translate. That’s basically playing tag on a football field. That happened a few more times on Tuesday. Think of the rep in the structure of an offense.


Phase 3 - Pass pro 1 on 1s: With skill players working on 7 on 7s, I typically move to an endzone view of offensive and defensive line one on ones. This allows me to see if the defensive line stick to their gaps when rushing rather than use more space than alotted during an actual NFL game. This is truly blocking on an island for offensive linemen.


Chuma Edoga played on both the left and right side at USC. He stood out with his athletic lower half and tendency to sit in his stance and bend at the knees rather than his waist. He has plenty of foot speed to mirror pass rushers on an island. With the focus on the likes of Andre Dillard and Dalton Risner, who both display positive qualities, this could be a big week for Edoga (and Alabama State’s Tytus Howard).


Nice rep from Chuma Edoga at LT. With the focus on Risner, Dillard and others, Edoga has a chance to show his best. I liked what I saw when watching his games. pic.twitter.com/3wXoqKoU8z

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 23, 2019


Look at Edgoa keep his but to the quarterback at all times. He makes first contact and maintains it without overextending. And finally, Edoga is ready for the inside counter and plants his opposition to the ground. This was perfect, and it he won many others on the day.


Arizona State defensive lineman Renell Wren might be my favorite prospect on both rosters. That isn’t to say he’s the best, just the one I’m most enamored with. As you all know, I am biased towards interior disruptors with agility and balance (we all should be).


Renell Wren is a machine. His first steps on the interior plus his swim can be dynamite pic.twitter.com/OOf6ok0qvG

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 22, 2019


In three steps he wins. Wren’s first step is across the blocker’s face, the second is to balance, and the third is to release the hips and get into the backfield. Wren even showed balance when getting skinny through the opposite A gap. Now, he can’t fall in love with that swim move, as better blockers will identify it and shut him down, but we know it is in Wren’s arsenal.


Phase 4 - Team: Special teams are mixed in throughout, but practices often close with team. A mix of run and pass. Typically I again stay in the endzone view. Here the focus is on quarterbacks and linebackers. For quarterbacks, are they testing the intermediate and downfield areas when open? Too often we get checkdowns in these instances, as quarterbacks prefer completions in this environment.


It was wonderful meeting so many peers on Tuesday. It might be the best part of this event. I’m attempting to wrangle together a podcast today, so go ahead and subscribe. Thank you for the support.

Josh Norris

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for NBC Sports Edge and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .