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February 28, 2012 @ 3:34 pm
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NFL Combine Day 3 Impressions: D-Line and Linebackers

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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Several players made a case to move up in April's NFL drat while a few did just the opposite. See who did what in this PewterReport.com NFL Combine analysis.
Day three of the NFL Combine workouts brought out some of the top defensive linemen and linebackers in the country eager to prove their worth and increase their paychecks come late April.

With scouts and pro player personnel from all 32 NFL teams in attendance, along with representatives from other professional football leagues around North America, the defensive linemen and linebackers took to the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium in what some have described as the “Underwear Olympics.”

Defensive Linemen
Regardless of what is called, the Combine does present an opportunity for lesser-known players to drastically move up in the draft. Monday was no different with Memphis defensive Tackle Dontari Poe running an amazing 4.98. While plenty of others ran similar 40-times, none weighed in at 346 pounds as Poe did. Poe certainly improved his draft status, as some are saying as many as seven defensive linemen could be taken in the first round.

Another defensive linemen that solidified his first round status with a great Monday was South Carolina Gamecock Melvin Ingram. With a 4.66 in his 40 time, and great game tape from his Carolina career, Ingram most likely will be a top 20 selection on the first night of the draft.

An intriguing player who continues to rise, Michigan’s Mike Martin, did nothing but improve his draft stock on Monday. While probably never a perennial Pro Bowler, the on-switch and high motor Martin brings will keep him the NFL for years, according to several scouts and analysts. Martin stood out while we were in Mobile, and while not the most physically gifted athlete in the world it is highly doubtful anyone will ever outwork him. Martin is only 6-foot-1 and just over 300 pounds but plays every play like it is his last.

Other linemen who improved their draft stock with solid performances Monday were Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, and Southern Cal’s Nick Perry who is now projected to be among on several Day 1 draft boards.

A position that the Buccaneers must address via free agency and/or through the draft is at linebacker. With Mason Foster struggling, more than we even saw through the film according to some former coaches, and the almost certain parting of ways with free agent Geno Hayes, plus the underwhelming play of Quincy Black, means the linebacker prospects at the Combine are being heavily scrutinized by the Buccaneers contingent in Indianapolis.

Like the defensive linemen there were several who could be called “risers” and “fallers.” One who many thought couldn’t rise anymore was Boston College’s Luke Kuechly. Already projected as a mid-first rounder, Kuechly is creating quite the dilemma for many general mangers in the first 15 picks. While defensive linemen are always at a premium Kuechly combination of speed (4.5 in his 40 time) and strength (27 bench press reps) probably made several mock draft dry erase boards get wiped clean. And while measurable are always impressive, Kuechly was a basically a one man wrecking crew on a generally considered poor Boston College defense this past season, leading the nation with 191 tackles.

The title of the biggest “faller” of the day went to Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict who ran poorly in the 40-yard dash posting just a 4.93. Burfict also had some issue during his senior season, and now with his poor showing Monday, basically took himself out of first round consideration, and maybe out of the first two days of the draft.

Reportedly Burfict had terrible interviews with teams on Sunday then choose not to participate in the bench press test. Once considered a first-round lock, Burfict may not hear his name called until late Saturday.

Other standouts in Mondays drill at the linebacker position:

North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown was as expected Monday – very fast. Brown chose not to participate in the bench press – which left some scratching their heads – but still may have pushed himself into first round contention with his blazing 4.4 40-yard dash time.

Tank Carder helped improve his draft stock after a so-so outing in the East-West Shrine game back in January. Carder's ran a 4.56 40, measured 10-foot-1 in the broad jump to go along with 34.5-inch vertical leap.

Mychal Kendricks, who was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year this past season at middle linebacker for Cal, startled many by running the fastest 40 for a linebacker in the last 12 years. Kendricks most certainly improved his position with the best measurables of the day, finishing first in the 40-yard dash (4.47), broad jump (10-foot-7) and vertical (39.5). Kendricks also was solid during on the field drills an may be a steal for a team in the second round.

Last modified on Thursday, 01 March 2012 09:54

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  • avatar

    Please, stop with the man crush on Barrett Rudd. He sucks, doesn't start and was replaced by a rookie. He is one of the lowest ranked arm tackling free agents available.
  • avatar

    What linebacker that will be available in FA is even worth looking at? REALLY?
  • avatar

    Vontaze Burfict in the 2nd Round Pleeeeeeaaaase!!!! Teams will fear our LBs if we move Foster to the outside and put in Burfict in middle. With a solid MLB FA and our coaching that can mentor Burfict to be the next Ray Lewis, and Claiborne or Richardson in the 1st round our team would be so much more solid!!! Burfict was once believed to be a top 10 pick. I don't care that he runs slower....Ray Lewis was not and is not that fast, but he loves to hit and so does Burfict. RBs are going to be scared to death to run up the middle and so will WRs slanting across the middle. Foster will be solid on the outside. Black and Hayes are the worst LBs in the league!!! Piss poor and I"m pretty sick of seeing them both get manhandled by all the O lineman out there. They flat out suck. Get a FA safety and CB and we're good to go!!!! (for the most part)
  • avatar

    I agree Owlykat. Moving Foster outside could really make a difference in his play and I think can make a solid upgrade. Bring in a big nasty MLB via FA and either draft a strongside or also FA, put this baby to bed. Rebuilding this LB and DB corps really isn't that difficult if we can sign the right guys. If we can make solid improvement to those positions it will make the DL play better as well. If the CBs can cover better then the QB will have trouble and the front seven can attack and vice versa. Can't wait for FA, it will make the draft like icing on the cake.
  • avatar

    Foster was ranked as the top MLB prospect in one of the draft magazines last year--so how did that work out? I still think he will be an outstanding weakside LB, which is where he played at Washington in College, but we should learn from history or we are doomed to repeat it. Get a proven MLB in free agency!!! Move Foster. If you pick up a stout, instinctive Strong Side LB in the draft in the third round or so to compete with Dekota Watson (who I believe has what it takes to be a starter, if he gets some professional coaching and is just given the chance), it wouldn't hurt to have an extra quality LB in the mix. If you are so impressed with 40 times Geno Hayes is your man--so how did that work out? I personally like the linebackers Alabama had this year. They all hit like a ton of bricks, were very coachable, and had good instincts. They definitely could tackle and stop the run. I think Shiano working with DOM will make the right picks this time and willl have learned from recent history.
  • avatar

    I agree Owlykat. Moving Foster outside could really make a difference in his play and I think can make a solid upgrade. Bring in a big nasty MLB via FA and either draft a strongside or also FA, put this baby to bed. Rebuilding this LB and DB corps really isn't that difficult if we can sign the right guys. If we can make solid improvement to those positions it will make the DL play better as well. If the CBs can cover better then the QB will have trouble and the front seven can attack and vice versa. Can't wait for FA.
  • avatar

    Oh, for God's sake on all the Ruud hate; Barrett went from a heartbeat away from the pro bowl behind Lofa Tatupu to a problem the day after Monte checked out (i.e. pre-Carolina 2008). Ruud was just one of the casualties - a B+/A- player under excellent coaching and schematics became a C player under uninspired, confused coaching. And NONE of this will matter without fire-eaters in the front-four - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6oRy0p5Byo is what happens to even the biggest, most physical linebackers when offensive linemen get a free release to them and a head start.
  • avatar

    I totally get that some very talented (sometimes HOF) players fall through the cracks--test poorly--don't look good in Protect this House underwear. But guess what, some truly great players are athletic freaks that DO test well, and there aren't enough of them on this team. Pardon my soapbox, but I am sick and tired of reading about the Bucs' newest UFA that is developing behind the scenes on the practice squad. No disrespect to the dead, but our top 10 DE top pick didn't pan out very well, and before that our top 10 RB guy was in traction more than he was on the field. McCoy just does interviews at this point, hopefully if he plays he'll pan out. The Bucs' have a very bad drafting history. They need another Clayborne--no pun intended. They need some no nonsense guy to come in and set the tone.The Bucs' need an identity. They don't have a single scary name on their roster. I wear my Bucs' jerseys and I have to tell football fans who the guy is I'm wearing. The roster has holes everywhere. No position is set. The #5 pick is a huge deal, and is an every down starter on this team, with this roster. I'm just asking that before you type a name, is it a name that fills that category.
  • avatar

    Anyone else think the dude in the above picture looks like Coach Schiano in his combine get up??? Seriously though, Keuchly coming in at 232 isn't ideal for MLB in NFL. I realize that some guys can play bigger like Shelton Quarles did but he also constantly had broken forearms from shedding blocks. I'm sure he could add some weight and still be quite fast. I just have visions of Ruud and RBs dancing in the end zone in my head.
  • avatar

    Bucs need to sign Laron Landry in free agency. That would be a huge addition. Cortland Finnegan might help also.
  • avatar

    PewterReportMC - guess which former Buc draft pick had these combine results: 40 YD dash - 4.7 sec, 25 bench press reps, 34' vertical, and measured in at 6'3' and 241 lbs and was considered a tackling machine? Yep you guess it our old friend and early 2nd round draft pick Mr. Ruuuuud. Kuechly measures in at 6'2" and 232 lbs and runs faster at 4.5 and a few more reps on bench at 27 and a better vert at 39'. My worry however is that even though I really like the kid, is he Ruud 2.0 for us if slotted in at ILB? A dominating ILB in the Lewis or Urlacher mold is typically 250 lbs+ and still run 4.5-4.6 40 yd dash. I know Kuechly has shown great instincts but if we are to spend a 1st rounder on him, I dont know if we can be a Lewis or Urlacher type at 232 lbs and runs the risk of being Ruuud 2.0 for us, a tackling machine that is average at shedding blocks and is not a fiery run stuffer. If however with getting a guy like Lofton or Tulloch at MLB in free agency enables us to put Foster one side and Kuechly on the other, then you have the right mix of instinct, speed and tackling ability for our LB corps. Do you know if any teams, most notably the Bucs are looking at it this way? This is the only sure fire way of improving our LB situation given draft prospects and avaialble FA ILB with Dqwell Jackson being signed back by the Browns.
  • avatar

    I'd say if one player that Tampa should think about is that player from Boston College. He could be another Derrick Brooks. If Tampa selected him in Rd-1 I say great. Maybe Tampa could trade down a few slots and select that BC player while picking up another 2, or 3 & 4th. Remember Tampa was not suppose to be at no#5 the first of Training camp maybe 15 at the most, so trading down and pick up 3 picks would help the team in 2012. go bucs Look at Tampa selections in first 3 Rds #5,#4 . Then If Tampa got a No#2 and a No#3 with their high 2 &3 .Tampa would get I say 5 Impact players from the get go. GO Bucs.
  • avatar

    I think you're gonna have to follow up on that Mason Foster teaser Mark!
  • avatar

    Ha! You caught that! Will do, at some point...
  • avatar

    No worries, I've been there myself too many times (the lack of sleep, not the watching guys in bike shorts!). However, I'm still in favour of considering the Bucs an average college team until they prove otherwise. Last season's bad taste hasn't left my mouth yet...
  • avatar

    @tjbucsman, didn't clay Matthews make the LGB hi light, I think kuechly would be solid, but not impactful, Claiborne could be a perennial pro bowler.
  • avatar

    Please, please, pretty please do not blow it and pick the wrong LB in the draft. I know it is a crap shoot but Schiano has to get it right in this draft. I think this Kuechly kid is worth a hard look even possibly at number five. I am not sold on Claiborne. He certainly is not Patrick Peterson. Number five is too early to pcik Richardson. Draft Kauechly and then get Sanu at number two if you can. Maybe Schiano can get Rice to come to the Bucs and then draft the kid from Cincy Pead at RB in the third or Lamichhael James. The Bucs are desperate for a speedy cutting type RB. Some of you probably think I am nuts for suggesting Kuechly with the 5th pick but this kid is the real deal at middle LB.He can be another Clay Matthews. It all starts with the middle LB.
  • avatar

    no thank you....we don't need another Ruud....I want someone that the RBs will fear and that to me is Burfict!!!
  • avatar

    ... lots of CBs and WRs available in free agency... if the scouts agree that Kuechly is the next great LB ala Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis then I say we take him at 5 and fill a crippling need at LB. BTW Mark, I'm sorry to say it but this article needs a good editor badly. If you edited it then you may need to get some more sleep. I seem to recall that there are 32 teams in the NFL... or do we consider that the Bucs rate as a college team until they prove otherwise?
  • avatar

    Right on nwinters40, didn't catch that one. And yeah I do need some sleep. My eyes are bugging from the watching too many guys run around in bike shorts for the last four days.
  • avatar

    No worries, I've been there myself too many times (the lack of sleep, not the watching guys in bike shorts!). However, I'm still in favour of considering the Bucs an averag college team until they prove otherwise. Last season's bad taste hasn't left my mouth yet...
  • avatar

    I dont think we really believed how bad they were until the season finally ended. I know a lot of the players believe they are pretty talented (they have told me) but the more I look back and watch the games again it is apparent to me that by the time the last Falcons game rolled around this team was really really bad. The good news is the NFL makes it difficult to stay bad very long. I still believe Freeman can be an excellent QB and if, a BIG if, if McCoy can get and stay healthy, along with Price and Bowers and Clayborn getting better, this team can have a pretty solid D with a good draft and some key FA's. We will see. Up to Glazers and Dom to make the right decisions. I also believe the right staff is in place.
  • avatar

    PewterReportMC, careful here Mark about any comment about McCoy if you don't say he is a stud. Some of the fans won't like it. He's a bust and would have never done anything under Morris guidance; he's got a break here with the new coaching staff. I hope McCoy will listen to them. It's not the McCoy way (lose 20 pounds and play DT at 6'4" 265 lbs; it's the Buccaneer Way now (gain back that 20 lbs plus add 10 extra pounds and put all that muscle in the upper body and arms).
  • avatar

    As I recall Emmitt ran just under 4.6. As a relatively small back, that time was thought to be slow so the former Gator fell all the way to #17 with a pick Dallas acquired from Pittsburgh as part of the Herchel Walker trade. Mel Kiper actually had the mighty Bucs drafting Smith with the 4th pick in the 1990 mock draft. Instead Ray Perkins drafted one of his own, who some thought was the top prospect in LB/DE Keith McCants. He's a prime example why the Indy Olympics are only a small part of the evaluation process. Too small, too slow.......Hall of Fame.
  • avatar

    No arguing there horse. Seriously what kind of 40 time, vertical and bench press would have Joe Namath or Bradshaw put up. Oh yeah and a little short slow guy by the name of Emmitt Smith
  • avatar

    In my opinion, some of these guys rising up is because some have forgotten that some of these conferences were weak. In other words; "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane".
  • avatar

    Have to admit a 350 pound DT running a 4.98 is crazy though!
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