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February 24, 2014 @ 5:44 pm
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NFL Combine Day 3 Impressions: Defensive Line And Linebackers

Written by Mark
Cook
Mark Cook

Mark
Cook

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The defensive linemen and linebackers were on display Monday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and several stood out, while a few didn't perform as well as they would have liked. See who helped raised their draft status with their efforts on Monday.
The defensive linemen and linebackers were the third group of NFL prospects who went through the annual pre-draft NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Monday, hoping to improve their status for the NFL draft in May. Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, NFL coaches, scouts and pro player personnel had their eyes glued to the two units in hopes of solidifying their opinions of the prospects or maybe even finding a draft-day steal.

Defensive Lineman
Jadaveon Clowney didn’t participate in the on-field portion of the Combine workouts, but wowed those in attendance and watching the broadcast on the NFL Network with a blazing unofficial 40-time of 4.47 (4.53 officially). Clowney is a freakish athlete who, when his mind is right, has the ability to dominate and take over a football game, The question for teams drafting in the top five is, which Clowney will show up to Day 1 of training game? The sophomore who set South Carolina records with 13 sacks or the Clowney who finished the 2013 season with just three quarterback takedowns? Certainly teams were keying on stopping Clowney all year but there are still some question marks about Clowney’s motor and attitude, including Mike Mayock who has raised some questions about his inconsistencies off the field and his work ethic while in college.

During last month’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Aaron Donald was one of, if not the most impressive player from either team. Donald whipped almost every lineman put in front of him last month, and backed up his college credentials and game film with a tremendous week of practice. On Monday, Donald continued his rise towards the middle, to possibly the top of the first round in May’s NFL Draft with an outstanding workout in Indianapolis. Donald, at 295-pounds, ran an incredible 4.68. Donald also post a 32-inch vertical and was also second in the bench press among defensive lineman. The only thing holding Donald back from being a sure-fire top 10 draft pick is his 6-1 height. And even that may not keep him out of the top 10 after scouts and front office personnel review his Combine performance.

FSU’s Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 299) had a solid day on Tuesday showing off his skills in front of the 32 NFL teams and millions watching on the NFL Network. Jernigan didn’t blow any one individual aspect (5.06 40-time) of the Combine away, but as a whole, most would say they came away impressed. Quite possibly where Jernigan helped himself was during the bag drill portion of the morning where his violent slap and thump echoed throughout Lucas Oil Stadium. Jernigan played angry for the Seminoles and transferred that intensity to the pads on Monday.

Minnesota Ra'Shede Hageman had an impressive day on Monday in front of the NFL executives. Mayock pointed out some prior off the field issues dating back to high school but the 6-foot-6, 310-pounder ran an official 5.02 which as excellent for his size. He also did well in the bench press (32 reps).

Linebackers
Khalil Mack did nothing to hurt his projected top-10 draft stock and while he didn’t make many scouts jump from their comfortable perches looking down on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, he had a solid day. Mack ran a 40 time of 4.65 and a 10-yard split of 1.56, which was second overall among linebackers, but didn’t overly impress on the field. He didn’t raise any red flags either, and his top 15 status is still intact.

Anthony Barr, another player who is projected to go in the first half of the first round in the NFL draft in May, had a solid Combine performance on Monday. Barr is another player who at times can take over games, then also disappears for spurts. Even at 6-5, 255-pounds, Barr burned up the track in the 40-yard run posting a 4.66. Barr only managed 15 reps on the on the bench press, something that will need to improve, especially if Barr is converted to a defensive end at the next level.

Of all the linebackers on Monday Florida State’s Telvin Smith maybe made the biggest impression showing a combination of speed, agility and overall athletic ability. Mayock raved about Smith saying he will be a starting weakside linebacker in the NFL. Smith told PewterReport.com at the Senior Bowl last month that he feels NFL-ready after playing all three linebacker positions in college. Smith most likely solidified himself as a 2-3 round draft pick later this spring.

Boston College's Kevin Pierre-Louis. Pierre-Louis (6-0, 232) stood out on Monday posting a 40 time of 4.51. The commentators raved about his fluidity and smooth movement during the on the field drills.  Prior to the Combine Pierre-Louis was viewed as a third-day selection but may have pushed himself into Day 2.

Other linebackers that had good days and most likely helped themselves with their efforts on Monday were Montana’s Jordan Tripp, Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo and South Dakota’s Tyler Starr.

Stanford’s Tyler Murphy was somewhat disappointing running the regimented drills on Monday. Murphy has been described as a lunch pail, high-motor guy, but didn’t test overly well while on display, posting just a 4.86 forty time and not overly impressive during the on the field drills.


Last modified on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 17:21
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  • avatar


    With D'Qwell Jackson being available now, maybe the Bucs could sign him and use that draft pick for another position of need?
  • avatar

    With admittedly a long way to go to draft day.....I currently see it hard to imagine that the 3 QBs (TB, Manz and Bortles) won't be picked in the top few picks along with Clowney. So, as I see it, at #7 we will have at least one of Watkins, Matthews or Robinson for the picking....not sure how we could possibly pass on that opportunity, even if it was to pick up a 2nd or 3rd pick....taking an OT not only solidifies a good chunk of our line for 10 years, it frees up $6-7m in cap space (that's nothing to sneeze at)....imagine if we had both OTs locked up for 10 years...we still need a lot of help on offense but that's a great start.
  • avatar


    If I was the GM or Lovie Smith.This is what I would Do #! trade down with example Pittsburgh. in exchange for Pittsburgh NO#1 and NO#2. In Pittsburgh slot in Rd-1 I would select Aaron Donald DL from Pittsburgh.With Tampa NO#2 pick I would selected FSU DL Timmy Jernigan and with Pittsburgh Rd#2 Slot if still available I would select another FSU in LB Telvin Smith. Jernigam reminds me of Booger McFarland from LSU. and Tampa still have their own #4,#5 & #7 rounds selections.They will be some Offensive lineman and WR that will still be available in Rd-4,Rd-5 and Rd-7/ GO BUCS since Tampa Bay came into the league.
  • avatar

    I love the idea! This draft is so so deep that we need our picks that we traded away for Revis.
  • avatar

    I hope we do not pick Barr or Mack. I have watched them play and watched film and these guys get moved out of plays so often it scares me! Not saying they will not be good but to me they are not what the media is making them out to be and they are much over hyped. I still think as deep as this draft is that our best option is to trade down a couple. Now if Sammy Watkins or one of the OT's Robinson or Matthews is there , I say keep seven and grab them. I just hope we do not reach with seven !
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    @EastEndBoy...Agree I would take a flyer on Clowney but don't think he will be there at 7....FLBoy84....Agree we should be competitive this year but IMO not enough to make the playoffs but hope they due.
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    Disagree somewhat KINDERRT. Think with a few quality pickups in FA and the draft, the team can be very competitive very soon as there's a strong nucleus already in place. Wouldn't be disappointed if the Bucs grabbed Donald at 7, though in a perfect world would like to see them trade down a few spots, recoup a pick or two and grab him, Jernigan, or the top-rated OL left (Martin?). The one player who I think would have the biggest impact for years to come is the guy no one is talking about, Ryan Shazier. He's added 15lbs since the end of season, out-benched Mack and Barr, and was a top performer in every other drill he did. He tweaked his hamstring, so he didn't run the 40 or do the on-the-field drills(which I'm kinda glad of, as it keeps him under the radar a while longer). If you compare his size/stats to CJ Mosley, who's the top-rated MLB in the draft, Shazier tops him in everything, and I expect that to hold true when they both run their 40's on their pro-days. While Shazier projects as an OLB by most, the fact that he's bulked up and played the position in college is a definite plus. The guy is a sideline-to-sideline beast that will only get better. A LB corp of David, Shazier and Foster would be one of the best in the league. The problem becomes where does he get drafted. Almost think they'd have to trade back into the bottom of the first in order to be sure to get him..
  • avatar

    I agree with a lot of the previous comments. I don't think Barr or Mack are natural fits in our defense, but there's always a possibility this staff will like one of these guys and believe they can find a way to make him successful. Completely agree with Devasher - Barr's benchpress is distressing for a guy that wanted to be seen as a convertible DE. Part of me really hopes the Falcons trade the farm for a high pick again (see: J. Jones) and strike out on Clowney. Now, I believe that even if Clowney is only giving 80% over the course of his career, that 80% is still going to be better than most players' 100%, but obviously you'd like to see a guy play his butt off all the time. I think the safest bets at the top of the draft are OTs: Robinson, Matthews, and Lewan (in that order). I think Donald and Nix would both be great to have next to McCoy, but both guys are grading out in the middle of the round, so if we can trade down, pick up our missing 3rd rounder and still get one of those guys that's a win-win. Watkins is the X-factor right now, particularly since he's blowing up the combine and it seems like Mike Will. is already pissing Lovie and his staff off.
  • avatar

    @spartan: the NFL will assuredly be more difficulty for the guy BUT it will be tough for a team to double-team Clowney when they also have to deal with Watt. @KINDERRT: always a risk no doubt, but it would seem a bigger risk for a GM to pass on Clowney and watch him become the next Reggie White....totally agree on your square peg-round hole comment, that would be a poor decision. @a-bomb: right with you on the Barron over Keuchley pick...made no sense then, and makes no sense now (not that I think Barron is a poor player..in fact I would call him very good in the box, below average in coverage). -----------------------------------Here's my take on the whole drafting for need versus drafting BPA...there rarely is just 1 player available that is clearly the BPA, it is much more common for there to be a small handful of guys all rated/ranked around the same but at different positions (is Watkins or Matthews or Mack the BPA), which can make comparisons tough...IMO the Bucs should draft the BPA from the selection of players available at their need spots...maybe they draft the BPA OL, or the BPA WR, or the BPA QB (but pass on the BPA LB)...all four of which will be rated about the same, so pick the one we need.
  • avatar


    Scubog...The way the experts are talking Donald may have moved up close to the top ten. If we couldn't move back a couple of spots I would still take Donad at seven. He sure would look good next to McCoy. He reminds me a lot like Sapp.
  • avatar


    Further confirmation that Barr will fall. He does not have the strength to be a DE and it showed in his film. He's a 3-4 outside linebacker who uses his speed (a la Gaines Adams) to get to the QB/ballcarier, so anyone projecting him to the Bucs appears to be unaware of the type of defense Lovie runs.
  • avatar


    Aaron Donald is the best looking DT prospect coming out since...GMC. Putting the two of them on the field at the same time would be a matchup nightmare for other teams. At this spot, I think it is a mistake to draft for need. You take the best player period. For example, taking Barron at 7 with Kuechly still on the board is boneheaded. Unless you are planning to be in the top 10 every year, you get those game changing players there when you are there.
  • avatar


    KINDERRT: Not sure about taking Aaron Donald at the 7th spot; but from what I saw this past season, he looks better than what Clowney showed in games. Mack and Barr are 3-4 outside linebackers who would have to convert to play DE. I don't see us taking either one of them. Maybe if we traded down just a bit and lined Donald up right next to McCoy we'd have something unique. That would be an in your face attack on the QB.
  • avatar


    I would like to see that happen, its hard to double team both guys on the inside!
  • avatar


    That's interesting MC - I thought Starr looked like crap ( as did mayock et all). I really liked Kareem Martin and Timmy Jernigan
  • avatar


    If we have to stay at 7 I would shock the experts and take Donald. McCoy needs help and get Allen in FA. Make a solid D and then work on the OL. It's going to take more then this years draft and FA to get this right. To take Mack or Barr is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Trying to make Mack and Barr DE
  • avatar


    Donald was 285lbs not 295lbs.
  • avatar


    The Texans have a tough decision to make. I would go with Bortles over Clowney. I know that we won't have a shot for Clowney at spot 7 and in away I hope that we don't have to make that decision. At spot 7 for me my choices would be either one of the two OL or LB's as they are safe picks.
  • avatar


    Best part watching today was seeing our new D line coach Cullen putting the players through a drill. He is a Marinelli clone who I have no doubt now will improve the play of that unit. Very impressed with some of the D tackles, not so much the D ends aside from Clowney. I say that because I'm not sure Barr, or Mack are really every down hand in the dirt D ends. Sapp said he mentioned to Cullen how good one of the nose tackles would look next to McCoy, I can't remember which one. I would not be opposed to taking a stud nose tackle instead of hoping we can make a linebacker an end. We have plenty of young ends, but not much in the middle after McCoy, and Spence.
  • avatar


    If Clowneys excuse is that he has been double teamed, what do you think is going to happen in the NFL?
  • avatar


    Clowney has the possibility of being another Bowers. All the talent you could ask for but no heart to go with the talent. If I'm the GM of a team with a top five pick I would be pretty nervous picking Clowney.
  • avatar


    Agree on both counts KINDERRT. Loved how once Lovie was hired, Bowers tweeted "I'm excited to play for a coach who can bring my potential out and COACH me." Funny how William Gholston seemed to take the coaching and actually IMPROVE as the season went along. Wonder what Bowers next excuse will be.
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