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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. One of the best parts about traveling to the Senior Bowl over the NFL Scouting Combine is to actually see football players be football players – not an attempt at being track stars. Observing the Senior Bowl practices and being able to interview the players afterwards in full pads really gives you a true feel for how big the player is, how much weight he can carry on his frame, how hard he practices, how he interacts with his teammates, how he responds to coaching and how professional he is an interview setting.
One of the players that stood out most to this Pewter Reporter was Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English, who starred in practice during the week for the North squad. English had a stellar career at Northern Illinois, recording 31.5 career sacks for 220 yards, 212 tackles, 54.5 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, six hurries and three passes defensed. He has been a model of consistency, notching eight sacks and three forced fumbles as a marked man his senior season. That came on the heels of posting 10.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for a touchdown as a junior, and then 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles as a sophomore.
English showed the versatility to rush the passer from either side in college and has great awareness and football intelligence. He can shed blocks well. He is physical. He is relentless and he has a high motor. English is a polished pass rusher with some splendid counter moves and wicked finishing moves.
I asked English after the Tuesday practice during Senior Bowl week what the key to his pass rush was. Was it his speed off the edge? Was it his motor? Was it his technique? What was the one attribute that separates himself as a pass rusher?
“The one thing that comes natural to me is my motor,” English said. “My technique is something that is going to be ever-growing within my game. You see the veteran pass rushers and they are so polished. That comes with preparation, hard work and experience. That is something that can always improve. The motor is something you are kind of born with.”
Is English a top-end athlete? No, but he has the tenacity that some more natural athletes lack. English made his fiery presence felt in Mobile, Ala. and his leadership was on display at the Senior Bowl. Add three inches and 15 pounds to English’s 6-foot-2, 255-pound frame and he’s a top 5 pick in this draft with his production.
English and I discussed how some of the undersized guys in the league that have become successful pass rushers like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Elvis Dumervil are closer to 6-foot or 6-foot-1. I asked English if that gave him extra motivation knowing that they have blazed a trail for undersized guys like him by kicking down the door for defensive ends that don’t have the prototypical size.
“Of course it’s motivation,” English said. “It makes you say, ‘Why not me?’ It’s great to see somebody your size be successful because I think it adds a level of confidence to yourself.”
English is viewed as a classic ‘tweener – a player that can be an undersized edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme or an outside rush ‘backer in a 3-4 scheme. That versatility alone will help his draft stock, which figures to be in the bottom half of the first round heading into the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. English said he has talked to teams that have projected him to linebacker in a 3-4.
“Yes, one of the evolving trends is teams switching to a 3-4 defense. I think that is something I have the ability to do – be a rush linebacker off the edge,” English said. “I have enough athleticism where I can drop back in coverage, too. I did drop back in coverage from time to time at Northern Illinois. That wasn’t our dominant scheme, but there were times we played a 3-4 and I was playing outside linebacker. It wasn’t very often, though.”
The well-spoken and business-like English interviewed with the Buccaneers at the Senior Bowl and because of his potential first-round status, it is a safe bet that even more members of the Bucs’ brass will be in attendance when Tampa Bay interviews him again at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Chances are good that he will replace Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry at pick number 19 in Pewter Report’s next mock draft.
FAB 2. What helped Larry English stand out among some other NFL Draft prospects in Mobile was the fact that he had his own cheerleader in former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith. You have to understand that the atmosphere at the Senior Bowl is rather quiet as most in attendance are NFL scouts and coaches, people who are trying to become NFL scouts and coaches, NFL agents and the media. There simply isn’t any cheering that goes on.
Except for Smith, who was seen pacing behind the fence and the hedges that separates the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. from the on-lookers. Smith was anxious for English, one of his prized students, to line up for the 1-on-1 pass rush drills. For Smith, the waiting was probably similar to what he experienced coming out of a two-minute warning timeout and getting ready to rush the passer on third down when he was one of the league’s more dominant sack artists.
When English’s turn came, the pacing stopped and Smith screamed, “This is our time, Larry! This is the time to hunt, Larry! Let’s hunt!”
When English blew by UConn left tackle Williams Beatty with ease, it was harder to tell who was more satisified – English or Smith, who was whooping and hollering with approval.
“That’s my guy,” Smith said. “That’s my hunter.”
English doesn’t just pursue quarterbacks. He hunts them.
Yes, NFL scouts will point out the English did a lot of his damage in the Mid-American Conference against lesser foes and note how he recorded five sacks against the colossal Idaho Vandals in 2007 and how he notched four sacks against the juggernaut that is the Temple Owls in 2006. But English also recorded a sack at Minnesota in 2008 and had two quarterback captures at Tennessee. He also posted sacks against Iowa and TCU in 2006, so he has performed well against competition that is stronger than that found in the MAC.
During my interview session after practice, I had to ask English about Smith, who was not just a fan, but his personal pass rush coach and founder of Defensive Line Inc.
“It’s been great. Chuck Smith is awesome to work with because he’s so knowledgable about the art of pass rush,” said English, who has been training alongside the likes of Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers, Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace and Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson. “There’s a lot of the best D-linemen there and it’s good from a competition standpoint and having people there to compare yourself to. It’s good to go in every day and have good relationships with those guys, but then also work hard together. It’s good to pick up on some things and take something from each of them. Each of us brings a different aspect of our games to the table.”
I had the chance to meet the gregarious Smith on the sidelines at the Senior Bowl where he gave me his business card and a DVD about his Defensive Line, Inc. pass rush university at the Wellness Performance Institute in Suwanee, Ga. Last Sunday, I called Smith, who works with the likes of New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth among others, to get his thoughts on English and some of the other draft prospects in his stable.
After spending 20 minutes with me on his cell phone around noon, Smith decided to call me back a couple hours later to give me more quotes. After an hour and a half on the phone with one of the most knowledgeable pass rush coaches in the country, who has studied over 100 of the NFL’s top pass rushers, including Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, Lawrence Taylor, Warren Sapp, Richard Dent and Simeon Rice, my brain felt like it was sacked.
The 39-year old Smith, who was a former second-round pick out of Tennessee in 1992, played with Atlanta from 1992-1999, finishing as the Falcons’ all-time leading sacker with 58.5 and was named an All-Pro in 1997. He finished his career in 2000 playing for Carolina before tearing up his knee. He’s spent the better part of his life studying, refining – and now teaching – the art of the pass rush. I was anxious to hear what he was going to say about English, whom the Bucs are interested in.
“The best comparison I could make to Larry English is that he reminds me of the NFL Defensive MVP James Harrison, who is 6-foot, 240 pounds,” Smith said. “Larry is a guy that can stand up or play with his hand down. He carries about 255 pounds and he’s really improved. He’s explosive. He is an absolute professional right now. Larry carries himself like the greatest linebackers the way he goes about his business. I’ve had a lot of guys train with me – guys that have been All-Pros and Pro Bowlers – this guy is as professional and goes about his business as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. Larry never takes off a play. This guy has the speed to be a 3-4 ‘backer, but he has enough size, power and strength to be at 265 and be a 4-3 defensive end. He’s the new generation that I’m training that has no weaknesses. He can cover. He can rush and he’s an absolute predator who will destroy you every play. That’s what separates guys like James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley and guys like Albert Haynesworth from everybody else. They’re trying to destroy guys. Larry English is a phenomenal talent. He’s a freak. You can’t coach his heart and his work ethic. Those are the things that coaches love.”
Smith’s gift for words and hyperbole could probably take down a quarterback by themselves. He rattled off a list of a dozen talented defensive linemen he is working with in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine, but the one guy who seemed to be the apple of his eye and the one guy he couldn’t stop talking about was English.
“I would love for Larry to go to Tampa, man,” Smith said. “You’re talking about a guy that will run sideline to sideline. He’s that kind of player that you need. He’s a leader. I love the guys in Tampa. They work hard and they are passionate. Larry’s like a Derrick Brooks. He’ll do all of the things that need to get done. He’ll yell. He’ll get under your skin. He’ll work harder. He’ll lead by example. This guy has energy. He has emotion. He would be a huge, huge impact player at defensive end for Tampa.”
Smith asked who replaced Monte Kiffin as the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator, and when I told him Jim Bates, Smith’s level of excitement reached Defcon 5.
“Jim Bates?! Man, Jim Bates is one of my mentors because I’m a University of Tennessee guy myself,” Smith said. “I absolutely know that defense because I’ve played in the same system. I know Jim very well. Jim would love to have this guy and put him at end. Larry can definitely play defensive end in that defense. Outside of Mario Williams, how many 4-3 ends are over 280 pounds anymore? You do the math. Reggie White and those guys are gone. Sean Jones ain’t here no more. You’ve got Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis playing at 250 pounds or less. You’ve got Michael Strahan playing in the Super Bowl that last year at 235 or 240 pounds. Larry will put on an extra 10 pounds and he’ll hold up. He is an absolute leader. He’s a professional. He’s in that gym early and he’s out of it late. I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s special. I would love to see him wind up in Tampa. He would be the perfect fit for Gaines Adams to truly reach his peak.”
I asked Smith, who played for Bates when he was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator in 1994, what his professional opinion was about Adams, and he gave me so much good stuff about him that I will report on that in the next SR’s Fab 5. With the Combine approaching and Adams turning in one of the better 40-yard dash times two years ago, I asked Smith what he thought English would run.
“I’m looking for Larry to be in the 4.6 to high 4.6 range,” Smith said. “Even if he runs in the 4.7 range, I’m fine with that. Larry English is as complete a player as Chris Long is. The difference is that Howie taught Chris the art of pass rush from a young age and how to train your mind and body. That’s the only difference between the players who have a Hall of Fame dad who was an absolute animal and the rest of them. I’ve got a guy out of Tennessee named Robert Ayers and he is an absolute 272-pound whirling dervish of a beast. The training that these guys have gotten over the last couple of years from me is such that they are ready to come in now and start producing.”
Smith likes English better than Ayers and better than Johnson. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is. If English can slip by Chicago at number 18, he would look awfully good lining up opposite Adams in Tampa Bay, which picks at number 19 in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
FAB 3. Northern Illinois’ Larry English wasn’t the only impressive defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl this year. Boston College’s B.J. Raji solidified himself as the top defensive tackle in the draft with a tremendous week of practice. The 6-foot-1, 320-pound Raji played well against Oregon center Max Unger and dominated Cal center Alex Mack during the practice sessions.
Although his wide body is built for stopping the run, Raji has the quick first step and explosive to penetrate, evidenced by his dominant senior season in which he posted 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Raji had to sit out the 2007 season due to ineligibility over a college credit issue, and had only posted five sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his freshman and sophomore season combined.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, which has a pressing need for another big defensive tackle or two for Jim Bates’ new defensive scheme, a great senior season and a great Senior Bowl have catapulted Raji farther away from the Buccaneers, who pick 19th in the first round. But that hasn’t stopped the Bucs from doing their due diligence on the Boston College star, who may be worth trading up for if they can’t land Albert Haynesworth in free agency.
“I had a real good meeting with Tampa Bay it went really well,” Raji said.
Raji didn’t fit the stereotype of the typical defensive lineman when I interviewed him. In fact, he didn’t come across like a jock at all. More like a well-educated, well-spoken college professor.
I asked him what he was working on during the offseason and what his best attributes are as a defensive tackle.
“The difference at the next level is being technically sound. That’s what I am really trying to work on,” Raji said. “My football awareness is one of my best attributes. The ability to read different splits pre-snap and to look at my opponents’ weight in his stance. Is he leaning back for pass protection or leaning forward for run blocking? Is the guard at a different depth than the center? I like to make the calls and let my defensive linemen know that there is a potential pull coming around if the guard is light in his stance.”
See what I mean. If his game tape didn’t put him in the top 10 in the 2009 NFL Draft, his personal interviews with scouts, coaches and general managers surely will.
Just in case the Bucs may get bold and daring on draft day and want to make a play for Raji, I asked Raji how a big guy like him from the Northeast would fair in the heat and humidity of Tampa.
“The South has great football, there’s no doubt about that. There are a lot of big guys down there who handle the climate really well, so I’ll just have to adapt,” Raji said. “But I am confident in my ability. I am a competitor. That’s my biggest attribute. If I have to battle the heat while I adjust to it, so be it.”
Raji has been on the Bucs’ radar long before former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski took over as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator. While Jags will undoubtedly give Raji a hearty endorsement, he would likely give a big thumb’s up to his partner Ron Brace, too. The 6-foot-3, 336-pound Brace lacks Raji’s burst and quickness, but he has plenty of size and power, which are two traits Bates is looking for in his defensive tackles.
Brace is not going to be a first-round pick, but could go as early as the middle of the second round. After my interview with him, Brace’s intelligence and demeanor seemed on par with Raji’s. Boston College is widely known for producing smart football players and these guys are no exception.
I asked Brace what he learned from the Cincinnati coaching staff at the Senior Bowl.
“I learned at the Senior Bowl to really play half of the man,” Brace said. “I had a tendency to play the full man rather than half of the man. Playing half of the man makes the passing game a lot easier to deal with. They want to hit you first, but you need to get off the ball and hit them first to stop the run game. You need to have good placement of the hands and good leverage in case the running back comes your way. In my case, as a nose guard playing a zero technique, you had to be prepared for the running back to come at either side of you. So you needed to have your hands ready to go and make a stop.”
It’s clear that the BC duo of Raji and Brace are students of the game, and they both have the same approach of studying their opponents’ tendencies in addition to the offensive scheme they will be facing.
“We try to watch the guy we’re going up against or anybody we feel we may face on game day and look up any tendency they may have to help us know if they are going to run or pass,” Brace said. “We try to recognize those tendencies during the game and then relay what we think is coming to our linebackers and defensive backs so they can help make a play. That’s helped us a lot.”
Brace doesn’t get the hype Raji does and for good reason. He only had five career sacks, recording 2.5 quarterback captures in each of the past two seasons. Still, the mammoth defensive tackle feels like his pass rushing skills are just starting to blossom.
“My pass rush has improved from my improved film study of my opponents’ tendencies on certain downs and distances,” Brace said. “Each year I’ve learned more about the game and learned more about technique. I’ve really worked on just coming off the ball faster, which helped me this year. I’m able to run to the ball and pursue pretty well for a guy my size. If I can get a shot on the quarterback – legally – I’ll take it just to let him know that I am there. I like to execute my plays to their fullest potential.”
Brace, who has 22 career tackles for loss, including 10 last year, is one of the 2009 NFL Draft prospects who is working with former Falcons defensive end and founder of Defensive Line Inc. Chuck Smith in his pre-draft pass rushing camp.
“Give those guys up in Boston College a lot of credit. Give Ron a lot of credit because he’s smart and he’s a hard worker,” Smith said. “Wait until you see the big man at the Combine. He’ll run the 40 between 5.10 and 5.30 at 336 pounds, but his footwork and his explosiveness are what makes him special. All the big one- and zero-techniques like Vince Wilfork, Jamaal Williams and those guys up in Pittsburgh – those guys that they are projecting Ron to be like – they can’t rush. I’m teaching Ron how to beat the hell out of them centers, man. I’m going back to the old days with Michael Dean Perry and Howie Long. Ron’s pass rushing is improving. He will hunt. The league better get ready because Defensive Linemen Inc. is bringing back the ways of the old pass rushers. We do want to hurt quarterbacks.”
But the question is how will a big guy from the Northeast fare hunting quarterbacks in the sweltering climate of Florida where it’s hot and humid into October?
“Coming from the Northeast, I’m more used to the extreme cold, but actually I like the heat better,” Brace said. “I’ve gotten used to the cold weather, but if I get drafted by a warm-weather team like Tampa Bay, I’ll just drink more water and my body will adjust. Big guys have played in warm weather before. Look at Marcus Stroud and John Henderson in Jacksonville. If you work hard, you’ll get used to it.”
With the emphasis on bigger, physical defensive tackles in Jim Bates’ 4-3 scheme that can occupy blockers, a player like Brace would be an ideal selection in the middle of the second round. Can you imagine him next to a player like Albert Haynesworth in Tampa Bay? With over 650 pounds of beef inside, it would be a safe bet that the Bucs wouldn’t be surrendering 756 yards rushing in a month any time soon.
And the days of undersized tackles like Brad Culpepper, Chartric Darby and Jovan Haye in pewter and red would be over.
FAB 4. With Pewter Report reporting on Wednesday that the Buccaneers are preparing to pursue Tennessee’s Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, when free agency begins on February 27, I wanted to get some expert analysis on Haynesworth’s game. I know there are some real character concerns that Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik has to investigate, including the head-stomping incident of Dallas center Andre Gurode a few years back and two December incidents involving careless driving, before going to the Glazers and asking for the king’s ransom Haynesworth wants, and I’m not trying to brush aside his transgressions. But let’s just focus on his game and what he would bring to Tampa Bay for a minute.
Is Haynesworth worth making the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL? Is the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder, who has been nicknamed “Fat Albert” worth a contract that may approach $100 million if he’s not even a double-digit sacker?
Haynesworth’s critics point out how the seven-year pro never recorded more than three sacks in any season prior to his contract year in 2007, in which he notched six. With Haynesworth finally putting more pressure on the QB, the Titans decided to place the franchise tag on their former first-round pick and he agreed to sign the one-year tender with the stipulation that Tennessee could not franchise him again if he made the Pro Bowl in 2008. With 51 tackles, according to NFL.com, and a career-high 8.5 sacks, Haynesworth became a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro, in addition to being one of the most sought-after free agents in 2009.
So are Haynesworth’s sack numbers a mirage? Are they simply the result of an underachieving player lighting it up in back-to-back contract years, or has Haynesworth really developed into a pass-rushing force?
Defensive Line Inc. founder Chuck Smith, who has become a mentor of sorts to Haynesworth because of their roots at the University of Tennessee, believes that his pupil will continue to terrorize quarterbacks on a regular basis for years to come. Yes, Smith is a bit of a self-promoter, but it’s hard to argue with the results he has produced for raw, but talented defensive linemen like Haynesworth.
“I’m revolutionizing the game, man,” Smith said. “About three years ago when Albert stepped on Andre Gurode’s face in Dallas, I reached out to Albert, who was a Tennessee guy just like me. The Tennessee people put us together. I already had my company, Defensive Line Inc., going for years. I had trained Patrick Kerney, Adewale Ogunleye and other guys. Albert didn’t understand that line play was tactical warfare. If a guy cheap shots you like Gurode did, I’ll teach you ways to get revenge without getting a penalty so it’s all legal.
“But Albert was a guy that was frustrated. The Titans brought him in there as a first-rounder to get double-digit sacks. A poor man’s Albert Haynesworth was Booger McFarland. The Bucs brought McFarland in there to be a pass rusher just like Tennessee did with Albert. Booger never developed. Albert was the same guy. He had been in the league for six years before he got more than three sacks. He didn’t know that pass rushing was an art. I teach my guys that before you get to the quarterback, you have to beat the offensive lineman. How can you look in the backfield off the snap? Number one, you have to look at your opponent. Look at the offensive lineman. A defensive back can’t look in the backfield – neither can a defensive lineman until he beats the offensive lineman. Great pass rushers need to have their feet going as fast as their minds and their hands going as fast as their feet. I hate the philosophy that some coaches have now where they say, ‘The ball comes out quicker, we don’t have time for all those moves.’ That’s B.S. Then isn’t more important for your pass rushers to be quicker than ever? Get real. There has never been a bull rusher in NFL history generate 10 sacks a year consistently. Never. Albert Haynesworth is the best example. He was just a bull rusher before we started training together. Now he is an absolute beast out there who hunts quarterbacks.”
Smith refined Haynesworth’s game in 2007 and their sessions were chronicled in a story in Sports Illustrated from last year. According to the story, Haynesworth learned head fakes, rip, club and spin moves from Smith.
“He taught me the art of pass rushing, how to look at hands and be more in control,” Haynesworth said in the SI article. “You can set a guy up and bust a move. It’s a game of chess, really, and he’ll tell you that.”
Haynesworth is a big believer in Smith’s program and by producing 14.5 sacks over the past two years, which was more than the 27-year old had combined in his first five NFL seasons, he has blossomed into the quarterback killer Smith craves.
“DLI helped me learn things about defensive line play that I had never learned,” Haynesworth said. “Every day working with Chuck was invaluable. He’s the real deal.”
For Smith, Haynesworth is just another example of how his methods can take an average pass rusher and make him great.
“I taught Albert the art of the pass rush and how to be an absolute predator,” Smith said. “I told him and all my guys that you can’t be afraid to pay the fine if you hurt Matt Schaub because that sends shockwaves around the league that there is a big man hunting. Schaub was never the same after that when he played Albert Haynesworth. I’ve formulated my teaching from hours of watching Richard Dent and Wilbur Marshall and Simeon Rice. I also told Albert that it doesn’t matter if Simeon Rice was in Tampa or Arizona, pass rushing isn’t predicated off wins and losses. It’s predicated off of you knowing the art of pass rushing. Simeon was just as good in Arizona as he was in Tampa. He just wasn’t getting the recognition.
“Albert wasn’t getting the recognition before in Tennessee – and if he was it was for the wrong reason. But it wasn’t because Tennessee was losing it was because he wasn’t the predator that he’s become. Now that he hunts quarterbacks he’s getting the recognition. And guess what? Tennessee is winning.”
The hope is that if Haynesworth comes to Tampa Bay he’ll bring plenty of sacks and wins with him.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next installment of SR’s Fab 5:
• One of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2009 NFL Draft is Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers. Despite only recording nine sacks in four years for the Volunteers, including only three as a senior, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Ayers is now projected as a late first-round pick by some draft analysts because of a great week at the Senior Bowl where he was the Defensive MVP after notching 1.5 sacks and three tackles. Despite having some real skills and good size, I asked Defensive Line Inc. founder Chuck Smith, who is tutoring Ayers, why he was not more productive at Tennessee. “He just wasn’t coached correctly. I don’t want to crap on the coaches up there, but everybody up there got caught up in the blitzing and the multiple sets. He’s a guy that can absolutely play and he’s an absolute first-rounder, but he needs teaching. Not just coaching, but teaching. Robert Ayers can be a great player. He just got caught up in the stuff up their in Tennessee with the former staff.” Smith is partial to Ayers because of the Volunteers connection, but said that English was more polished and NFL-ready at this stage.
• Some more words of wisdom from Smith, who has been studying the NFL’s greatest pass rushers since he was in high school: “Don’t blame the coaches when you are a pro and all of that knowledge is out there. Stop looking at YouTube and rocking with Souljah Boy and look at some of the all-time greats. Look at Lee Roy Selmon. Go back and find out why Keith McCants was a bust in Tampa. I’ll tell you why. He had no hips. They weren’t developed. They told him he was going to be a speed rusher. Speed has nothing to do with pass rushing. It helps if you have it, but if you have tight hips it doesn’t matter – honestly. … I’ve spent hours with Reggie White learning the hump move. I’ve spent time with the great Leslie O’Neal, Greg Townsend, Clyde Simmons, Warren Sapp, Ted “The Stork” Hendricks and Richard Dent. I’m the first of my kind – a former player who is specializing in an aspect of the game. I want the players to know that I care. It’s not about the money. I want to have an impact on the game and in the next five to 10 years, my impact will be felt on every team and you will see. It’s starting to be felt now. Wait until you see Quentin Groves this year and Philip Merling. Technique has to support our pass rush. You don’t have to be Mike Mamula to be a great pass rusher. That’s the misconception of this Combine. You don’t even have to run fast to be a great pass rusher. Most of the defensive tackles will run 5.1 in the league. But the league puts these unrealistic expectations on these guys coming out because an end like Derrick Thomas did run a 4.4. Reggie White was 6-foot-7, 290 pounds and ran a 4.5. Warren Sapp probably couldn’t bench 225 pounds 15 times, but he was probably the most explosive defensive lineman in NFL history off the ball. There is an art to pass rushing.” And Smith is the master. More on Smith, Defensive Line Inc., and how he wants to work with Gaines Adams in the next SR’s Fab 5.
• If you are looking for a good interview with Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, who has been linked to the Buccaneers with the 19th pick in the first round, check out this one from NFL.com. And here’s a story on Freeman’s desire to play for Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay from earlier in the week in case you missed it.
• At the Senior Bowl, Ole Miss wide receiver Mike Wallace told Pewter Report he would be one of the fastest players at the NFL Scouting Combine this year. When asked how fast he was going to run, he said in the 4.1 range – with a smile. We thought he was kidding, so we asked what he was really going to run and he said, “Chris Johnson range.” That’s 4.24 speed. Keep an eye on Wallace, who has caught 101 passes for 1,910 yard and 15 touchdowns and returned two kicks for touchdowns in his Rebels career. Wallace, who averaged 19 yards per catch at Ole Miss, is slated to be a mid-round pick.
• As you probably know by now, the Bucs have gone through another round of layoffs due to the state of the economy. Several NFL teams and the league office itself has had to trim staff to help reduce payroll obligations and the Bucs are no different. Pewter Report is hearing that the Bucs are considering not holding training camp at Disney’s Wide World of Sports this year in Orlando to reduce costs. That could mean that the Bucs may be holding training camp at the team facility, which would mean that there would not be any public access. No final decision has been made, but it costs the team substantially to train at Disney from securing the practice fields, to renting out Celebration Hotel and providing round-the-clock meals to the team. Stay tuned.
• If you are wondering where my analysis is about new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, new defensive coordinator Jim Bates and what the inside scoop is on the Tampa Bay’s defensive tackle positions, it was already written earlier in the week. Because of the timeliness of that analysis, that couldn’t wait until the SR’s Fab 5. Check out these other Pewter Insider articles in case you missed them:
• And finally, I still can’t get over the “performance” by New England left tackle Matt Light in the famous SOBE commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl. I don’t know if I should be impressed or embarrassed for Light in the commercial that features him flat bustin’ a move with New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and Baltimore middle linebacker Ray Lewis. I think I’ll go with impressed. Light strutted his stuff and showed the nimble feet that made him a second-round pick out of Purdue a few years back. Light’s “dancing” has gotten so much attention that SOBE has given Light his own offshoot of the commercial where he’s going solo! And for an offensive lineman to be wearing white tights and actually pull this off without looking too ridiculous, consider me doubly impressed.