Thoughts of the Day
Two days ago, I mentioned the idea that "position is defined by function," which is sort of true. Quarterbacks throw the ball. Wide receivers catch the ball. Fullbacks lead block. Tight ends do all of it. Cornerbacks cover receivers, linebacker stop the run and cover tight ends and safeties provide run support or play deep.
Anybody who paid attention to the NFL, or even just the Vikings, over the past few years would rightly cringe at the oversimplification of position to function and much of that has to do with the erosion of the importance of these labels.
Already, people are making significant distinctions between what teams need in a nickel corner and an outside corner and describing them as simply different positions. That makes sense-people take great pains to describe the different responsibilities of outside linebackers against inside linebackers. The talents needed to cover the slot are perhaps more different from an outside corner than an outside linebacker is from and inside linebacker (in a traditional 4-3).
Michael Vick and Vince Young (and many others, like Kordell Stewart) forced talent evaluators to consider what a running quarterback could do in the NFL, but it wasn't really until the recent rapid proliferation of quarterbacks with the capability to run—along with offensive coordinators who let them—that changed the dynamic.
Tim Tebow's obnoxious time in the limelight aside, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck , Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have all been athletic enough to earn the trust of their OCs and have had intentionally designed runs in their playbook. This year, Buffalo might do the same with E.J. Manuel and the Jets are considering it for Geno Smith. Even Jay Cutler might turn his excellent scrambling into designed runs, as reports filter out from Marc Trestman's camp that they are considering the read option.
These quarterbacks do not continue the tradition of Steve Young or John Elway, who used their athleticism to improvise runs (much like Johnny Manziel) but will create new threats against the defense.
Percy Harvin continues the rare versatility that Terry Metcalf offered, and Randall Cobb followed suit shortly thereafter. Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson also have the ability to move the ball in different ways, whether it involves electric kick returning, slot receiving or runs from the backfield.
The inverse of that is Darren Sproles, who complements his running with receiving capability, stringing together entire seasons that have more receptions than rushes. Reggie Bush could fit that mold, but like Ray Rice seems to catch out of the backfield more than run routes from lining up wide. In Sproles' vein is the Vikings' own Bradley Randle (who has not yet lined up in the slot) or C.J. Spiller.
Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis are pass-catchers but don't and can't block. Matt Spaeth and Delanie Walker have dabbled in catching passes, but really just block. Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski do both blocking and receiving well, generally in line or split into the slot. Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Kleinsasser and Rhett Ellison all lined up as fullbacks, occasionally half-backs, out wide and in-line. Kleinsasser, never really highlighted as a pass-catcher and that's not Ellison's forte either.
They are all called "tight ends."
On the defensive side of the ball, Everson Griffen and Dion Jordan have been known to pick up tight ends in pass coverage despite being defensive ends. Von Miller is a 4-3 outside linebacker who rushes the passer more than drops in coverage, while J.J. Watt and B.J. Raji are both 3-4 big name defensive ends who had good seasons but completely different stats—Watt nearly broke a sack record and Raji only recorded 26 combined tackles.
The New York Giants had three safeties on the field in common packages, where some played in man coverage while Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed played nominally different positions but functionally similar roles. Charles Woodson played safety for one year, except in nickel packages, where he was a zone nickel cornerback. Same with Ronde Barber. That may have been a plan for Antoine Winfield, but it never materialized.
J.J. Watt was targeted for a pass in the playoffs.
Perhaps Brad Smith would have had a better career if the Jets had been savvy enough to understand that he was an "offensive weapon" like the Jaguars recognize Denard Robinson to be. The 49ers have struggled to figure out what Marquis Gray is, and perhaps knowing that he can perform some functions of every position would help give them clarity of purpose when they create a plan for his development.
This isn't as new as I'm perhaps implying. William "the Refrigerator" Perry ran in a touchdown at the goal line in a Super Bowl, after all, but it looks like the NFL is increasing its versatility.
I've claimed that the NFL is a cyclical league, but at other times I've had my doubts. Generally speaking, that has been in reference to the rise in the passing game, but it could mean something else.
Bill George helped spur the development of the 4-3 front by dropping back as a middle linebacker. Of course, before that he was a nose guard lined up directly over the center in a 5-2 front. Kellen Winslow and Mike Ditka helped transform the tight end position ten years apart from each other. George Blanda was a kicker and a quarterback.
Jimmy Johnson started a 4-3 revolution by moving safeties to linebacker, linebackers to defensive end and defensive ends to defensive tackle. The 3-4 defense commonly attributed to Hank Bullough and Chuck Fairbanks (or Bill Arnsparger (or even Bum Phillips)) might be more accurately described as the exact same defense as the "5-2" Oklahoma developed by Bud Wilkinson (who claims he developed it from a 7-2), which means some defensive ends ended up becoming linebackers—and that's exactly what I'm describing above with Everson Griffen and Dion Jordan.
The point is that players have pretty clearly been specializing (even after they began platooning offenses and defenses) for quite some time, hitting the peak value for their unique talents at about the same time Bill Parcells touted Planet Theory (that there are only so many men on the planet who are "that big and that fast").
Being the best at your position used to mean sacrificing other types of talent in order to maximize your time and training for the narrow set of functions that defined your position.
Today, some positions are becoming narrower by function (the nickel corner) and some are expanding (the receiver... or running back ... or F-back .... or H-Back). New positions are seemingly being invented (the Big Nickel) while others are being expanded (the tight end).
While this has some more obvious contract ramifications for tight ends who would rather be paid (and franchised) like receivers, it creates defensive and offensive mismatches, too.
Seeing Percy Harvin on the field and moving around made it difficult to predict a run or pass, even if Adrian Peterson made run defense a clearer priority. Nickel packages with players like Antoine Winfield wouldn't allow offenses to check into a run like they normally would with three corners on the field.
This means there's more value in their versatility than just that talent. Before, specializing was such a huge advantage that it led to massive talent disparities. But now, refusing to specialize doesn't lead to talent drop-offs, because physical capability is easier to find, and teaching of the game has sped up faster than people predicted (more and more children are involved in Pop Warner).
There is a lower limit to loss/"replacement value" for NFL-ready players at their positions, which is why it makes sense to start abandoning the idea of position as a label (wide receiver) and adopt categories that group functions (deep slot for Victor Cruz and Jimmy Graham, for example). To some extent, Greg Cosell has done that when he describes Percy Harvin as a "joker," and analysts have started referring to the Rhett Ellison position as "H-back".
But those position descriptions do a better job describing what players do, and more importantly, allow coaches to abandon the old frame of reference so they can do a better job when they have a player like Dion Jordan or Cordarelle Patterson. Percy Harvin isn't merely the best slot receiver, he also happens to be a one of the country's best "scatbacks".
What's interesting is that it means he's better than the value of the best slot receiver plus the value of a high-end scatback. Having both on the field would be interesting, but combining the two creates a) new matchup and personnel issues and b) allows another player on the field. The "Percy Harvin position," as Coach Meyer has put it might have changed the way athletes are recruited, but is just one facet of football's evolution.
With this understanding of position-as-function, it means that there are probably more than 20 distinct position archetypes on each side of the ball, and it would massively increase the creativity of playbooks and improve play design.
Current non-standard players on the roster:
Cordarrelle Patterson and Joe Webb: "Harvin," "Joker," "Space," "Offensive Weapon," or "Slash"
Robert Blanton: "man safety," "Wolverine," or "stress safety"
Everson Griffen: "cover end," "endbacker", "Von Miller".
Gerald Hodges and Darius Eubanks: "Star," "Lobo," or "Big Nickel"
Rhett Ellison: "H-back"
Jarius Wright: "Small Slot"
I'm sure there's at least one person who deserves a particular category that I forgot, but there you have it. Not every team will carry most of every possible player archetype, but most teams have most of the potential types.
Thinking in terms of function instead of position labels should at least shed some of the comprehensive framing that depresses creativity and make the NFL so much more exciting.
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy, DeMarcus Love
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca, Tyler Holmes
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger, Camden Wentz
RG: Brandon Fusco, Seth Olsen, Travis Bond
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith, Troy Kropog
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Colin Anderson
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Joe Banyard, Bradley Randle, Jerodis Williams
FB: Jerome Felton, Matt Asiata, Zach Line
SE: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Stephen Burton, Rodney Smith, Chris Summers
FL: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Joe Webb , LaMark Brown, Adam Thielen, Erik Highsmith
In short time, I may move Asiata out of the "FB" designation and back into the "HB" designation as he's taking more and more snaps running the ball. This would push Joe Banyard, Bradley Randle and Jerodis Williams down the depth chart, but move Zach Line up.
"11" Offense First Team
QB: Christian Ponder
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson
C: John Sullivan
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Phil Loadholt
TE: Kyle Rudolph
HB: Adrian Peterson
SL: Jarius Wright
SE: Jerome Simpson
FL: Greg Jennings
Christian Ponder starter off the day strong. Not nearly as much as yesterday, where he was asked to make much more difficult throws, he still showed the ability to generally hit his targets and do it in ways that prevented the defense from getting an advantage.
In some instances, he was able to successfully avoid the rush not by scrambling, but stepping up into the pocket-a core skill he had been lacking.
Ponder alternated his presence in a number of drills near the end of the day, and did well to vary the velocity of his throws to help out his receivers, not just throwing on a frozen rope, but lobbing a few choice passes as well.
Most importantly, he timed the ball well, showcased rare anticipation and placed the ball knowing where the defender would be-again, skills he was sorely lacking.
Unfortunately, as the day progressed, he got worse. His quicker passes in particular lacked ball placement and a few were easily deflected. He also telegraphed his pass well enough to the defensive backs better than you'd expect from most quarterback, leading to some near interceptions and a few passes that collapsed on his receivers (like screens that are blown up quickly).
This also led to more than one interception and routes that required more generous ball placement.
If this were a regular season game, fans probably wouldn't have left the game too upset or even remember the lowlights. The day wasn't alarming, but it also wasn't "good". There were also at least two passes from him that were dropped interceptions. One was on an interesting route from Carlson that could have been his fault, but is more likely on Ponder because of how Harrison Smith jumped underneath the route before the break.
Matt Cassel continues to display inconsistency, in what seems like an oxymoronic theme. I hadn't really put too much thought into Cassel's ability to put speed behind the ball, but it looks like it's been a bit of an issue for him.
I'm not entirely sure how Cassel made a Pro Bowl, but he at least has one quality that he can pin his résumé to: decisionmaking.
It's easy to get away too easily on this because quarterbacking requires better decisions from its practitioners than the other NFL professions, but he doesn't seem to have the other set of fundamental skills to well.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson had the most impressive quarterback highlights of the day with excellent and difficult throws looking natural and easy, while also displaying much more pocket presence than he has in the past.
He would have looked better had Sharrif Floyd not abused the third string offensive line, in all probability.
Nevertheless, he's not an offensive "fit" with the Vikings and also has not demonstrated not have the bar capabilities to move past his problems, including making smart decisions or reading defenses well enough to kill the play and move to a different one.
He may have had the best pass of the day, facing extreme pressure in the pocket, he moved around but mostly forward while keeping his eyes downfield. It took a second, but he was able to break a long one to Chris Summers between two defenders for a touchdown near the end of the practice.
James Vandenberg had a few good passes, but might be more easily remembered for overthrowing Stephen Burton by 10 or more yards, nearly into the stands.
Kyle Rudolph looked great, and it's not surprising they're focusing on him a lot in goal line drills. What is more interesting is that the Vikings were far more willing to pass in goal line situations than people think last year, which contributed to Rudolph's great season, both in fantasy numbers and classic football statistics.
But these practices saw many more runs and run blocking, which is obviously important because of how the Vikings would use play action to break receivers open in short space. Rudolph and Ponder clearly still have chemistry, and I didn't see any miscues from Rudolph in the run game.
John Carlson looked fine, although I admit I didn't pay too much attention to how he was playing. He seems most comfortable in line than split out wide or as a fullback and is being moved around a lot more this year than last.
Ellison looked good again, although isn't running into passing patterns as often as the other tight ends, although this makes sense. He also isn't doing much as a fullback, generally lining up in line as well. He doesn't release as quickly or a smoothly as the other tight ends above him, but he can definitely contribute despite decent coverage.
Chase Ford is miles ahead of Colin Anderson and seems to have a particular affinity for endzone fades, which isn't a bad thing. The biggest concern about Ford is how prone he seems to be at dropping the ball and keeping his head in the game. Nevertheless, he seems to have a more natural sense of getting YAC than you would think and displayed some of that in this practice.
Colin Anderson finished the day off well, but for the most part struggled. Blocking a bit better than I expected, however.
Greg Jennings. Again, I guess.
Jerome Simpson seems fine with his one-note style of play, but is improving his ability to get off the line. He'll find himself running out deep despite a number of different splits that he'll line up in, generally choosing to go out and up.
Despite how raw Patterson is and will continue to be throughout the season, I'm not sold that Jerome Simpson will continue to start throughout the season, even if he's massively improved this offseason in injury recovery.
Simpson doesn't look like he'll grow to be beyond an average route runner but can at least still take advantage of the mistakes that defensive backs play-not as easy of a skill as that might initially sound.
The hype has died down a little bit for Jarius Wright, mostly because he didn't have a string of great catches like he did before. He still hasn't had a practice where he looks bad, but it looks like he may want to stay away from special teams because of how far behind he is against Patterson and Sherels at returning.
Incidentally, Patterson once more had a few highlight-reel catches, one of which showed up on the Vikings website. In one play, Patterson did an OK job separating from Harrison Smith and reeled the ball in before Smith hammered him and popped the ball loose.
Stephen Burton looked better as a returner in the most recent practice than he has for the other practices, and he's hitting the seams a bit better while turning on the jets. If he could turn that into route-running, that would be a huge asset, but I don't see the start-stop ability you want in a primary receiver. Luckily for the Vikings, they are doing well with their primary receivers.
Adam Thielen had a few more highlight catches and looked good in special teams, to boot. His best one was a combination of good play by McLeod Bethel-Thompson to stay clean in the pocket and Thielen's route-running to further his separation deep.
Rodney Smith was not helped out by the fact that half his reps had Vandenberg throwing the ball but he still looked alright. Definitely the type of player you want on special teams, although I'm not sure there's room on the roster for him.
Joe Webb looked like you'd expect-an athletic wonder that has yet to corral it all. I didn't see too much of him lighting things up, but I also saw things that I liked. Today, I'll just mention that he could do a lot better as a blocker when lined up as a receiver. He is fine at that (as far as I could tell) in special teams.
Chris Summers did alright against a player that he should be doing worse against, and that's encouraging for him. Still, he doesn't see the field much.
Didn't catch much of Erik Highsmith.
I'm glad I could see Toby Gerhart take snaps with the ones because it really wasn't fair to evaluate him when having to deal with the second DL and the second OL. I still want to see more of it because Gerhart told me he's changing his approach a little bit and changed his workouts to meet that new approach.
For now it looks like he's a bit less of a power back and more of a generic running back, stylistically. Gerhart tends to get more involved in the passing game, although I didn't see much of it on Day 6. Instead, I saw him reading the holes while moving downhill. He doesn't have the lateral hop at the line that Adrian is nearly famous for, but he can change his gap smoothly.
His performance would not look good from a yards per carry perspective, but goal line drills do that.
Jerome Felton is a fairly dominant fullback, which isn't something I would have said last year. He can really take on a block and stopped Henderson more than once in his tracks. More surprising, to me, was how accomplished Zach Line looked as a blocker with the second team.
He took on blocks with authority, although was a little high. I like his positioning once he locks on to a defender, and he's aware enough to create at least a small running lane. I haven't seen too much of him in pass protection, but for now I'm getting the sense that he could be too aggressive. We'll see.
Asiata is perhaps too decisive, but it's better to be too decisive than too patient (looking at you, Chris Johnson). I'd like for his blocks to develop a little more before he hits the hole, or he'll just stay as a late-career Thomas Jones, getting almost exactly what the line gets him.
Banyard looks like the more accomplished running back between Banyard and Randle, but hasn't offered the same versatility despite having similar calling cards. Randle should theoretically be doing a better job in short yardage situations because of a stouter frame, but I'm not seeing a significant difference. What I am seeing makes Banyard look a little better. That said, this specific day had good news for Randle because of his multiple trips into the end zone.
But there are mild ball security issues with Banyard and he hasn't been nearly as reliable as a pass-catcher.
I did not see much of Jerodis Williams, although I did not see anything too disappointing during goal line work. His offensive line, however...
Matt Kalil needs to get a little bit lower when driving for the run, but definitely packs a lot of muscle into his relatively slender frame. I spent more time looking at the right side of the line than the left, so I don't have much to offer here.
Charlie Johnson looks like Charlie Johnson. There is nothing remarkable about his run blocking negative or positive, but it shouldn't surprise anyone that Kevin Williams is gashing him a little too often in pass protection.
Johnson might have been working on footwork in the offseason, but I'm not sure. He seems better equipped with speed rushes than before, but that could just be camp noise.
John Sullivan isn't doing as much as he would in games, both because the Vikings limited him early and because his assignments in camp aren't nearly as complicated in games. I wanted to pay particular attention to him during the stunt/twist 9s running drill, and he seemed fairly aware and aggressive.
Brandon Fusco has surprised me. He seems faster, although that might be because his footwork has improved in pass protection. I thought he had a handle on Kevin Williams when lined up against him, and aside from some early struggles against Guion, a good showing there as well.
Phil Loadholt is not moving his feet as lightly as he was last season (although that is definitely a relative term here) and seems to be struggling with the speed rush. It looks worse than it is in camp because both Griffen and Robison specialize in speed rushing, but it's still something he wants to correct if he wants to live up to his contract.
Even run blocking looks a little rusty compared to his "breakout" 2012, and he needs to get back in form. Nothing I've found that's too alarming, but he needed to do a better job bearing down on physically weaker defensive linemen.
I will catch more of the second and third team offensive line today. I did not that DeMarcus Love got beat by George Johnson pretty thoroughly. Perhaps Love had something on his mind.
RDE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, George Johnson, Collins Ukwu, Marquise Jackson
UT: Kevin Williams, Christian Ballard, Sharrif Floyd, Everett Dawkins
NT: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud
LDE: Brian Robison, D'Aundre Reed, Lawrence Jackson
CB: Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes, Jacob Lacey, Roderick Williams, Greg McCoy
CB: Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels, Bobby Felder
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean, Tyrone McKenzie
MLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti
WLB: Marvin Mitchell, Desmond Bishop, Gerald Hodges
S: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo
S: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Brandan Bishop, Darius Eubanks
Nickel First Team
RDE: Jared Allen
UT: Kevin Williams
UT: Sharrif Floyd
LDE: Brian Robison
NCB: Josh Robinson
CB: Xavier Rhodes
CB: Chris Cook
SLB: Chad Greenway
WLB: Erin Henderson
S: Jamarca Sanford
S: Harrison Smith
No change in the depth charts yet, although now Griffen is moving everywhere along the line as opposed just on the right or left defensive end spot. I should have a better handle on the nickel depth chart later today too, although that may conflict with my desire to see the offensive line in more detail.
Hopefully there will be DL/OL one on ones again.
The player that impressed me most was Everson Griffen. Sharrif Floyd had a monstrous day, but it was against the third team offensive line. Griffen got past Kalil in a passing situation and a running situation to generate a phantom sack and a TFL, respectively.
Griffen still has the speed that made him such an exciting prospect, and now he's put it all together to be a favorite breakout player in national media. He's living up to that reputation and has taken snaps away from Allen and Robison.
When up against Kevin Murphy or Brandon Keith, the matchup isn't close. What's most exciting about Griffen so far is that he looks like he can play against the run reasonably well (or has done so in camp) despite his role as a situational pass-rusher last year.
Sharrif Floyd does need to be mentioned though, and I counted two touch sacks and boatloads of pressure. Travis Bond could not handle him on the third team and Floyd needs to be moved up the depth chart ASAP. Christian Ballard is a good depth player, but Floyd is a better player than most starters at his position and it shows already. The third team offense could barely get moving and had to run away from Floyd.
There's not much to say on Jared Allen or Brian Robison, so I won't.
I continue to be impressed by Chase Baker. He was someone I advocated against a year ago, even arguing he didn't deserve a practice squad spot. But he's proven why the Vikings paid him more than any other UDFA last year. He's faster than he looks, and that size really helps him out a lot. What's more interesting is that because he's a nose tackle, that sort of speed seems unnecessary.
Nevertheless he's used it well, and combined it with the burst you want at that position. A year from now, I think he's a sleeper for the backup nose tackle spot as the Vikings look for an impact starter. If he continues improving at this pace, he could be the starter there. He's listed as 298 pounds, so he'll want to gain a little bit more weight, but I like what I've seen.
I didn't catch much of the defensive ends or Anthony McCloud, so that will have to do for my work on the defensive line.
Desmond Bishop is definitely beginning to understand the Vikings scheme, and is playing with a lot more comfort than he was even two days ago. Also, he seems pretty excited to move up the depth chart, but that's just sideline psychology (although I suppose most of this is).
It looks like backside containment has been a bit of a burden for all of the Will 'backers, although Marvin Mitchell seems most natural at it. Bishop might be able to mesh his responsibilities at the weak side with his downhill play better, so he could simply be a dynamic linebacker whose position is less important than his role. If he can do that, the Vikings linebacker corps will have improved dramatically.
Erin Henderson seems much happier in the middle linebacker position but didn't shine as much today as he did yesterday. It looks like coverage is still a worry, as he got beat over the top by John Carlson for a touchdown. I tweeted that he's not backpedaling, and that's because he's engaging in a different drop technique that moves him back a bit faster but opens his hips. More on this tomorrow, as I have to do more research on it.
Mauti and Cole are both doing well as middle linebackers, but I would not be surprised to see Mauti leapfrog Cole during camp—Mauti is fitting the run a bit better and is more natural in coverage. Neither are all-world athletes and Cole even has more downhill speed, but Mauti is an instinctive player that simply needs to be more comfortable.
Both Cole and Mauti did well in the goal line drill, although I noticed that Cole was a little late twice for the tackle. I'm not so sure these tackles were bad, though, because he was not the primary defender responsible for the play. To Cole's credit, he also registered a touch sack and a TFL.
Larry Dean is starting to get engulfed by other players, and Zach Line did do a number on him at least once. I really like Larry Dean as a special teamer, but unless he can moonlight as a "Star," "Lobo," or "Big Nickel" (alluded to in the Thoughts of the Day section many of you skip—and that's probably for the better), he'll be a 'tweener—too heavy and slow to be a safety but too light to be a linebacker.
I guess I'm not liking what I see of Tyrone McKenzie, who doesn't seem to generate good tackling angles. Mind you, there aren't live drills with a lot of tackling, but given the problem he had with missed tackles last year as a special teamer, he needs to find ways to square up when playing linebacker.
I was able to gauge the drop, footwork and general strength of technique that the defensive backs played in during their drills, and I have to say I was a little surprised. Xavier Rhodes, who we've all commended (and rightly so, don't get me wrong) has a lot of work to do in terms of technique and position as a press coverage player. Naturally, as a rookie, he would need to learn more, but right now his strength as a physical player comes from strength and will, less technique.
He should be an even better press corner with time.
Rhodes was able to get away with a pick against Matt Cassel, who threw a terrible pass on a bootleg. Overall he's been good, but he'll still get beat by receivers at the bottom of the roster. Like the defensive back class of 2012, the jury will likely be out on this new set of DBs for a little bit. He's had some impact plays and overall instinct, but I think that we might be expecting too much of him right out of the gate.
Josh Robinson is looking better than I expected and it seems his rocky time as a Vikings corner from the previous year is paying off in experience this year. He had a good pick on Ponder, and the adjustment was the type you'd likely see from a top-tier cornerback. He also deflected two more passes from Ponder, all against different receivers. Cordarrelle Patterson still seems to have trouble with him, which I find more amusing than anything else.
While I wasn't too impressed with Greg McCoy in a previous session, I have to say I'm a little bit more up on him after Day 6. He made some big errors in drills, often allowing receivers too much cushion, but he too covered Patterson like a blanket and forced Ponder to look elsewhere (throwing it to Blanton, who intercepted it). I don't think McCoy makes the practice squad, but he has the skills to prove me wrong. If he can add consistency, he's an interesting player to keep around.
Speaking of Blanton, he had another impressive day. I'm convinced that Blanton will eventually start somewhere (like Priefer is convinced of Sendejo), but I don't know if it's here. I actually have more faith in him than I do in Mistral Raymond, but it is difficult to gauge safeties when you keep your eye on the ball—Raymond may have simply forced Cassel and Ponder to throw elsewhere. I'll be sure to try and catch that this time around.
Chris Cook should have an interception at some point this training camp (I don't know of any), but if he keeps matching up with Jennings, it will be difficult. He's done a (much) better job against the other receivers, but I'd like to see him win more against the former Packer. I'll see if I can catch more of him today, too. So far, I've seen a ton of closing speed and excellent reads. He trusts himself and that's good to see.
Marcus Sherels didn't see the field a lot, but he popped in long enough to drop an interception against Matt Cassel. His coverage skills seem improved, but he is also playing against players that won't be in the NFL in a few weeks. We'll see in the preseason, because he has invited a lot of skepticism.
I'm not so sure how one works on "awareness," but A.J. Jefferson seems to have done a good job finding it. Another good set of plays in drills today along with solid coverage overall in scrimmages. I don't have any notes about specific plays written down, but I do have a general impression of solid play. He, too, was receiving a lot of instruction in the press drills.
I didn't see much of Brandan Bishop or Brandon Burton today, so I'll add that to my ever-growing list. I have one or two mentions of Lacey in my notes and both are positive. If Robinson can't make the transition inside, I'm not too worried about Lacey filling in.
Roderick Williams didn't have the best of days. He's had good performances before, but he seemed a step behind in some places.
Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford both did well in drop drills as well as press drills. Smith's footwork is excellent, and Sanford is a focused guy, who takes instruction really well. They both did a very good job in drills and followed it with good movement in limited action in team drills. Harrison Smith in particular is doing a very good job.
I did not see much of Darius Eubanks or Bobby Felder (the small amount I saw of Felder was good)
Random and Inconsistently Awarded Accolades
Bubble player of the day: Chase Ford, who I was too down on early in camp. Looking good with pads on
#90: Not Vandenberg! He strung some stuff together. I'm going with DeMarcus Love, who would earn this spot without the suspension based on his play.
Eat Crow: Erik Highsmith was my guy!
I Called It: Bradley Randle had a couple of touchdowns.
As Expected: Griffen is explosive.
Step Up: Chris Cook needs to make more impact plays.
Pleasant Surprise: Bishop is adapting well to the role of the Will and may provide an additional wrinkle in due time.
Uh Oh: Jamarca Sanford went down! He got back up.