The Spring Game wasn’t really a game at all. It was more like a controlled scrimmage with some other mild warm-ups and some ceremony for the show. The change in the Spring practice schedule due to injuries of key players, and the nature of this Spring’s practice with young players and a slew of redshirts needing work made it really difficult to stage a full fledged football game between swapping squads. So we got a peek behind what it’s like to be in a full up late practice season scrimmage, even the Coach was styling Bill “Beli-chic”
Prediction: #1 Ryan Willis – the status is not going to change for the season.
The battle is for the #2 slot. Neither Hendon Hooker nor Quincy Patterson II did much to create negative waves, or positive vibes. Patterson is definitely not ready to start. He was looking pretty good at times, though. He even got some passes in, and was the one live QB on the field. I don’t know what that signifies depth wise, I just think that Patterson needed the full speed practice session, and looked like he really wanted it, too. His orange jersey came out later during the free play period. Hendon Hooker is still a partial work in progress… though he’s no longer very inconsistent, but he is pretty predictable at the moment. It’s one read and run for Hendon for the Spring. We’ll see if that develops more during the “fall” sessions.
I expect some changes at Running Back; including a shift from Tight End to RB for Malik Bell. 46 made a good impression on everyone when he carried the ball. Caleb Steward showed up well especially with a TD. Jalen Holston is just not fast enough in any technique phase to be a half-back. He’s a competent fullback and needs to be played that way. No appearance or use of Deshawn McClease tells me that he still in the working on things and probably get an extended re-look to see how he’ll fit in for next season.
Lots of new faces… lots of old ones, but Bryce Watts is going to drop down the depth chart in a hurry. We do not hear encouraging things about his practice sessions; and he certainly wasn’t particularly good in coverage. He’d be better at Safety than at Corner if they could get by his attitude issues. It’s still going to be a weak spot on the defense and Foster is going to have to get really creative. Divine Deablo got some quality field time, and looks like he’s ready to step into a leadership role.
Caleb Farley did get beaten twice. Neither time was his fault. His coverage was excellent; but the receivers were just that much more excellent. Circus catches are like home runs for fastball pitchers in baseball. They happen; so move on.
Linebackers are solid… we saw three starting quality linebackers that can switch between Mike and Backer on the fly; though Dylan Rivers might off staying with Backer. Dax Hollified and Rayshard Ashby can swap at will which will drive opposing defenses nuts… Reggie Floyd has become a serious leader, and will probably captain the defense from the Strong Safety/Rover position (knocking him out of #1 isn’t going to happen).
In the Trenches
The Defensive Line is looking more confident, and certainly the Defensive Ends are solid. Emanuel Belmar was eating up everyone. The new guy #95 Deshawn Crawford got lots of time he was hard to move and seemed to move to the ball well. Jerrod Hewitt was doing well on the inside. He’s still dancing too much, though. It’s going to be light, though. Foster’s big foible… I am still looking at pictures seeing snaps and where he went but the interior will be better this season.
The Offensive Line was still not getting really critical push strength when it came to the run game. The goal-line situations were not sterling examples of power drive blocking. Too often the Defensive line could either stuff up the holes in the middle, or get heavy penetration to break up the play behind the line of scrimmage. The alarm bells should sound just yet, we didn’t really see the offensive line 1’s we saw mostly 2’s and 3’s. the “starters” were 2/3rd 1/3rd mixes of 1s and 2s. There was definitely a drop off in both OL and DL 1’s and 2’s.
The bright stars of this session will remain hovering over the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends (we’ll just call them the Receivers). We will see Tre Turner in the NFL draft in the notoriety rounds. Damon Hazelton is going to be super dangerous, and there is just no real drop off for eight receiver positions. Hezekiah Grimsley is back in good form. Phil Patterson was steady. It just looks like Fuente will have six starting quality wideouts, and two starting quality tight ends to complement the entire scheme. The #2s like DeJuan Ellis are darn near close to the #1s. If they can keep Willis on his feet, and step up his read and touch skills, this team will be dangerous and explosive on offense this season. Dalton Keene didn’t play due to injury rehab, but James Mitchell sure did.
Major problem… Depth is still shaky except for the Receivers…
The starters on this team are still young, though now much more experienced. You can see it in the confidence levels, and in the surety of play or formation execution. What we did see is that the bench reflects the starters. They are all very young and often did not get the benefit of last season’s trial. Hopefully we don’t start seeing key injuries or drop outs until there is some more confidence and skill built in the 2’s and 3’s in several squads (DL, OL, and DBs).
Oh, Special Teams really didn’t get hard work outs, but there is no particular confidence in Brian Johnson’s ability to cure is slicing problem outside of 35 yards. We’ll see how the August practice sessions go, but Coach Shibest is going to be looking hard at improving what became a major hole in the offense last season. Jordan Stout and Oscar Bradburn are gold and set for another season doing their things. Stout might actually get more use in the situation where we are stuck going for 3, outside the 35. We’ll see.
Now we slide into the long Spring and Summer football drought. We’ll be bringing you some new looks and spending some time highlighting single players, as a change of pace, this summer. Stay up with us.