Same disclaimer as usual. Itís only one practice. If I say anything bad about ďyour guyĒ, get over it. Lots of players improve by leaps and bounds within the span of a preseason camp. I can only report what I saw, if your guy made three spectacular catches while my eyes were elsewhere, and I saw him drop the one thrown to him, Probably means Iím not raving about him, but itís nothing personal. Here we go.
-The new turf has odd markings in each corner of each of the three fieldís end zones. Itís a half circle with another half circle outside of that one, about ten yards wide and ten deep. Gotta be boundaries for some sort of drill.
-McLendon, the rookie tackle gets the nod as the first player down on the field. Undrafted rookies from Troy need to show the coaches theyíre hustling, kudos to him for the effort.
The plyers are in shoulder pads and helmets, and shorts. No full pads today, means the linemen wonít be working on run stuffing and blocking. Weíre gonna be working predominantly on passing today. The tight ends and receivers begin warming up by having balls shot at them out of the two-wheeled machine at ten yards away. First they take a couple while standing squared up to the machine, then they turn to one side, then the other. The idea is to keep both feet planted while they make the catch (like dragging the toes on the sideline)
-Spaeth is first up. He looks a little thinner to me than he did last year. He catches three or four smoothly, absorbing the balls velocity and pulling it in. Heís wearing gloves in this heat? He bobbles one, then catches the rest.
-McHugh takes a turn and the ball hits his hands a little harder. He gets a little slap on it when he catches it, and he doesnít really absorb the balls velocity. But he doesnít drop or bobble any.
-Johnson takes a turn. Heís very stiff when he tries to turn his body to snag balls that go off to the side. Heís much more muscular than the other TEís. But the hand eye coordination isnít there. He catches on one the forearm instead of the hands.
-Miller takes a turn and shows them how itís done. While he absorbs the velocity, he doesnít let the ball carry his hands six or eight inches like Spaeth does, and that allows him to tuck it in quicker. Thatís key since a lot of his catches are in traffic. Well, I guess for the money heís getting paid, he better know how to catch it.
-Sherrod takes a turn and drops one.
-Sweed comes over and showboats. Pulls the ball in effortlessly and in one smooth motion tosses each one behind his back to the coach. Itís nice that he caught every ball cleanly, but Iíd rather see him do on the practice field what heís going to do in games. Hopefully he doesnít make catches and then toss the ball behind the back to the opponent.
They take turns catching the balls in various forms of readiness. Sometimes, theyíre looking away then they spin and catch it. Kinda like the Marques Colston commercial.
-Spaeth catches his.
-Miller catches his.
-Johnson drops his. Itís pretty obvious early on that Johnson better be a hell of a blocker, because heís not much of a receiver, as far as TEís go.
-Spaeth catches another.
-McHugh catches his.
-Ratliff sneaks in and catches one.
-Sherrod makes a nice catch on one thatís way behind him.
-Miller and Spaeth catch a few more.
-Johnson comes back and catches one.
-On another part of the field, rookies Wallace and Lewis are tossing the ball back and forth. Wallace throws a couple nice passes. Not necessarily Randal El, but heís got a nice spiral on it. Might be something to look at in the future. Oops, he throws it behind Lewis. Maybe he better concentrate on playing WR for now. Lewis makes a nice one-handed catch on it. It looks like heís got good hands for a CB.
Offense and defense splits to go through walk-throughs of some plays. These are slow motion plays just to make sure everyone knows where theyíre supposed to go.
-I watch a couple of the defensive plays, and Iíd love to write what they were here, but have no clue what the hell to call them, and itís impossible to describe what the 11 players did, particularly since they line up deceptively, etc.., so Iíll stick with the offense for the most part during the walk-throughs.
-Ben hits McHugh on a center FB screen. Nice way to make use of the TE in the backfield.
-Ben fakes a handoff, looks at Holmes slanting, fakes the reverse, then throws deep to Speath down the middle. Three fakes, eh? Looks like sack begging to happen IMO.
-Ben throws a screen to Parker. Just like the ones they used to run back in 2006.
-The defensive line is working on overload stunts in the middle out of the base defense. Something that no doubt seems more appealing with Timmons in there than it did with Foote.
-Ben throws a 10 yard out to Baker. Baker catches it but waits for it to get to him. I wish heíd go back for it aggressively even in the walk-throughs. There were a couple times last year I thought Baker should have come back for it instead of waiting.
-Wallace apparently runs the wrong route in the walk through and gets instruction on where heís supposed to be. Right now, theyíre lining him up on the outside to the right on 4 wides.
-Batch throws a 10 yard post to McDonald, and McDonald makes a nice two-handed catch on the ball way over his head. He looks small out there, so the likelihood that passes will go over his head are high.
-Dixon hits McHugh on a 10 yard turn-in down the middle.
-Dixon hits McDonald on a 15 yard curl and comeback to the right.
-Over on the defensive walk-through, LeBeau is giving #50 one on one instruction on where to go on a particular stunt. I donít have a #50 on my roster, so I donít know who it is.
-Dixon hits Grisham out of the slot on a 6 yard slant.
-The defense is working on a 6 man blitz package. No two plays look anything alike. It looks like someone sets off 6 bottle rockets that shoot in random directions at random times and intertwine like pretzels, but all 6 players end up at the QB.
-Summers lines up on the punt cover walk-through as the all-important second from the gunner on the left.
-Carter takes a turn as the right-side gunner.
-Moore takes the next turn as the right-side gunner.
-Johnson takes a turn at the second from the left gunner, and shows a lot more enthusiasm at it than Summers does. With a left-footed punter, thatís the short side. We better have someone over there who can block.
-Bailey takes the second from the right gunner, the attack spot.
-Special team coach stops the action to instruct Summers. Heís sliding his feet when he drops back to punt block instead of chopping them, and maybe getting too early of a release (not sure exactly what that last part was that he was telling him)
-#50 takes a try at the second from the right gunner spot, but his feet look too slow to me. Heís big. Maybe a DE that got converted to OLB.
-Tomlin steps in to give the punt coverage team hopefuls an earful or a pep talk. Canít tell which. Maybe a bit of both (he usually doesnít step in unless heís unhappy with the way something is going, so Iíd say the former) Either way, heís making a big deal out of it, so that hopefully they take it seriously instead of looking at it as a chore (which is how some of them looked).
The players go into their stretching exercises.
-Summers is stiff as a board. While the other players bend over and grab their toes, straight legged, Summers can barely reach his knee, and heís really stiff at the hips. If heís swinging out of the backfield and the ballís thrown low, itís either gonna clank off his shins, or heís gonna have to drop to the turf to get it. And forget about him turning and catching a ball thrown behind him.
-Ubrik is very flexible for someone his size.
-Hoke does his Russian dance. Itís a tradition. The crowd goes nuts.
The team splits up for drills.
-The defensive front seven practice coming off the ball as a unit on a simulated snap. Timmons is the quickest off the ball on the first group.
-Farrior takes the title for the second group.
-The d-linemen are firing out of the chutes into a sled, and McLendon comes out too high and taps the top of the chute.
-Hood fires out low and quickly.
The o-linemen are paired up, standing across from each other. The man playing the ďdefenderĒ has the o-lineman by the inside of the pads and tries to get him off balance, while the o-lineman has to get hand position inside the defenerís hands and has to keep his balance doing it.
-Parquet gets pushed back fairly easily by Colon and never establishes his hands inside the defenderís.
-Capizzi holds up well against Starks, doesnít get moved much and gets decent position with his hands.
-Essex works his hands well, but has slow feet while heís trying to keep position, but he doesnít get moved.
-Parquet has slow feet as well, but he gets moved.
-Shipley holds his place well, but gets instruction from Zirlein on the use of his armsÖ.which really are short. I mean, theyíre short. Iím surprised he can reach down and snap the ball.
-Urbik shows decent feet sliding side to side, but Essex pushes him around with ease when he goes at him straight forward. He bends Urbik over backward. Zirlein comes over and tells Urbik to keep his head up, that heís got his head down and heís leaning, which makes it Easy for Essex to pull him forward and then quickly push him back. They try again, and itís no better. Itís early in the practice, but Iíd say Urbik is weak in the lower torso, the butt, the thighs and the calves. And his technique is terrible. Anyone who thought he might be an immediate help to the line can pretty much forget that. He needs a year in the gym and to work on his technique. Seems like a decent athlete, and heís not as bad as Hills was last year, but I doubt he makes any significant contribution this year.
-Capizzi takes another turn and holds up very well.
The running backs line up with one shoulder already on the sled and they push it.
-Parker doesnít move the sled too effectively.
-Redman moves the sled much better. Seems fairly strong.
-Summers blows the sled across the field easily. He may not be flexible, but sure as hell is strong at driving the sled.
-Mendenhall is only slightly stronger at pushing it than Parker.
The tight ends are firing out of the chute into a sled.
-Johnson rings the iron when he hits the sled. Nice drive block.
-Spaeth is coming out of the chute lower this year than last year, but he doesnít hit it with nearly the same authority as Johnson. Still he looks better than last year.
-McHugh hits it better than Spaeth, but not as well as Johnson.
The QBís are throwing to receivers with no DBís in the mix.
-Ben hits Vincent on a slant in the numbers.
-Batch hits Nance in the hands on a slant.
-Reilly throws behind Grisham on a slant from the left slot.
-Ben lobs one down the left sideline and Williams drops it. Right off his hands.