Monday, February 27, 2012

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY OF THE NFL COMBINE WEEKEND

As we near the end of the NFL's yearly Beefcake Beauty Contest, it's the defensive backs that take center stage today. According to Steelers beat writer and Trib reporter Ken Laird, 59 Defensive Backs met with the press today at the Combine, including "Antwaun Reed of #pitt and D'Anton Lynn & Chaz Powell #pennstate."

Now, on to players who may have an actual chance with the Steelers.

The Good ~

Shawn Zobel of http://draftheadquarters.com and @ShawnZobel_DHQ on Twitter, tweeted this today: "Dontari Poe of Memphis is now the leader at the 2012 Combine with 44 reps on bench." He ultimately led the day and is now officially "Mr. Poe." I want this man on my team. Now.

He's from Memphis, by the way. Randy Fichtner coached at Memphis, by the way. We may have a connection to him, therefore, by the w...well, you get it.

One of the interviews with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert that hasn't gotten any real replay dealt with how various positions, both offensively and defensively, are evaluated and utilized.

Speaking on success at finding a quality outside linebacker for the NFL level, Colbert said: "The challenge is usually in college football there's not a lot of 3-4 defenses, so you don't get to see those linebackers playing the position that you're gonna project them to. So, there's a lot of guesswork involved mainly with how they'll be able to cover, because that's one aspect you don't get to see a lot of in the 4-3 defensive ends in college football." Does that then create in you a greater respect for LaMarr Woodley? It does in me.

When asked about Ben, offensive line and the decision making that goes into this year's draft, Colbert responded: "It's a little different, ya know. It's a little better on the interior, specifically at guard, which is unusual [compared to] how it has been in recent years. Tackles are still good, it's not as deep as it has been, and center is not very deep at all." Do you hear that, Peter Konz?

The subject of small school talent was next addressed, specifically offensive guard Amini Silatolu out of Midwestern State. The 6-3, 320-pounder from became MSU's first consensus All-American after leading NCAA Division II's top-ranked scoring and yardage offense.

Silatolu also finished second in voting for the Gene Upshaw Award which is presented to the top performing lineman in all of NCAA Division II each season. He's expected to be the first small college lineman selected in this year's draft.

The problem, Colbert said, is that "any small school guy...they have to prove that they can do it at the next level because we can't see them. They're missing a step along the way. So, the further down the line you go in college football, division III, II, I-AA, the harder it is to prove that you're worthy of NFL competition because you're not at that level as you're preparing for that next step."

Based on those statements, getting a good-to-great offensive guard is essential. You have the talent in the draft and you have the need for that talent. Which actually touches on another potentially bad situation I'll come back to later.

Colbert spoke on the defense as well, in particular the defensive line. He mentioned how important versatility is and said it's "huge", but that they have to be able to "play in the base defense first. But, if there's other things that they can bring in from an athletic standpoint, that's obviously a bonus."

He went on to cite Brett Keisel as an example of one who, while being good in the base defense, has that aforementioned versatility because "he can also stand up and give some looks as an outside linebacker, or even stand up and rush from the inside. So, it gives the coaches a lot more flexibility in what they can do. Is it necessary? No. Is it a bonus? Yes." Not pointing you out, Dontari Poe. Just looking in your general direction.

The Bad ~

The Steelers are facing a literal changing of the guard on the offensive line. Tackle also, in that Marcus Gilbert is presumably moving to left tackle to replace Max Starks who's season ended due to injury again. There's the issue: the loss of Starks affects quality/depth and experience.

There is Trai Essex who'll likely be brought back, but no one else on the roster or practice squad is going to make anyone think of Joe Thomas or Ryan Clady. So, depth and quality are certainly affected.

Secondly is the experience at the left tackle position now that Gilbert is going to be there. Gilbert has little experience at left tackle, playing it only for approximately a half of a season in college. He played mainly right tackle before his senior year, even playing some guard. So, there will be some on-the-job training for Gilbert next season. Expect an increase in the running game and a lot of three and five step drops, in that case, to aid in Gilbert's growth.

The Ugly...and somewhat hilarious ~

Cornerback prospect Janoris Jenkins has four kids already. Four. They're ages are three, two, one year old and three months old. Joe Reedy, @joereedy on Twitter, stated: "Janoris Jenkins said he hasn't smoked in a year." Well, obviously! He's been otherwise involved. Finally on the subject, Scott Brown of the Trib tweeted: "Janoris Jenkins has 4 kids and 3 arrests from his time at U of Fla. Some team will take a chance on talented CB. Won't be the Steelers." From your lips to God's ears...

One last thing ~

Ken Laird of the Trib tweeted that Isaiah Pead from Cincinnati, who might be a Steelers running back possibility, ran a 4.41 in the 40 yard dash. Laird said that he would be great change of pace back in 4th round or so.