Day 1 of the 2018 Senior Bowl is in the books. Today was mostly players checking in, getting their physicals and meeting with NFL clubs as all “pre-work”, if you will, to the official festivities.
The event officially kicked off with an introductory press conference, which I was able to attend. At the mic tonight was Senior Bowl Executive Director, Phil Savage, Quarterback Josh Allen, Linebacker Shaquem Griffin, and Edge Rusher Marcus Davenport.
If these names aren’t familiar to you, check out my “Players to Watch” list, as each of these players are featured on there.
An interesting nugget from Savage’s portion was announcing that the Senior Bowl is partnering with Zebra Technologies, the Official On-Field Player Tracking Provider of the NFL and the company behind Next-Gen Stats.
During Senior Bowl practices and the game, players as well as the footballs, will all be equipped with RFID chips which allows real-time data on speed and distance to be tracked.
This data will all be made available to teams and scouts. The way Savage put it is that now when you see a player on the practice field and think “wow, he really showed a burst of speed there”, they’ll now be able to quantify what you’re seeing.
Some pretty cool stuff!
Savage also was asked what the two quarterbacks each had to prove. He addressed Josh Allen first saying that he needed to answer questions about the statistics that he put up in his final year, namely his completion percentage which was 56% in his two seasons as a starter.
He also highlighted that Allen had a chance to showcase to scouts and coaches what he has from the “neck up” in terms of intangibles, leadership, and football IQ.
For Baker Mayfield, Savage mentioned that teams he really had a chance to show what he can do in a more traditional NFL offense like taking snaps under center, running a huddle, and play action under center. Additionally, he mentioned Mayfield has a chance to show what he’s about off the field and how he conducts himself, especially given some of the negatives in that arena this past year.
So both prospects have a lot to prove.
Lastly, Savage emphasized the importance of the 1-on-1 drills to player evaluation and said he shared this with both coaching staffs as well as they make these a key part of the practices everyday.
"1 on 1s are vitally important, specifically for smaller school prospects". If these guys can just "flash" for a play or two it can make an impression on teams.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) January 22, 2018
- Phil Savage, Exec Director, #SeniorBowl
Right out of the gate, Allen was asked about his completion percentage and if that was an accurate (no pun intended) depiction of his ability, and he responded promptly with “I’m definitely more accurate than that shows”. He went on to talk about how he has really been working on his footwork this offseason and he’s been working with a private coach, Jordan Palmer (Carson Palmer’s brother), to clean up his footwork and overall mechanics to help get more consistent in his accuracy.
Josh Allen, on seeing Broncos GM John Elway on the sideline of the Potato Bowl last month: pic.twitter.com/JCf89iH6ww— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 23, 2018
Allen said all the right things tonight in terms of recognizing his weaknesses and proactively working to fix them, but he’ll have to back it up this week on the field to convince evaluators that he’s made strides in this area.
Overall I came away impressed with Allen and definitely think he fits the mold of “swagger and confidence” that Elway has talked about wanting, while also demonstrating self-awareness and humility.
Handling the media and press conferences are an important part of the equation for potential 1st-round QBs. Josh Allen checked the boxes there for me tonight.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) January 23, 2018
Showed confidence and swagger but addressed concerns about his play and spoke to his need and work to improve in areas.
The quarterback watch train for the week is just getting rolling!
Wow. That’s the first thing I came away from his portion thinking. I loved Griffin leading up to this week and I love him even more now. He’s one of my favorite prospects, not only for his ability on the field, but for the kind of guy he is.
Griffin, as I mentioned in my highlight piece, had his hand amputated at four years old and has continued to play football at a high level, regardless. He was asked repeatedly (a little too much, in my opinion) about this and how it could affect his ability to play football and these responses about summed up his thoughts on it:
“It’s not a disability until you make it one.”
“As long as I’m going fast and making plays I think they’re going to forget about how many hands I have.”
I'm one press conference into the 2018 #SeniorBowl and I can tell you this for certain: draft Shaquem Griffin.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 23, 2018
I still like Griffin as a dime LB/sub package Swiss army knife. I asked Griffin about what he feels he brings to teams from a coverage standpoint, and he talked about how comfortable he is in various coverages, whether it’s playing safety (where he played before being moved to linebacker), jumping out in the slot to cover wide receivers, or running with routes downfield. He said he has always had the speed, and anyone wanting to challenge him deep better bring it.
“I’m able to grasp things pretty fast when it comes to coverage”
Shaquem Griffin played every single defensive snap in this game.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 21, 2018
And here in the 4th quarter, two minutes left, he’s playing at a different speed than anyone else. #NorrisNotes pic.twitter.com/0ar1GykAqo
Watching Griffin in the 1-on-1s will be really indicative of his coverage ability.
This young man absolutely impressed me with his humble attitude and genuine appreciation to be invited there and considered for the draft. Before it’s all said and done, Davenport is likely going to go in the top 2 rounds of the draft, but you wouldn’t get that sense from his demeanor tonight.
The quote of the entire night for me came from Davenport on this topic when he was asked about how high he might get drafted, and he responded:
“I don’t care where they draft me, I just want to play”
I asked Davenport who his favorite pass rushers were and who he models his game after and, no surprise, Von Miller made his list.
He called out Calais Campbell’s power, JJ Watt’s motor, and Von Miller’s speed as aspects that he wanted to emulate in his game. When asked further about who he most saw himself like (since two of those players are interior defenders), he responded with, Von Miller.
My only regret is that Davenport is on the South so Bill Kollar won’t have a chance to get his hands on him this week. (Speaking of which, I ran into Bill Kollar tonight and will have a piece up soon with our conversation).
So there’s my takeaways from the first night of the Senior Bowl. Excited to see these guys out on the field tomorrow!
All the practices from the Senior Bowl will be aired on NFL Network as well as the game on Saturday, January 27th at 1:30pm CT. Be sure to tune in to all the coverage this week.