Tag:Andre Roberts
Posted on: December 26, 2010 12:45 pm
 

Cardinals' rookies stand out on Christmas Day

There is no denying that the losses of Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby hurt the Cardinals this season. The defending NFC West Champs stand at a disappointing 5-10. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff, however, are practicing a theory I've always believed in -- if you're going to struggle, you might as well play your young players to determine if there are any building blocks for the future.
Arizona rookie quarterback John Skelton will get much of the glory following the Cardinals' last-second victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but in reality he was only one of various first-year players who stood out during the rare Christmas day NFL game.

Skelton, a fifth round pick out of Skelton, posted marginal numbers (11 of 25 for 183 yards and a TD), but made plays when he needed to, including finding Larry Fitzgerald on 4th down to extend the game-winning drive and hitting fellow rookie Andre Roberts for a 74-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. Skelton has a rocket for a right arm and a showed some poise in the pocket, stepping up when he needed to and keeping his eyes downfield. Again, he was far from spectacular, but did not throw an interception and slipped away from several sacks.

Roberts, a third round pick out of The Citadel, was arguably the most impressive rookie on the night. He led the Cardinals in targets (nine), receptions (five) and receiving yards (110) and caught Skelton's only touchdown throw of the evening. His most impressive reception was not the touchdown (in which the Dallas defender fell down), but a 21 yard catch (amid very tight coverage) on 3rd and 7 that extended Arizona's lead in the fourth quarter to four points with 3:45 left to play.  Roberts also showed some burst and vision as a returner, registering a combined 134 on nine returns (five on kickoffs, four on punts).

Roberts was "arguably" the Cardinals' most impressive rookie because the Cardinals' second round pick, linebacker Daryl Washington tied with veteran teammate Paris Lemon to lead the game with eight tackles (all solos). Washington's athleticism stood out at TCU, but there were concerns about his physicality and instincts. Those concerns were largely put to rest last night as Washington took on blocks and located the football quickly throughout the game.

The Cardinals' rookie production continued. Fourth round pick O'Brien Schofield (Wisconsin), who tore his ACL approximately 11 months ago at the Senior Bowl, notched his first career sack against the Cowboys. First round pick Dan Williams , who was in Whisenhunt's dog house early in the year due to coming in overweight, flashed the power inside that led the Cardinals to making him the 26th pick of the draft. The former Tennessee Volunteer also showed impressive hustle, chasing ball-carriers downfield and to the sideline.

The Cardinals may be wrapping up a disappointing season, but with each of their top five picks from the 2010 draft contributing to their Christmas Day victory, they (and their fans) should feel good about their future. 

Posted on: November 8, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2010 2:12 pm
 

Rookie WRs Ajirotutu, Roberts, Ford no surprise

One of the more entertaining parts of my typical Sunday viewing of NFL games is to see announcers stumble when an unheralded rookie makes a surprising play.

This was the case in several games yesterday, most notably among wide receivers for the San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.

Loyal readers of NFLDraftScout.com and our weekly PDF Draft Slant certainly knew that the big plays from Seyi Ajirotutu, Andre Roberrts and Jacoby Ford , respectively, were no surprise.

I've been accused of tooting my/our own horn on occasion, and perhaps I do it too often. When I do it, though, I provide the evidence that what I say is true.

For example...

Ajirotutu, an undrafted free agent from Fresno State, impressed early last year in a Bulldog loss to Wisconsin (six catches for 83 yards, two TDs) and again at the East-West Shrine Game. Here is what I wrote in Slant about him:
Ajirotutu intrigues scouts in much the same way as former WAC standout Legedu Naanee (San Diego) did for Boise State - with great size, raw speed and physical play. His underrated straight-line speed (reportedly has been timed in the 4.3s) forces corners to respect him deep and his size and crisp footwork gives him easy separation on slants and dig routes. Ajirotutu has shown the ability to high-point passes, using his size advantage to "box out" smaller cornerbacks (see Wisconsin, 9/12). Ajirotutu's physicality also lends itself well as a downfield blocker. In fact, as his blocking Saturday night against the Warriors can attest, Ajirotutu is a significant contributor to the success of junior Ryan Matthews, the nation's leading rusher. Fresno's focus on the running game will keep Ajirotutu's number modest (4-48 yards against UH), but with patience, he has the raw talent to blossom in the pros.

Ajirotutu caught four passes from Philip Rivers for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers 29-23 win over Houston.

Andre Roberts and Jacoby Ford, two undersized receivers mischaracterized by some as strictly big play threats, impressed me during Senior Bowl practices. In fact, in this Senior Bowl practice (Tuesday) review I lavished praise on both.

A receiver on the rise is [Andre] Roberts . Scouts expected him to be closer to 5-10, 180 pounds, but he measured in at 5-11, 192. His quickness has not been hurt by the added weight, and his routes were outstanding. Roberts has the feet to run effective comeback routes, the suddenness to free himself on slants, and the vertical to leap up and grab a high pass on the sideline. Typically one FCS receiver is selected in the top 100, and it looks like Roberts fits that ball in the 2010 draft.
 
Roberts played very well during the Senior Bowl practices. He only caught two passes for the Cardinals in their 24-27 loss to the Vikings, but his 30-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter gave the Cardinals a 14-10 halftime lead.

Ford flashed a week earlier in the Raiders' blowout victory over the Seahawks. Against the Chiefs and one of the better young cornerbacks in the league (Brandon Flowers), Ford was dynamic. Ford returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter for a 94-yard touchdown and caught six passes for 147 yards. If you can believe it, he was even better on tape than he was on the stat sheet, as several of his catches were highlight reel-worthy.

Again, this wasn't a surprise. Here is what I wrote about Ford following the same Tuesday Senior Bowl practice:

Clemson's Jacoby Ford is proving among the more secure handed receivers at the Senior Bowl this week -- a bit of a surprise to some who had labeled as only a big-play threat. Though short, the 5-9, 181-pound Ford has good strength to gain his release off press and has the speed to eat up the cushion. He has impressed scouts so far this week with his ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and haul in tough catches.

Rather than focus any more attention on these rookies, let's look ahead to this year's senior crop of wideouts. A few underrated receivers that I see slipping a bit on draft day, surprising with a big day (or five) as rookies causing NFL announcers to stumble a year from now include:

Denarius Moore, Tennessee
Vincent Brown, San Diego State
Greg Salas, Hawaii





Posted on: April 23, 2010 10:08 pm
 

Roberts, Veldheer, Carrington will surprise

As we get into the middle rounds is where NFL scouts and draft analysts earn their money.

While few fans will know much about Andre Roberts, wideout from The Citadel, Hillsdale offensive tackle Jared Veldheer and even Sun Belt standout Alex Carrington from Arkansas State, I believe these three will prove to be three of the better picks of the third round.

Roberts is my favorite of the three. Even with the trade of Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals are well stocked at wide receiver already with Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. Roberts is a classic slot receiver and returner who could step in immediately should one of them go down to injury. Typically small school receivers are raw route-runners, but I was very impressed with Roberts at the Senior Bowl in this area. He has hands of glue.

Perhaps the most NFL-ready of the bunch, however, is Arkansas State's Alex Carrington, who at 6-5, 280 pounds has the length and strength the Bills need at defensive end for their conversion to the 3-4 defense. Carrington, like Roberts, helped dispel any thoughts that he couldn't make the jump to better competition with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

Veldheer, a 46 game starter and All-American, fills an area of real concern for the Raiders. He has the length the Raiders like outside and really made a name for himself at the Texas vs. Nation game. I've spoken to scouts who rate him similarly to former Sebastian Vollmer, a surprise second round pick last year for the Patriots who ended up starting eight games as a rookie, including five games at left tackle.


Posted on: January 27, 2010 1:00 am
 

Review from Tuesday's North practice

With pending deadlines for various NFL draft projects looming, my editors are struggling to review my rambling, half-coherent notes from today's Senior Bowl practices onto the website quickly enough to satisfy some readers.

Rather than wait longer for them to catch up, here are my unedited notes from today's North practice. This was my first look at the North squad after spending yesterday scouting the South team. As such, I focused my attention on the North's quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs.

With any further adieu...

NFL scouts came to Mobile hoping to see one of the quarterbacks emerge from the pack.

After two days of practice, they're still hoping.

Cincinnati's Tony Pike is the most gifted thrower of the class, demonstrating the arm-strength, accuracy to all levels of the field and mobility rare for a player of his 6-5 frame. The North's starter in each passing drill, Pike zipped passes through tight windows, consistently placed his deep outs low and wide so that only his man could get them and seemed increasingly comfortable dropping back from center.  Unfortunately, for each series of impressive throws, Pike would leave scouts scratching their heads with inaccurate passes, especially in the intermediate zones. Some of this is due to his not yet developing a rapport with his new teammates, as well as gusty conditions Tuesday. Some, however, is due to inconsistent footwork. Pike also has a tendency to rely upon his fastball, not showing enough touch on this day to fit the ball between the linebacker and safety.

Touch, however, is the one thing that Oregon State's Sean Canfield has been able to show. It is arm-strength, or rather lack thereof, that have scouts concerned. Canfield rode a breakout senior campaign into an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but has done little here to prove he has the arm necessary to be successful in the NFL. Canfield has to fully windup to get the ball to the sideline. Though the throws do get there, they arc and are slow in arriving, which will result in interceptions in the NFL. While the zip isn't there for the intermediate routes, Canfield was the North's most accurate deep ball passer due to impressive touch and good trajectory.

Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour lacks Pike's big arm, but was able to drive the ball with more authority than Canfield. He was the most erratic thrower on the day, however, struggling to hit his receivers in full stride. He's been limited thus far in practice, as he's been asked to remain strictly in the pocket. Without the threat of scrambling, LeFevour's less than ideal accuracy is being exposed a bit against the North's quality defensive backs.

Some of the North's quarterback issues are a result of inconsistent play from its receivers.

Small school wideout Andre Roberts (The Citadel) was the surprise standout among the South receiving corps Monday and Ohio's Taylor Price may be continuing the theme. The 6-0, 200 pound Price is quick off the snap and catches the ball cleanly.

The same could not be said for the North's two most highly touted receivers entering this week's practice; Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard and Missouri's Danario Alexander. Gilyard dropped numerous passes today. These sudden struggles have only added to the questions about how his spindly frame and lack of upper body strength will hold up when pressed. The 6-5, 221 pound Alexander, on the other hand, has plenty of size. He'll need a system in the NFL that allows him to catch passes while on the move as he did when starring for the Tigers, as he has the straight-line speed to run away from cornerbacks, but is a long-strider than struggles to change directions and gain separation. Perhaps most disappointing is how often he's allowed passes into his chest-plate, resulting in some ugly drops. According to scouts in attendance at yesterday's North practice, Gilyard and Alexander were just as disappointing Monday. They'll need strong bounce-back Wednesday practices if they are to save their falling stock before most scouts leave.

Clemson's Jacoby Ford is proving among the more secure handed receivers at the Senior Bowl this week - a bit of a surprise to some who had labeled as only a big play threat. Though short, the 5-09, 181 pound Ford has good strength to gain his release off press and has the speed to eat up the cushion. He has impressed scouts so far this week with his ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and haul in tough catches.
Pittsburgh's Dorin Dickerson was listed by the Senior Bowl at tight end, but played exclusively at wide receiver on Tuesday. He lacks the speed to challenge corners deep and, as such struggled generating consistent separation.

Inconsistent passing and catching has helped a strong roster of cornerbacks gain even more confidence.

My fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter characterized Boise State's Kyle Wilson as being the star at the position yesterday and the former Bronco only helped himself further with another strong performance. Blessed with great foot quickness, balance and the acceleration to catch up when beaten on a double-move, Wilson is gaining momentum here to be considered the best cover corner of this senior class and a potential first round pick. If he is to achieve this lofty grade, however, he'll need to prove more willing to come up in run support than he has been throughout much of his career in the WAC.

Rutgers' Devin McCourty and California's Syd'Quan Thompson have also helped their cause this week. McCourty has the agility and straight-line speed for man coverage. He breaks on the ball quickly and has the active hands to rip away passes at the last moment. Thomson (5-09, 182) lacks the size and straight-line speed teams want as a press corner, but his instincts and physicality make him arguably the draft's top zone coverage cornerback. Unlike Kyle Wilson, McCourty and Thompson are standout run defenders, who haven't been able to show off their physicality and aggression in practice due to the no-tackle rules being enforced.

A pair of lanky ACC corners, Virginia's Chris Cook and Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee, have struggled locating the ball and making the plays necessary to earn a high round pick. At 6-1 and 6-0, respectively, each has the height scouts like and have shown enough agility in their backpedal, but have been far too complacent in coverage, allowing easy receptions.

 
 
 
 
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