2019 Senior Bowl: Montez Sweat, Daylon Mack dominant on Tuesday; South quarterbacks looked rusty
The first day of Senior Bowl practice also saw Deebo Samuel open a lot of eyes
MOBILE, ALA. -- The wet, blustery conditions may have made watching the first day of Senior Bowl practice an uncomfortable proposition for fans and media in attendance, but it was no match for Montez Sweat.
The Mississippi State edge rusher was the best defensive player on the field for the South squad, dominating one-on-one drills in much the way he dominated opponents in 2018. Sweat had 12 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss as a senior, a year after he had 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in '17. And there is no stat-padding either; on third down in '18, Sweat had seven sacks (which ranked fourth in FBS), 15 hurries (ninth), 13 hits (second), five knockdowns (third) and 25 pressures (fifth). If you're an NFL team and of the opinion that getting off the field on third down is important, Sweat is your guy.
Which brings us back to the Senior Bowl:
We had Sweat going 21st to Seahawks in our latest mock draft but that will almost certainly change if he continues to dominate in Mobile.
More defensive linemen shine
This draft is stacked along the defensive line and that was confirmed on Tuesday. Sweat was the headliner but Old Dominion's Oshane Ximines and Texas A&M's Daylon Mack also had good showings. During the season, Ximines was lightning quick off the snap, which was confirmed in Mobile, but he can also set the edge and hold his ground when engaged by bigger players. The biggest issue may be his size -- he's 6-foot-4 but only weighs 241 pounds.
Mack, meanwhile, had a monster week of practice at the Shrine Bowl and parlayed that into an invite to the Senior Bowl. And he's not wasting the opportunity. Here he is in one-on-one drills against Oklahoma's Dru Samia:
There's more, this time against Alabama's Ross Pierschbacher:
Deebo Samuel looks sharp
Samuel's 2017 season was cut short after he broke his leg, and while he played in 12 games in 2018, he wasn't consistently dynamic. Don't get us wrong, he was good -- and sometimes really, really good -- but the expectation was that he would exceed his 62 receptions for 882 yards. Part of that was South Carolina's offense, and Samuel showed on Tuesday that he can be every bit the playmaker at the next level. He can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield, he can run the jet sweep, return kicks -- anything a coach could dream up. Samuel can run every route and he does it aggressively, but scouts have expressed concerns about his deep speed.
Samuel, for his part, isn't worried.
"Today I was smoking," he told us after practice, regarding his ability to blow past defensive backs in one-on-one drills.
He wasn't joking.
Consistency will be the big question mark going forward, both for the remainder of the Senior Bowl as well as the rest of the draft season. Back in the fall we had Samuel going in the first round of our weekly mock drafts but he's since fallen out. That could change, of course, though he's more likely a Day 2 pick right now.
Slow start for the quarterbacks
Will Grier came into the week as the best quarterback on the South squad but Tuesday's session was plagued by errant throws -- by all the passers. There's a lot to like about Grier, and he's coming off a good season at West Virginia. But he'll need to answer questions about his arm strength this week, as well as his ability to show patience in the pocket and not force throws that aren't there.
Tyree Jackson, who we thought should've returned to Buffalo, is a physical specimen -- he's 6-foot-7 and can throw the ball out of the stadium -- but he too struggled with accuracy during parts of practice. For Jackson there are a lot of moving parts, and when those parts aren't coordinated, bad things happen. He'll need to improve on that this week.
Jarrett Stidham's 2017 season had people believing he could be a first-round pick but his numbers slipped in 2018 and now he'll need to have an impressive draft season to get back into that conversation. The knock on him is that he struggles with footwork when his first read isn't there (the protection was an issue at times at Auburn) and that leads to off-balance throws. He wasn't a great deep-ball passer last season, and we saw some of that on Day 1 in Mobile.
More notes from Tuesday's practice
- Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin often found himself in coverage against Samuel during the one-on-one drills and showed some impressive athleticism. There's talk in Mobile that he could work his way into the first round.
- Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard has also gotten some first-round buzz, and when you see him up close you understand why. Dillard has great footwork and more than held his own against Sweat in one-on-one drills.
- Lousiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson looks the part of modern-day edge rusher but we want to see more from him the rest of the week. He had his moments in one-on-one drills but he needs to play with more consistency.
- Buffalo wide receiver Anthony Johnson entered the week as a likely Day 2 pick. He didn't separate himself on Tuesday but we'll be watching him closely to see if he can replicate in Mobile the success he had with Tyree Jackson this season.
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