MOBILE, Ala. — With the week of practices coming to a close, it is time to try and put a bow on everything that took place down in Mobile over the past few days. In the final Senior Bowl Notebook we’ll review some of the potential EDGE defenders the Chicago Bears could consider in this draft, discuss some potential safety help, then round things out with some Winners, some Workers and a bit of scuttlebutt or more.
Jonathan Greenard, Florida
Florida EDGE defender Jonathan Greenard turned in a solid week of work down in Mobile. He showed some great technical proficiency as a pass rusher to follow up on a solid set of measurables that he posted Tuesday morning. Among his reps from that stand out was a pass rush he showed starting out from a four point stance against Oregon LT Calvin Throckmorton that included a very athletic swipe and rip move. Good jump off the snap, presses the upfield shoulder and then cuts inside him toward the quarterback with a great rip move. Greenard also displayed some power this week, for example on a rep against OT Alex Taylor from South Carolina State, getting into Taylor’s chest after a late jump and driving him back into the pocket. Taylor was never able to reset or anchor his feet, showing Greenard’s power and strength.
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
The Michigan State product was one of a few EDGE rushers on the North roster who turned in a very good week of work. Willekes displayed the ability to string together a varied set of pass rushing moves along with the knack for using some well-timed counters when he loses initially at the point of contact. On one example against OT Josh Jones from Houston (who has also had a solid week of work), Willekes tried to beat Jones to the outside with speed, and when Jones matched his quickness with solid lateral movement, Willekes hit him with a well-timed spin move back to the inside to get past him. He then used a similar move against UNC OT Charlie Heck, pressing his outside shoulder before knifing inside him to attack the pocket. His strength seems to be that type of move, pressing the outside shoulder before attacking inside, as it seems when he tries to run the arc to the outside he can get swallowed up a bit by more talented tackles.
Joshua Uche, Michigan
The descriptive term “tweener” often scares NFL coaches when talking EDGE players, because that might mean someone without the ability to set the edge against the run and a limited skill set to bring to a defense. But in a league dominated by passing, there is always room for a player who can attack and collapse the pocket with speed and quickness. Uche is one such player, and he displayed that this week. Whether it was on a rep against West Virginia OT Colton McKivitz when he beat him around the arc with a quick hand swipe move, or when he raced past Heck around the edge after flashing his hands and then dropping them, causing him to whiff on his punch, Uche showed the ability to pressure passers during drills this week.
Bradlee Anae, Utah
The Utah pass rusher also helped himself this week, showing the ability to get after the pocket with a few different pass rushing tools. Anae worked well firing out of a three-point stance, with some hand swipe and chop moves to prevent tackles from getting their hands into his frame. He also displayed some power as well. On one rep against McKivitz he was able to long arm into his chest and drive him back with great lower body strength and leg drive.
The Bears might be looking for a safety that better complements Eddie Jackson, given Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s skillset. With both Jackson and Clinton-Dix best suited for deep safety roles where they can read and react to the eyes of the quarterback, finding someone perhaps suited to play down near the box should be a priority for Ryan Pace. That would also give the Bears some flexibility to play some three-safety packages, mirroring how the New England Patriots employ the trio of Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung.
Antonio Brooks Jr.
Perhaps that ideal player could be found in Brooks, the safety product from Maryland. Brooks has drawn a lot of attention this week, and the Bears have reportedly met with the Terrapin defender. His week got off to a bit of a shaky start, as Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant was able to out-muscle him on a dig route during Tuesday’s 1 v 1 session. But his week got stronger from there. He was able to “run the route” against Vanderbilt TE Jared Pinkney (an All-SEC player in 2018), locking him down on a corner route and preventing a completion. He also showed some good awareness down in the box in zone coverage, quickly reading the play and passing off routes through his zone while maintaining an eye on the quarterback. Brooks also showed the ability to reroute tight ends off the line and then quickly racing to his zone coverage responsibility, either the curl/flat or the underneath hook zone depending on the coverage.
But he also showed some versatility. Brooks was used at times as a single-high safety, and displayed the ability to drop into deep areas of the field and read the eyes of the quarterback. He flashed some length and athleticism too on a run/pass option play when he started down in the box. Quarterback Jalen Hurts pulled the football from his running back and looked to throw, but Brooks stayed in the throwing lane and leapt to try and deflect the pass, getting a fingertip on the throw and altering the flight path of the football.
Khaleke Hudson, Michigan State
Another Big Ten safety could fit what the Bears are looking for at the safety spot. Khaleke Hudson put up some intriguing numbers for the Spartans over his career in East Lansing, totaling 225 total tackles (along with 10 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss) as well as two interceptions and 14 pass breakups. Hudson was a linebacker in college but given his size, he looks to be a safety convert in the NFL. This week he flashed both the ability to serve as a coverage defender as well as the potential to be an asset against the run.
He showed off some of his man coverage ability early in the week against Portland State TE Charlie Taumopeau. From a box alignment over the tight end he was able to get into his man's frame off the line, maintain a close relationship with him on the route and stick with him on the tight end’s break to the outside.
Hudson did have one rep against Taumopeau when he missed on a jam off the line of scrimmage and looked to be beaten on an out route, but he recovered well and got underneath Taumopeau to break up the pass. Then on Wednesday, Taumopeau got the better of him on a dig route when Hudson missed on his jam off the line of scrimmage.
He even demonstrated some pass rushing ability, which makes sense given his usage at Michigan State in such a role. This was on display in beating Dayton TE Adam Trautman on a pass rushing rep on Tuesday when he used a very quick and violent swim move to the inside to press the pocket. On Wednesday he also got the best of TCU RB Darius Anderson on a pass rushing rep using a pure bull rush move off the edge.
Hudson might be more of a developmental prospect at the safety spot, but given some of Chicago’s other needs if the Bears go in a different direction early in the draft, he could provide a later round option on the back end of the defense.
Kyle Duggar, Lenoir-Rhyne
In these notebook pieces we have covered a few different small school athletes who have shined this week, such as Ben Bartch from St. John’s (MN) at the OT spot and Trautman. But on the defensive side of the ball, Duggar has been a similar high-level performer. He has flashed great coverage skills against tight ends when working down in the box, with good footwork and closing ability to disrupt at the catch point. This showed both in 1 v 1s as well as during the team and skeleton portions of practice.
On Wednesday he had a great interceptions during 1 v 1s against Pinkney, matching him step for step on a dig route and then undercutting the throw from Justin Herbert for the interception. Duggar was in perfect trail technique coming off Pinkney’s break and the tight end appeared to be open, but Duggar closed on the route like he was shot out of a cannon, slicing under the tight end for the pick.
It is worth noting that Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant did seem to fare well when those players were matched up, beating him on a seam route out of the slot early in the week and then on a dig route out of an in-line alignment later in the week. But that might speak to Bryant’s ability more than anything else.
There are some rumblings that Duggar has played himself into the Top 50 of this draft, according to some of the talk down in Mobile. Where he ends up coming off the board remains to be seen, but as with some other players during Senior Bowl week, his performance has many scouring their networks in search of Division II film.
Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
Chinn turned some heads during the weigh-in portion of the program, measuring in at 6’3” and weighing 219 pounds. But it was how he carried the weight that had those in attendance excited.
The physique translated to the performance on the field. Chinn flashed at various moments throughout the week, both with his ball skills downfield in the passing game, his coverage skills in 1 on 1 situations and his ability to play down near the box against the run. At the end of the week Senior Bowl Executive Direction Jim Nagy compared him to Kam Chancellor, a rather famous box safety with versatility to play even as a deep defender, and the comparison certainly fits.
Winners and Workers
It is always hard to highlight winners and losers during a week like this, but here are some players who stood out, as well as some who probably have some work to do to help themselves as the Combine looms.
On the positive side of the ledger, I would start with some of the small school players who really shined this week. Trautman, Duggar and Bartch showed they belonged on this level, and it would not surprise me to see all three of those players selected on Day Two of the draft.
At the quarterback spot, I think both Herbert and Jordan Love did what they needed to do this week. What did strike me when talking to some around the league is that the gap between them might be closer than I expected. In discussing these players with a league source, he indicated that in a meeting of evaluators after watching both players this week and some of their film, Love was the heavy favorite among the group of over 20 individuals. I would lean in Herbert’s direction, but the potential upside with Love might move the needle for some organizations. Remember, it just takes one team.
Keeping with the quarterbacks, some players that “won” the week might have been Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm. Given the inconsistency we saw from Anthony Gordon, and the questions that linger about Jalen Hurts, second tier passers such as Eason and Fromm now stand in a very good position with the combine on the horizon.
On the offensive line, in addition to Bartch I think some players that stood out were LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, who might have a case to be the first center off the board, OGs Logan Stenberg, Jonah Jackson and Ben Bredeson, and OTs Matt Pearl and Josh Jones.
When it comes to the tight ends, Trautman certainly shined. But all of these tight ends had their moments and I was largely impressed with them all. I’ll mention LSU’s Stephen Sullivan again, as I remain very intrigued with what he could become in the NFL. He might not fit the mold of a traditional in-line TE, but in today’s league with so many "12 personnel" packages, he could serve as that "move"-type tight end and play a very effective role from a variety of alignments.
We have not spent much time talking about the wide receivers this week, but some of them were truly impressive. Baylor’s Denzel Mims has garnered a ton of attention this week, with some great ball skills and some impressive releases against press coverage. But some other wideouts, such as Chase Claypool from Notre Dame, Michael Pittman Jr. from USC, Van Jefferson from Florida, Collin Johnson from Texas and KJ Hill from Ohio State have done some solid work.
On the defensive side of the football, in addition to the safeties and EDGE players mentioned earlier, I have to mention Javon Kinlaw. A tremendous week for him. Also, Jason Strowbridge. He saw time both on the edge as well as kicking inside, and he showed some versatility along the defensive front that teams are going to love.
At the CB spot, two players that I thought had strong weeks were Dane Jackson from Pittsburgh, who showed some feistiness on the outside, and Troy Pride Jr. from Notre Dame.
Now we can turn to some players that have a bit of work to do if they want to bounce back from a down week.
At the QB spot, I would start with Anthony Gordon and Jalen Hurts. I still think both players have NFL futures, but they were underwhelming at times down in Mobile. Solid performances at the combine and their pro days will really help after what we saw during this week.
Clemson OG John Simpson was another player who underwhelmed a bit. I was excited to see him down in Mobile and thought he could show some consistency and refinement, but that seemed to be lacking this week.
Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden put up big numbers for Liberty University, but he struggled this week. His releases were not as crisp and clean as he needed them to be, and he showed some inconsistency at the catch point. He’ll need to test very well in Indianapolis to bounce back.
As always, this is “lying season,” so everything you hear must be taken with a grain of salt. Who teams meet with and what players “teams are falling for” can often have different meanings than you expect. For example, a team might meet with a player and people automatically assume that means the team is interested. However, that could just be due diligence, or they could be trying to learn about a teammate of that player, or something that actually resembles true interest.
But there is one bit of scuttlebutt making the rounds that might have implications for how the entire draft plays out. Talk to anyone down in Mobile and the topic of Tua Tagovailoa’s hip comes up very, very quickly. From murmuring around Dauphin Street late at night, it would seem that the league might be a bit more concerned about the status of Tagovailoa’s hip than those on the outside are, given his decision to enter the draft and the word that a recent medical check has him on track to work out for teams sooner rather than later.
Of course, this is lying season, so take that with a grain of salt.
Up next? The combine. The next step on a very long and winding road to the 2020 draft out in Las Vegas.