On Tuesday, the two rosters at the 2018 Senior Bowl took to the practice field to get acclimated to the coaches, each other, in more of an installation type of day. On Wednesday, they geared up, put on the pads and started to try to impress all the teams in attendance.
For the Bills, they have plenty of needs, but some are bigger than others: quarterback, defensive tackle, linebacker, running back, offensive tackle, and maybe even defensive end — and among those positions, there was plenty to take a look at Ladd Peebles Stadium.
Some of my notes from practice, while keeping the Bills in mind:
1) The big name QBs struggle
- The top draw here in Mobile is with the quarterbacks on the North roster: Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Both players have the ability to be selected in the first round — especially considering the premium the NFL places on the position. However, Wednesday was not kind to either player during the first practice of the day. Allen showed off his arm strength and had a few passes that he fired into some tight spots. It was far more often than he would misfire to his targets and he was even intercepted on an overthrown pass in 7-on-7’s, by a safety that anticipated his throw rather seamlessly. You see the big league arm, but he needs some refinement heading into Thursday’s practice. He has a lot to gain with a big day to conclude the practice week. As for Mayfield, he had the best throw of the day between the two, as you can see below, but not much else:
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield with a perfect throw over coverage to Penn State TE Mike Gesicki pic.twitter.com/aZOFamkvnF
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) January 24, 2018
Mayfield, like Allen, struggled with his accuracy and wasn’t as comfortable just hanging in the pocket as Allen was. By many accounts, Mayfield was the better of the duo on Tuesday, but I’m interested to see how well he does on the final practice of the week — in which it’s likely to be the last day to make a big impression here in Mobile.
2) An under-the-radar South QB emerging
- The quarterbacks on the South roster all had an opportunity to impress everybody at the Senior Bowl — without a standout coming into the event. There were three that had the potential were Virginia’s Kurt Benkert, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, and Kyle Lauletta of Richmond. Of that trio, Lauletta has shown quite a bit of ability — and really was impressive in his work on Wednesday. Where he lacks in arm strength, he makes up for in his decision making, his placement of the ball, and athleticism to tuck the ball and run. I really liked his work in the red zone above all else. Considering the success that the small school QB Jimmy Garoppolo has had in the NFL, that’s certainly helped open some eyes about Lauletta — especially if he continues playing like he did on Wednesday.
3) Get to know the name: Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
- The Bills will clearly be in the market for a defensive tackle during the offseason — given the fact that all they have returning to them in 2018 at the moment is Adolphus Washington, Rickey Hatley, and Marquavius Lewis. While Sean McDermott was in Carolina, they drafted for the defensive line quite a bit, so that pushes the defensive tackle position as an outright favorite to be addressed in the first three rounds in April. Should the Bills stay at 21st overall, Stanford’s Harrison Phillips would be mighty intriguing given his ability, playing style, and background as to how it would fit the Bills roster. Phillips is quick, he generates pressure in the pocket, he’s well-versed in multiple defenses — and get this: he’s a former wrestler — an outright dream for McDermott. Phillips was dominant on Wednesday and pushed most, if not all, of his one-on-one matchups right back into the backfield. He will be a very popular name with the Bills as the draft process continues.
4) Benkert fails to impress
- Of those South QBs, the one that I had the highest hopes for was Virginia's Kurt Benkert. He has a live arm and sometimes looks like he could be a Day Two pick. However, he has really faded into the background over the first couple of days of practice. He’s not reading the field all that well, and his arm strength isn’t overcompensating for his lack of accuracy this week. Benkert looks like just a guy, which is disappointing because of how well he looked in some games through the season. Of those three under-the-radar quarterbacks on the South roster, he’s lagging behind right now.
5) 1-on-1 drills brought big winners and losers
- One of the draws to Senior Bowl week is seeing the offensive and defensive linemen battle it out during 1-on-1’s several times throughout the practice. In addition to Phillips, there some real standouts during both sessions. Among the defensive tackles, Poona Ford was especially appealing. He seems to be a bit of a nightmare for interior linemen, despite his diminutive frame. Take a look for yourself:
Texas DT Poona Ford has himself a day in the first session of 1-on-1s pic.twitter.com/pUXMFVjFV6
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) January 24, 2018
Ford’s quickness and power likely make him a pick in the first two days. Along with Ford, the pair of NC State defensive tackles — B.J. Hill and Josh Jones — looked great throughout the day, routinely tearing through offensive linemen. There is a lot of talent at the position here in Mobile, and the Bills are surely taking note of that. On the offensive side of the ball, Oregon tackle Tyrell Cosby won all of his reps with ease outside of one of Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. On the flip side, it was not a great day for the pair of LSU defensive tackles in Mobile: Christian LaCouture and Greg Gilmore. They were easily stood up at the point of attack, which made the day of Poona Ford that much better. I was also somewhat disappointed by UTSA DE Marcus Davenport, who has the frame and ability of a first-round pick but didn’t have a counter-attack in his one-on-one attempts. I’d like to see a bit more from him on Thursday, given his lofty status at the present moment.