The final day of practices worth watching are over, and most of the media types have returned home to the cold. Here are observations from the last day in Mobile.
• Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald is a beast. He was almost unblockable in 1-on-1 drills, and has dominated all week. His burst off the snap is incredibly impressive. However, teams that run a 1-gap scheme will value him more than the Eagles. Donald's optimal fit would be on team that allows him to fire off the snap and be a disruptive presence in the backfield. In the Eagles' 2-gap scheme, you would be taking away his best attribute to some degree. Donald was probably the best player this week in Mobile. If the Giants or Cowboys draft him, be worried.
• The only player who has had a chance to block Donald all week was Notre Dame OG Zack Martin. Martin helped himself this week. Baylor OG Cyril Richardson struggled quite a bit at times.
• A QB that impressed me was Jimmy Garoppollo of Eastern Illinois. Garoppollo has a really quick release, with no wasted motion. When he likes what he sees... Bang, it's out, and it's usually right on the money.
• The complete opposite of Garoppollo, in terms of quick release, is Tajh Boyd. I'm pretty sure Boyd patterned his release after Hideo Nomo.
• DE Michael Sam was an impressive player at Missouri this year, but he has been almost invisible at the Senior Bowl practices.
• One of the late additions to the Senior Bowl rosters was Colorado State TE Crockett Gillmore. It can't be easy joining the fray on Wednesday, when all the other prospects have been practicing together all week, but Gillmore came in and caught a bunch of passes down the field. Gillmore had at least one reception of 20+ yards in 8 of his team's games this year. This is a player that could interest the Eagles in the later rounds.
• Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward has been impressive this week, but a big knock on him will be his size, at 5'10, 191. However, Ward could be an interesting fit for the Eagles because of his ability to play the slot. This past season, the Eagles showed that they liked to stay in their base 3-4 at times against 3 WR sets, and drop their safety down to cover the slot receiver. This resulted in Patrick Chung getting a thorough toasting. Ward is a player who could do that, but probably needs to bulk up a bit to stay at safety in the NFL.
Ward said that temas told him that he can overcome his size by being an impact player, and Ward compared himself to Tyrann Mattieu. "If you keep coming out here and making plays, there are other guys in the league like Honey Badger for instance, he was like 180, 170 in college, but what did he do? He made plays everyone forgot about how small he was."
Ward said that he is trying to add 10 pounds, and only recently learned how to eat right. "I was eating MAC-Donald's," ("MAC" emphasized for pronunciation), "Burger King, greasy food. I didn't know what vegetables were."
On a side note, while Ward seemed like a good guy, he improperly spells Jimmie with an "-ie," which is terrible.
• A little later today (or maybe tomorrow), I'll list the most impressive and least impressive players at the Senior Bowl.
Who did the Eagles talk to?
The Eagles will speak with every prospect during the "speed dating sessions" while they are in Mobile, but it is still interesting to see who the scouts and assistant coaches specifically spend some extra time with after practices.
• *Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU: Connor Barwin is the most complete player of the Eagles' outside linebackers, as he can rush the passer, play the run, and cover. He's not stellar at any one of those things, but he's solid enough across the board to be a legitimate productive 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Barwin seems to be the perfect compliment to an OLB on the other side who can really specialize in getting after the passer.
The Eagles' bigger need in terms of outside linebackers is a stud outside edge pass rusher who can play opposite Barwin and be an impact player. Van Noy is a lot more like Barwin, in that he's comfortable handling all the responsibilities (pass rush, run support, and coverage) of the OLB position, but isn't an elite player at any one of those things. Van Noy is a versatile player, which makes him very attractive in Billy Davis' defense, but he's a similar player to what they already have.
* To note, this one comes with an asterisk. The person who spoke with Van Noy was wearing Eagles gear, and while that likely means he's with the team, I could not definitively identify him as a scout, assistant, or anyone involved in the pre-draft process.
We'll detail all the players the Eagles spoke with at the Senior Bowl soon.
Brian Dawkins had some fans in Mobile
• North Carolina State CB Dontae Johnson was an Eagles fan growing up. "(The Eagles) were my dream team growing up," said Johnson. "They were my favorite team when I was a little kid, so they were close to home and it would be a dream come true if I could play for the Eagles... Brian Dawkins was my main guy."
Please don't ever say "Dream Team" again, Dontae.
• Washington State safety Deone Bucannon is a fan as well. "If I can get anywhere close to Ed Reed or Sean Taylor, that would be awesome," said Bucannon. "Brian Dawkins too. I like those kinds of safeties. Safeties that are aggressive but at the same time can play the ball."
While sitting in the bleachers watching practice, I had a nice conversation with the parents of one of the prospects. They were very imformatve about their son, as they shared with me that he had diarrhea earlier this week. Here's an artist's rendition of that: