MOBILE, Ala. - Two of the best players at the Senior Bowl practices this week wore Temple helmets, but they played in different spots than they did while starring for the Owls.
Both Dion Dawkins and Haason Reddick adjusted to new positions in preparing for the NFL. Dawkins went from offensive tackle to offensive guard, and Reddick from defensive end to linebacker.
They proved to be quick studies. After three days of practice, Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage named Dawkins the top performer on the offensive line and Reddick the top performer at linebacker. Savage, a former Cleveland Browns general manager who worked in the Eagles' front office, told the Senior Bowl website Dawkins has "Pro Bowl-potential at guard" and that Reddick "elevated his stock as much as any player."
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock labeled Reddick the "player who made the most money" this week.
The game will be played Saturday, but most of the evaluation took place during the week's practices. That's when Dawkins, who started at left tackle for three years, first showed scouts he could play guard. And Reddick, who excelled as an undersize pass rusher in college, proved he could play in the second level.
"I took it is as a challenge," Reddick said. "I wanted to conquer it, so my thing was to come here and prove I could do it. I came here with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to show everyone that I'm one of the best players on the field no matter where you put me, and I think I did that this week."
Reddick, a Camden native and Haddon Heights alum, is 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds. That's why he needed to change positions even though he had 101/2 sacks as a defensive end. Reddick had spent the lead-up to the Senior Bowl working on playing 4-3 outside linebacker, but he showed that he can fit as an inside linebacker this week, too.
Reddick offers the ability to cover in open space and blitz from a stand-up position, and he already proved he could rush from the edge with his hand on the ground. That makes him especially valuable in the NFL because he can adjust to different defensive schemes and play in all situations.
"I talk to a lot of people, some people like me for inside or outside," Reddick said. "I can see playing inside 'backer first and second down, maybe let me rush on third down, long situations. I can do both. I'm versatile."
He knew that his measurables were going to be a question when he arrived here, and he wanted to show that he fits as a linebacker. It seems he answered it already.
Dawkins, who measured 6-foot-4 and 317 pounds, played both guard spots and took some reps at left tackle on the final day. But his NFL future appears to be at guard, which he said he expected before arriving at the Senior Bowl. This is not considered a strong offensive line draft class, and Dawkins could emerge as one of the top linemen before the draft.
"I actually like it a lot," Dawkins said of guard. "I learn fast and I develop daily. . . . I'm taking it little by little."
Joe Douglas, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, said it's a challenge whenever a player must change positions from college to the NFL. The transition is helped if the player has "the right mental makeup and the right competitive makeup." Douglas was able to spend time watching Temple this season because they play games within view of Douglas' office. He thought the Temple background would help Dawkins and Reddick.
"The one thing you know about Temple guys is they're well-coached and they're disciplined and they're tough and they're hard-nosed," Douglas said. "Coach [Matt] Rhule did a phenomenal job getting those guys ready."
Dawkins said that the presence of the two Temple players at the Senior Bowl shows how the program progressed during his time on North Broad Street. And he said it's still growing - he predicted more players from the Owls will make the trip to Mobile next January.
It will be hard to match the weeks that Dawkins and Reddick will be finishing Saturday.
"Both of us came down here with something to prove," Reddick said. "I think we've proved it this week."