2019 Senior Bowl: Offensive line review

By | January 28, 2019

Maybe the most interesting observation coming out of Senior Bowl week was how poorly Washington State OT Andre Dillard played in the actual game on Saturday. Dillard came into the week as one of, if not the fastest rising prospect in the entire 2019 draft class and he didn’t disappoint in the week’s practice sessions. However, Dillard looked very average in the game itself. One could see the explosion and quick feet at times on Saturday, but too often Dillard lost the advantage as he got caught setting his feet too early; that allowed opposing DEs to get into his pads and knock him off-balance which resulted in a number of pressures including a strip sack by Iowa’s Anthony Nelson, who literally blew past Dillard, as well as at least three clear pressures by Charles Omenihu of Texas. It was also a somewhat disappointing afternoon for Kansas State OT Dalton Risner. As with, Dillard, one could see the potential when they kept their feet moving and arms extended. Risner also showed a fluid backpedal and the ability to plant and change direction at times, but just wasn’t able to sustain his blocks long enough.

If the gold standard for measuring the performance of an offensive lineman is that more often than not the man they are blocking is farther from the ball at the whistle than at the snap then the OT that earned the most gold in Mobile was unheralded USC OT Chuma Edoga. Edoga lacks prototype length at under 6-4, but allowed almost no penetration at all on Saturday as on play after play he showed amazing quickness, agility and instincts. Indeed, there were plays when it appeared he knew where the DE was going before the pass rusher did. Edoga also showed impressive hand and arm technique in pass protection, as well as excellent explosion off the snap in the run game. In the end, the only real negative about Edoga’s game on Saturday is that scouts would probably have liked to see him be a little more aggressive when out blocking in space. Whether his week’s work in Mobile will earn Edoga a first or second day pick this coming April remains to be seen, but almost certainly will earn him some longer looks from the NFL scouting community.

Sticking with the unheralded theme, massive Alabama State OT Tytus Howard also had a very solid outing in Saturday’s senior Bowl game. Howard lacks Edoga’s quickness and athleticism, but he is a wide-body guy who with a nice wide-base who showed good balance and got great arm extension. and while he’s no gazelle, Howard was very economical with his movement; he was efficient setting up and moved well enough laterally to consistently cut off the angles to the pocket. In the end, like Edoga, Howard gave up very little ground over the course of the game. Fellow OTs Max Scharping of Northern Illinois and Kaleb McGary of Washington also had very good afternoons in the actual Senior Bowl game. Scharping wasn’t very pretty; indeed, he’s got something of a sloppy build and doesn’t necessarily appear to be all that athletic, but he is a wide-body type with an effective punch and the upper-body strength to control the point of attack, although on a couple of plays he didn’t absorb the initial contact and reset all that well. For the most part, though, he’s another OT was didn’t appear to waste a lot of movement and was able to consistently cut-off the edge. McGary was the most physical and aggressive of the OTs in Mobile on Saturday. He’s a huge guy who really fired out and engulfed people with his size and strength, but was a little too aggressive on a couple of plays and ended up clutching and grabbing to try and recover.

On the other hand, neither Dennis Daley of South Carolina nor Elon’s Oli Udoh had particularly good days on Saturday. Udoh, in particular, looked totally overmatched on occasion. At 6-6, 327 with 36-inch arms, Udoh certainly looks the part, but while he’s a big guy who is a long way around, he just didn’t move his feet all that well at all and played too high much of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Daley showed some potential, but was too inconsistent and likely may have to kick inside to have a future at the next level.

The ‘unheralded’ theme of Saturday’s offensive line Senior Bowl, also carried over the the OGs where unheralded Nate Davis of Charlotte stole the spotlight from the better known prospects from the more traditional football factories. Davis drew some notice from his odd butt-just-off-the-ground stance; however, whatever the stance, he was blasting off the snap, showed a strong punch, good balance and nice lateral agility. The result was a near shutout for Davis. Same for Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom, who did get walked back into the pocket on a couple of occasions, but was able to reset and re-anchor. The rest of the time, Lindstrom was quick, active and agile sliding around the pocket. Similar story for Oklahoma’s Ben Powers who also was solid enough. Like Lindstrom, Powers got walked back on a few plays, but managed to get in the way on most plays. Powers’ OU teammate Dru Samia, on the other hand, struggled somewhat handling quicker inside pass rushers. The Wisconsin duo of Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel also had their struggles. Deiter appeared to be a step slow off the snap and didn’t get much push, while Benzschawel tended to play a little high and struggled with lateral agility and ended up allowing 4-5 pressures. At the same time, Mississippi’s Javon Patterson looked to be way over-matched on too many plays.

Interestingly, there wasn’t a whole that separated the four Cs in this year’s Senior Bowl. All four guys struggled at times to anchor against pure bull rushes, but otherwise all four also showed pretty good lateral agility as well as pretty good football instincts. Of the four, maybe Texas A&M’s likely graded out the best; he showed decent quickness of the snap, was very smooth sliding around the pocket and was effective blocking in space. NC State’s Garrett Bradbury also looked smooth gliding around the pocket, but didn’t get quite the same push. Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins, on the other hand, was reasonably physical drive blocking, but needed to keep his pads down when backpedalling and absorbing contact, while Alabama’s Ross Pierschbacher held his own technically, but didn’t appear to have quite the same athleticism of the other three.