There are a number of ways one could joke about the very disappointing play of the offensive line during last weekend’s Senior Bowl game from “they really were offensive” to “the Big uglies were indeed ugly!” All joking aside, any team hoping to find some hidden gems along the offensive line for the 2020 draft had to have been disappointed by what they are seeing on the game tapes for the unit. Even the top-rated guys that we were really excited to see – rising Houston OT Josh Jones and LSU C Lloyd Cushenberry – didn’t put on the kind of dominating performance that one would have expected to see from players who were reportedly on the verge of crashing the first-round party at this year’s draft. For the record, Jones was still the best OT – by far – in last weekend’s Senior Bowl game. Jones was quick off the snap, showed a very smooth, compact slide, got good arm extension and consistently showed the speed and agility to cut off the edge. Too often, though, Jones appeared to set his feet too early in the play and did allow defenders to get to beat him to the outside on more than one occasion because he’d stopped moving his feet. Indeed, our biggest knock on Jones was that he seldom really finished off his blocks. He also had a tendency to dip his head at the moment of initial contact which put him off balance at times.
We saw a lot of the same thing from LSU’s Cushenberry. No question, he was getting off the snap as quickly as anyone on the South OL; he also moved well in space and made a number of solid blocks in space. At the same time, though, he tended to give up too much ground absorbing the initial contact of a straight-ahead bull-rusher. He also struggled at times maintaining his feet when he had to make a quick lateral move. And like Jones above, Cushenberry had a tendency to give up on blocks way too soon. In fact, a pretty good case can be made that the best interior blocker on the day was Cushenberry’s LSU teammate OG Damien Lewis. Lewis is wide-body interior lineman who got off the ball quickly, showed good balance and leg drive through the play, and also showed enough athleticism to get out and make some plays in space. He also did a good job in pass protection, again keeping his feet alive and battling the guy in front of him until the whistle. Kentucky OG Logan Stenberg also had a solid outing, although he was not as effective when asked to get into the secondary and make a block on the move. Same for fellow OGs Ben Bredeson of Michigan, Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson and Hakeem Adeniji of Kansas. Bredeson and Jackson are bruisers who were very physical at the point of attack in the run game and battled in pass protection, but didn’t anchor all that well and did give up some penetration up the middle. Meanwhile, Adeniji at times looked like the best offensive linemen in the game as he was exceptionally quick off the snap, showed good balance and strength, and nice athleticism in space, but did have a tendency to drop his head and lunge on a couple of plays that resulted in complete whiffs. We also though that both North centers – Nick Harris of Washington and Temple’s Matt Hennessey – had strong games. Neither guy is all that big or physical and weren’t going to blow anyone off the line of scrimmage, but both were quick off the snap and did a very nice job sealing off interior defenders.
A pretty good case can be made that other than Houston’s Jones, there wasn’t an OT in Mobile, at least one who played in the actual Senior Bowl game this year, who looked the part of a future NFL starter at the position. In fact, several OTs, including Colton McKivitz of West Virginia and Mississippi State’s Tyree Phillips, did look much more comfortable when they kicked inside to OG and didn’t have to contend with quite as much space as on the outside. Outside, though, several OTs including Terence Steele of Texas Tech, South Carolina State’s Alex Taylor, and Calvin Throckmorton of Oregon couldn’t block anyone, at least in pass protection. Indeed, there were times during the game when it was touch-and-go whether those guys could even slow anyone down.