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Senior Bowl practice notes: A first look at the quarterbacks

MOBILE, Ala. -- Under gray skies and with an intermittent drizzle, Senior Bowl week began Tuesday with a slew of notable performances from potential draft picks striving to show their pro worthiness.


... In the wake of Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen's decision to opt out of Senior Bowl week, Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat is perhaps the most talented player on hand. He dominated one-on-one drills and showed savvy in the team period, not biting on a play-action fake from Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson to post what would have been a sack under game conditions.

... Jackson was the last quarterback added to this year's Senior Bowl roster, and in some ways, the 6-foot-7, 249-pounder is the most intriguing. He can generate power with his throws even when he doesn't have his base set. On one pass during the team period, he rolled left and fired a strike to Clemson's Hunter Renfrow near the left sideline, generating the velocity through his upper body as he was not set.

But if Jackson is to generate the accuracy necessary to succeed, he knows he must do a better job completing passes within the pocket, which starts with consistent footwork.

"I'm just trying to clean up my lower-body mechanics," he said. "Having a strong arm, you can sometimes get away with a lot of stuff; you can throw a 10-yard out and not have your feet lined up. But I want to go 100-for-100 and hit the same spot every time."

... One of the questions regarding quarterback Gardner Minshew revolves around how well he can handle working from under center after flourishing in Mike Leach's "Air Raid" spread offense at Washington State. But one of his best throws Tuesday came from under center, as he perfectly executed a play-action bootleg to the right for a 15-yard completion. 

... Perhaps the best work for an entire position group Tuesday came from the inside linebackers, and the biggest hit came from New Mexico State's Terrill Hanks, who burst toward the hole and clobbered North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson.

Hanks weighed in at 234 pounds Tuesday morning, but that number isn't the story; his chiseled frame was. His build allows him to play bigger than his size, while maintaining his speed, giving him the potential to be a three-down linebacker.


... All eyes were on Missouri quarterback Drew Lock as the practice began late Monday afternoon, and while he wasn't perfect, he did display the strongest arm at this year's Senior Bowl, completing downfield passes to the sideline with plenty of zip.

Perhaps his best moment came when he hit Ohio State's Terry McLaurin on a go route down the right sideline for a touchdown. Lock led McLaurin perfectly to set up the score.

... Duke quarterback Daniel Jones struggled with accuracy at times, but also had some outstanding placement on passes near the sideline throughout individual and seven-on-seven drills.

... North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury's tenacity was forged in part by facing some tough defenders in practice during his career with the Wolfpack, which sent four defensive linemen to the draft last year. This served him well in a one-on-one drill against Arizona State's Renell Wren, who bull-rushed Bradbury and drove him into the backfield. But he made a rapid recovery, getting his hands up and driving Wren away from the spot and well behind the pocket.

... Washington defensive tackle Greg Gaines had perhaps the best one-on-one repetition for a defensive lineman on the North team Tuesday, when he used a rip move against Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom to blow past the inside shoulder and burst into the backfield.

... One of the most dynamic one-on-one matchups came when Charleston defensive end John Cominsky grappled with Charlotte's Nate Davis, who worked at left guard. Cominsky used his speed and length to try and force Davis off-balance, but Davis responded with outstanding quickness in his feet to quickly get re-situated, allowing him to establish his base even as he moved laterally. 

… Western Illinois defensive end Khalen Saunders had the biggest day of any player in Mobile. Off the field, his fiancee gave birth to their first child, but he remained at the Senior Bowl, citing a joint decision that they made, believing that this week's opportunity was too great to pass up, considering that he is a product of an FCS school.

On it, he posted what would have been a sack of Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in game conditions during the team period. As the play began, Wisconsin's Michael Deiter, working at right guard, battled with Saunders. Bradbury then rotated to his left to help Deiter, but Saunders spun and used Bradbury's drive against him, spinning off of him and into the vacated area just in front of McSorley. With good coverage forcing McSorley to hold the football, Saunders sprinted toward him for the sack.

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