We’ve now gained glimpses of the majority of this year’s talent from the draft’s top rounds. Some have been in bit duty, others getting more extensive early opportunities, but all have had eyes on them and books are taking shape.
With contributions from PFF analysts Nathan Jahnke and Steve Palazzolo, I will be focusing here (and in the ensuing installment) on the second-rounders, breaking down what they’ve put on display through the preseason’s first two weeks. Which players are showing they belong? Which are fading as they face NFL competition? We’ve got some notes to mark their entry into the league.
Pick No. 33 – Brian Quick (Rams)
When you are starting two slot wide receivers (Danny Amendola and Steve Smith) and giving the majority of additional “11” personnel snaps to Austin Pettis (as the Rams are) it’s a pretty good bet that the first pick of the second round won’t see too much action initially. He’s catching some balls on shallow slants with the two’s, but that’s not a great indication of his likely impact.
Pick No. 34 - Coby Fleener (Colts)
So far, the overall feeling from watching Coby Fleener play is one of being underwhelmed. He’s got a lot of snaps in the first halves of both games (although he did come out in certain packages) but nothing stands out, other than some tentative blocking.
Andrew Luck has been flinging the ball about a lot so four receptions for 38 yards on five targets of what works out to be one game of football, isn’t a lot. He did also drop his other target; a slant against the Rams in close coverage by Craig Dahl.
Maybe if his blocking had been good those numbers wouldn’t look so average but, unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired. On blocks close to the line he usually lets the defender take the initiative and on the first play of the second quarter against the Steelers we saw him get pushed back by Larry Foote. Downfield, he’s slow to engage and looks like he’s unsure of what’s expected. Not surprisingly, his worst two plays came against Lamarr Woodley who tossed him aside easily to stop Donald Brown for a short gain and then put him on skates for what fortunately turned out to be a quick pass by Luck.
Pick No. 35 - Courtney Upshaw (Ravens)
While Ravens fans certainly want to see Upshaw on the field, in the first preseason game he didn’t play at all while the Ravens used players like Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle with the first-string defense. In Baltimore’s following game against the Lions, Upshaw didn’t start but was in on the second and third drive at right outside linebacker/defensive end. He failed to create any pressure lined up against Jeff Backus while the Lions threw on the majority of plays. He lined up a few plays on the left side as well, but that didn’t help him get to Matthew Stafford either. The few times the Lions ran the ball, it wasn’t in the direction of Upshaw. During the Lions fourth offensive drive, the Ravens had a mix of starters and backups in but Upshaw wasn’t one of the players on the field; not a memorable debut.
Pick No. 36 - Derek Wolfe (Broncos)
For Denver, Derek Wolfe is in a heavy rotation at defensive tackle as either the third or fourth player up. Against Seattle he also played outside, at defensive end (a la Red Bryant) on seven plays that I logged in the first half. While I only saw him for five plays against the Bears, he made up for that with 25 against the Seahawks.
My initial impression after his first game was excellent as on his second play he pushed Gabe Carimi back into the halfback blowing up a run and then, on the very next snap, sacked Jason Campbell as he stepped up in the pocket. Similarly, with the Seahawks, his early plays were impressive; getting inside RG, J.R. Sweezy to make the tackle to force a punt and later jolting Max Unger back to clog a lane. After that, though, the glamour faded and he looked easily controlled particularly when facing the two offensive tackles on the outside.
Pick No. 37 - Mitchell Schwartz (Browns)
After a pretty torrid outing first up, starting at right tackle against Detroit, Mitchell Schwartz settled down somewhat against Green Bay, but that may well have more to do with the quality of the opposition than any improvement on his part. In Week 1 he was up against one of the best young left ends in the league in Willie Young who, in 10 passing plays, blew past him for a strip sack and a pressure. There would have been a further hurry too but for right guard Shawn Lauvao peeling back and digging him out of trouble. The only good news (if there was any) was that the false Start called on him should really have been on Lauvao.
The following week he was playing against fellow rookie Nick Perry (who had had a good initial outing as you can read here). In this encounter, after nearly a full half of action, Perry had nothing on him. That was the good news. The bad was that he really didn’t move well at all; overbalancing on three separate occasions, looking lost at the second level on the one occasion he got there and having a few problems anchoring against C.J. Wilson. It was an improvement, but not a significant one.
Pick No. 38 - Andre Branch (Jaguars)
The Jacksonville Jaguars were looking for a three-down defensive end to start opposite Jeremy Mincey, and Andre Branch has been given the opportunity to fill that vacancy. He’s got plenty of plays against the first units of the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, but he was generally quiet as a pass rusher against the first-team offensive tackles. The Giants’ Sean Locklear handled him well, while the Saints’ Jermon Bushrod also held him in check. Branch did show some explosiveness off the edge, but he did so against the backups for each team.
In his two games, he’s pressured the quarterback on four of his 31 pass rush attempts, including a sack that came on a stunt with Mincey against the Saints. In the running game he showed the ability to fight off blocks, so he should be able to contribute on early downs as he develops his pass rushing repertoire. One other element to keep an eye on is Branch’s ability to drop back in coverage as the Jaguars did so three times against the Saints, perhaps a sign that the zone blitz will be a big part of the arsenal in Jacksonville this season.
Pick No. 39 - Janoris Jenkins (Rams)
So far he’s started both games, not done much wrong and appears certain to man the right corner position against Detroit in Week 1. He’s only given up one first down in each game; the latter on a tricky roll-out where he ended up in man and the first, an out route to Colts rookie Ty Hilton on a pass from Andrew Luck. On that throw he tried to undercut the play, going for the interception and just missing, but maybe this hints at a gambling nature which may be exploited.
For the record, in coverage, he also has a forced fumble credited to him against Kansas City when he came up to make a tackle on a slant. On replay that looked more a function of poor ball security from Jonathan Baldwin but the tackle was solid.
Initial indications are that robustness of tackling will transfer to the running game too as he has made efforts to fight through blocks and on one play against the Chiefs, cut through traffic to bring down Dexter McCluster on a WR screen that seemed destined for bigger things.
Pick No. 40 - Amini Silatolu (Panthers)
Over the course of the two games watched of each second rounder, I’m not sure anyone impressed me as much as Amini Silatolu. The fact that he was even in a position to start given he hails from Division II, Midwestern State is surprising enough, but to play as well as he did, given the caliber of the opposition, is remarkable.
Playing first Houston and then Miami it wasn’t an easy beginning and he was bull-rushed early in the first game by Antonio Smith into giving up a pressure, but then showed a lot of skill in all facets of play. He moved smoothly in space, got to the second level quickly and in the second outing made an excellent downfield block on Jason Trusnik on a screen. If he was initially beaten in pass protection, he fought to recover and also picked up an awful lot of stunts for a preseason game against the Dolphins. In the end, that hurry from Smith was his only major error.
In week three of the pre season he’ll be given another major test when he faces the Jets and their rather exotic blitz packages. I for one will be interested in how he performs.
Pick No. 41 - Cordy Glenn (Bills)
You don’t get a couple of much tougher assignments to start your NFL career than Brian Orakpo and the Jared Allen. That was how Cordy Glenn, starting at left tackle against first Washington and then Buffalo began his tenure in Buffalo.
All things considered, you have to say this was something of a success. Overall he false started twice but the second was so marginal I watched it three times and still couldn’t see anything. His pass protection was very solid and a bull-rush from Orakpo aside he was blameless in three quarters of play. In the running game he was less assured, struggling at times to move right, but once he locked on he could always get his man moving backwards. He doesn’t look the most athletic of players, but always seemed to be in good position and that will suit the Bills well enough.
Pick No. 42 – Jonathan Martin (Dolphins)
I’d heard about Jonathan Martin’s performance against the Panthers before watching the game and my impression from what was written was that Martin might as well pack up and leave now, so bad was he. Well, while it wasn’t pretty neither was it quite the debacle I was expecting. It didn’t help that the Panthers commentators were so biased (and at times inaccurate of their assessment of certain plays) it probably left most people thinking that Charles Johnson was the next coming of Reggie White. [NB: if you want to see bad right tackle play that will live up to your expectations check out Wayne Hunter against the Giants last week.]
Only once was he beaten particularly badly; on the running play with 0:53 left in the first quarter where Johnson blew past him without slowing and threw down Reggie Bush for a yard gain. On another running play he actually got decent movement on the end but because right guard Artis Hicks couldn’t hold his man and hence his gap, the runner was forced outside towards Johnson and the commentator’s applause. They also had him pinged for a hit and a sack, but he was tripped on the former and, while not blameless on the sack, neither was he helped by a quarterback who didn’t step up with the DLE taken deep.
It is also worth noting that Martin had a very solid game first up against a pretty good all-around end in the Buccaneers’ Michael Bennett where he only gave up a single minor outside hurry.