Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Orange Bowl notes

Iowa defeated Georgia Tech 24-14 in the Orange Bowl last night. Not really surprising considering the Hawkeye's had a month to game plan GT's triple option which essentially neglects the passing game completely. How many other offensive schemes run eight minutes off the clock with ten run plays only to miss the field goal? If the Yellow Jackets aren't winning late in the game it's nearly impossible for them to comeback, you can't just switch the passing game on when it's needed.

Regardless, this was a good chance to watch some prospective NFL talent in action. The two most high profile candidates were competing with each other - Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan and Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga. In my latest mock draft published yesterday, I had Morgan going third overall. After his performance last night, I'll have to review that.

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Let's start with the positives, because this is only one game and he's still very much (in my opinion) a top ten pick. Morgan had some success with a bull rush and showed at times he has a nice spin move, being creative to get greater penetration through the middle than he ever found as an edge rusher. He could've had two big sacks that would've probably made this review a lot more favorable. On the first occasion with 7:36 left in the second quarter, Morgan lines up at right defensive end against Bulaga. It's a shotgun snap and he shows great anticipation and an initial burst out of the blocks to get leverage on Bulaga, getting under his pads and forcing him backwards into the quarterback. It forces a scramble to the left, Morgan disengages and would've recorded the sack until Bulaga grabs him by the face mask, pulling him back and throwing in a hold for good measure. No flag was thrown.

The second opportunity happened late in the fourth quarter, this time with Morgan lining up on the left hand side. He again shows a good burst off the snap, getting off the line a split second ahead of the right tackle Kyle Calloway and managing to beat him inside. It flushes QB Ricky Stanzi out to the left again, but Morgan shows a great pursuit from one end of the line of scrimmage to the far sideline. He dives at Stanzi's feet and just misses catching his ankle to register a sack for a short loss - instead Stanzi is able to make a short gain for a first down. It flashed the relentless style I've seen from Morgan previously and showed he can move for a guy his size (6'4, 275).

Apart from that though, it was a frustrating evening. For every time Morgan was able to get leverage in the running game and force a play to bounce wide or help collapse it in the backfield, he was driven back himself or blocked out of the play. Iowa's lineman used his relentless style against him, often allowing him to run himself out of the play, simply guiding him into areas from where he couldn't be effective. It concerns me that he wasn't able to dominate the right tackle Calloway, in fact it's fair to say the offensive lineman won most of their duel's. Saying that, you have to credit the lineman too. But it concerns me even more than Morgan was twice driven out of the play by an under sized tight end. I've seen this when C.J. Spiller did a very good job in pass protection against Morgan earlier in the year despite the size disadvantage. Georgia Tech's coaching staff were clearly frustrated that Morgan wasn't having the impact they expected, so moved him around from the left and right side and eventually had him standing up in space. Everything they tried failed to get Morgan more involved.

I'll qualify that I think Morgan is still a top 10-15 pick. He didn't get much help from the rest of his line and Iowa had a month to prepare for this game. He's a junior so still learning and despite some struggles last night, there have been other times where I've seen Morgan show that edge rush ability and win a game for his team. There isn't a better defensive end in the 2010 class and for teams like Seattle who are desperate for help in the pass rush, Morgan would make some sense. But this performance perhaps temper's expectations as a top three pick and requires previous tape to be reviewed again in the run up to April.

It possibly didn't help that Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa) had a truly brilliant performance and recorded two sacks. He reiterated that he won't declare for the 2010 draft after the game - he'd previously said he'd stay in Iowa for his senior year. He warrants serious consideration as a high pick in 2011, I think he could play in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.

So what about Bryan Bulaga? I've always felt he'll strictly be a right tackle at the next level. He's had most of his success this year when he's simply been physically stronger than the guy he's facing. When he's come up against the better speed rushers he's struggled. Playing at right tackle will probably utilise his strength and blocking abilities in the running game more whilst possibly shielding some of his issues against better NFL pass rushers. Having said that, there were a few occasions tonight when Bulaga was over powered badly - specifically the play referenced earlier in this article involving Derrick Morgan. That's a concern because Morgan will be a NFL caliber defensive lineman. It's one thing to dominate college players with your strength, it's another to do it at the next level. We're still waiting to hear whether Bulaga will declare for the draft, although I suspect he will. I had him going 16th overall to the 49ers in my last mock. That still looks like a good fit, but San Francisco may look at the likes of Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma) to fill that position if Bulaga is considered too much of a reach in the mid-teens.

I've already mentioned Kyle Calloway in this article. I've seen gradings in the 3rd round range, I've even seen mocks with him posted in the second round. He's one to monitor, he has good footwork and sets himself well in the running game. He's not going to be as good as a natural pass protector and is strictly a right tackle prospect. For teams looking to better ther offensive lines though, Calloway is worth consideration in the middle rounds.

The man I remain totally unconvinced about however is Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech). I've seen him in the first round of some mocks and I'm just not buying it at all. He's added bad weight this year - fat instead of muscle. It shows. Last year he was all about prototype size with great speed. Now he's become a run of the mill power back who in all fairness - didn't show much 'power' at all against Iowa. But it's his lack of burst that concerns me the most. With three minutes left in the first quarter, Dwyer gets the hand off on a draw play. The GT offensive line creates a big nice crease to run into with a good 15 yards of space. He shows no acceleration or shift as he lumbers up to the line, three defenders actually have time to react and get to the running back before pushing him backwards ten yards. No power, no pace.

But that just set us up for one of the most ridiculous decisions you'll ever see a running back make late in the final quarter. The Yellow Jackets are on their own 12 yard line, Dwyer gets the hand off. He runs to the right but sees no running room so actually retreats. Sensing pressure with defenders bursting into the back field - he actually runs into his own end zone and only some pathetic tackling allows him to somehow squeeze his way back to the one yard line and avoid the safety. How does a running back nearly cough up a safety from his own eleven without fumbling the ball?

He's been able to accumulate a lot of yards this year in the funky 'run, run and run some more' offense GT use. The triple option does a good job putting it's backs into space and when Dwyer has a load of space in front of him, as you'd expect he takes what he's given. But he won't break off a big run, his cuts are slow and predictable, he can't bounce outside. He's shown marginal 'power' for a man his size and in a pro-style system I think he'll be fairly predictable. The combine will be key and if he slims down and runs well, teams will be interested again. But right now, I'd struggle to justify taking him in round three.


Anonymous said...

Keep in mind Rob that Moekai is considered by guys like Wes Bunting to be the best blocking tight end in the country. Beating a double team of him and Calloway is no easy task and it looked like Morgan didn't get many clean chances at the QB all night, and Bulaga is clearly a dominant run blocker who can take just about any player out of the game in that aspect of the offense.

Suh is the only player in the class who seems to be able to consistently kill double teams. No one else is going to compare favorably to him.

And you bring up a good point that, as good as Bulaga is, he was getting away with some pretty clear holding. I wouldn't get too down on Morgan from this game.

Rob Staton said...

Some very good points there annonymous. I'm certainly not too down on Morgan because I did qualify that I think he's still a top ten pick and that last night would've been a lot different had he completed the two big sacks he was so close to getting. Is he a top three pick? I'm not sure. I'll mix things around in my next mock, but he's still (in my opinion) the best 4-3 defensive end in this class.

Anonymous said...

Rob, I agree with your assessment completely. Generally dissappointed with Morgan who is no longer going #3 in my mock. I do like his motor and speed, but he wasn't able to consistently disengage from Bulaga, Calloway or Moekai. I'm not certain he's head and shoulders above other 4-3 DE prospects like Pierre-Paul, Hardy or Griffen. Dwyer was what I thought he was (not much), Burnett flashed some talent but was caught out of position too many times. Bulaga looks like a solid late 1st round RT prospect, and Calloway a mid-round depth prospect. I did like Moekai's performance and think he is a prospect to watch. Overall, dissapointing game in most respects.

Patrick said...

I have to agree with everything so far that's been said about Morgan. That's the main reason I watched the game and was a bit dissapointed. What did impress me was that he really did give it his all every play. That was exciting to watch, however, the fact that he just couldn't really get to the QB let me down. The Seahawks have quite a few DEs now who try pretty hard to get to the QB, but unfortunetly have yet to really find a way. I know this was just one game though, and it's hard to knock him too hard. I like Morgan, I do, I think I'm just not as sold on him as perhaps I should be. Getting an elite DE is what we need, but if Bradford is still available, well... you know who I'd rather pick.

On a side note, I read earlier today that the Bucs are worried about Donald Penn's weight and may consider addressing their offensive line in the draft. Do you think if Suh and McCoy are gone they may target a LT at #3?

Rob Staton said...

They could do, I've projected it in the past. However, I'm led to believe their line play has improved significantly as the year's gone on. They're main needs are on the defensive line and finding some playmakers for the QB.

DSAhawker said...

Thanks for the insight, I was unable to catch the game so it's much appreciated.

Though I must say that I am more than glad that you called out Dwyer.

I was excited to watch him this year from hearing so much great things about hiim last season (and I didn't see him last year). So I made the effort to watch Clemson/Cal/GTech games this year for the Spiller/Best/Dwyer show and my goodness, Dwyer is probably one of the most overhyped and underwhelming RB's that I've seen in a long time.

Not that I am a professional scout or anything, but I atleast know what a running back looks like. And after watching a handful of games this year, I don't see how media scouts are so high on him? I can't imagine him taking his current skill set into the pros and having him be a difference maker. He has no explosion, he even lacks power in my book. His "power" seems to be more of his weight sometimes winning a battle, but he doesn't have the pop and leg drive of a good power runner. He just doesn't bring it on his runs from what I've seen. Line him up in an I formation and watch him average 2YPC.

I would be shocked and extremely disappointed if the Hawks used any pick on him. There are better runner out there projected in the 3-7th round....and I'd rather take one of them with our 7th than take him with our 7th. I dunno if I'm being too critical here, but I do not like him AT ALL. Please please please please Seahawks, don't waste a pick on Dwyer

Rob Staton said...

I think that's a very accurate review, DSAHawker. The thing is, he was never considered a 'power' back until this year and that's the issue I have. Last year he was prototype size, fast. He's become a power back because he added bad weight and it's cost him speed and agility whilst not adding any particular strength. It's only a tag he's been given because of his new size. I'll be very surprised if he goes higher than the 3rd round, his production this year is based on the fact he plays in a funky run run run offense. He's been one of the year's biggest disappointments.

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