— By Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com —
MOBILE, Ala. — Day One of Senior Bowl practices started with stretching followed by extensive installation as the Houston Texans coaching staff kept the players on the South team in the shallow end of the pool to begin the week.
However, the practice pace picked up quickly with one-on-one drills, allowing several players to shine, including Humboldt State offensive tackle Alex Cappa. Overall, it was an up-and-down practice for the Division II standout, but his positive flashes were impressive, showing off his trademark aggression and finishing mentality that earned him a Senior Bowl invite.
During one-on-one drills, Cappa (6-foot-6, 299 pounds) displayed the edge quickness to mirror rushers to the corner and the aggressive mentality to tie up rushers, breaking the rhythm of his opponent before the defender could do the same to him. What was most impressive about Cappa is that he impressed at left and right tackle and against the best pass-rush talent the South team has to offer.
Lined up at left tackle, he faced off against USC edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu (6-2, 245) and rode him to the corner, diminishing the rusher’s arc speed. At right tackle, Cappa faced off with Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport (6-6, 259) and out-physicaled him at the point of attack, controlling the potential first-round pick.
During team drills, Nwosu exacted some revenge on Cappa, beating him with quickness to his outside shoulder. And UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (6-0, 223) was able to do the same, using explosive edge speed that the blocker couldn’t answer.
There is no question that Cappa is still raw in areas, mostly the timing and precision of his punch vs. speed, but he more than held his own on the first day of South practicek, especially when able to get his hands on the defender.
Other notes from South practice on Tuesday
—Marcus Davenport, who could be the highest drafted player in attendance this week, had an uneven first practice and his lack of seasoning was front and center on several reps. His natural gifts are clear, but so is his rush plan as he struggled to set up blockers with an efficient move-to-move transition. Davenport’s progress (from a technical and mental perspective) throughout the week will be one of the most important storylines at this year’s Senior Bowl.
–Despite an All-American career at UCF, Shaquem Griffin entered this week with plenty to prove. So far, he has done exactly what he has always done: exceed expectations. Griffin, who lost his left hand at the age of 4, showed off the play speed and football smarts that were evident on every rep. An unusual wrinkle to the South practices was the Texans coaching staff using 3-4 formations on defense, giving players like Nwosu and Griffin a chance to rush from a stand-up position off the edge. And more than a few times Griffin used his slick speed to buzz past the outside shoulder of the tackle. Despite the disability, Griffin will be drafted, he will make a roster and he will play in the NFL for a long time, even if it is only on special teams.
–Kansas State wide receiver Byron Pringle (6-1, 201) is not the most explosive prospect at his position, but unlike several other receivers, he “gets it.” And what I mean by that is he understands how to leverage routes and create separation with razor-sharp footwork and body control. Pringle did a great job staying on the same plane vertically despite corners bumping him the entire way, showing the core strength required for an outside receiver. He is more subtle than dynamic with his route movements and did a nice job finishing at the catch point, which is the largest concern for him this week.
–On the flip side, it was a rough first practice for Missouri wide receiver J’Mon Moore (6-3, 209), who struggled to catch the ball cleanly, leading to numerous drops. He has the foot quickness to shake defensive backs, but often plays too fast and lacks any nuance to his movements, allowing cornerbacks to stay attached to his route.
–NFL scouts’ eyes will be glued to the releases and route-running of Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington (5-11, 210) this week. And on Day One of practice, the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver did a nice job using his physical nature and strength to work through press coverage and enter his route. Washington’s best trait (his strong hands) were also on display, making several contested catches during one-on-ones.
–Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn (6-3, 308), who started all 15 games at left tackle for the 2017 SEC champs, made the expected move to guard this week and was as good as expected in practice. He got himself in trouble at times by leaning, but showed the foot quickness and nasty attitude required for the position. Wynn is one of the best players in Mobile and a future NFL starter.
–Among the interior offensive linemen, Appalachian State’s Colby Gossett (6-5, 304) and Clemson’s Taylor Hearn (6-5, 319) had positive reps, but it was Alabama center Bradley Bozeman who stood out the most. He refused to let interior rushers beat him with power or quickness, using quick hands to reset and anchor mid-rush to halt his opponent. If he maintains this level of play through the week, Bozeman will be one of the Senior Bowl’s top performers.