One of the positions the Cowboys are sure to look at come draft weekend is offensive line. Sure, we may not see an o-lineman drafted on the first day (or two) but, unless they overhaul the big uglies via free agency, we can be sure to see one or two donning the star come April. Consequently, it is both necessary and useful to gather as much information on these prospective Cowboys as we can. And the Senior Bowl is the perfect place to start.
Yesterday, I posted some observations from trusted scouting authorities who have been watching the South squad's Offensive Linemen practice. Today, I'll do the same with the Northerners, who are blessed with three big dudes who have already garnered a snootful of attention, both in the media and by scouting types, who project all three to be snatched up in the first round of the upcoming draft. You know the names: Boston College's Anthony Castonzo; Colorado's Nate Solder and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi.
The North team's coaches, Marvin Lewis' Bengals' staff, have been rotating all three of them at the two tackle spots, with the comparatively less athletic Castonzo and Carimi also taking some reps at guard. In addition, Solder has seen a lot of time at right tackle. Lets take a look at what the scouts have seen from them in Mobile:
One writer at Pro Football Weekly reports that Carimi is the "most entertaining player I've interviewed," and say that he just oozes confidence. Apparently, he's also had a good week on the field:
Carimi continues to impress me. One play I noticed came on an off-tackle run to his side. He pushed [Cal's Cameron] Jordan, who was the talk of Tuesday's practice, back with ease, then picked up Michigan State LB Greg Jones on the second level, staying engaged with Jordan.
Wes Bunting of the National Football Post feels that Carimi has taken his game up a notch since the Badgers' played in the Rose Bowl:
He appeared more compact sitting into his stance off the snap, allowing him to be more balanced initially in pass protection and really delivered a powerful punch into contact. He isn't the most athletic of left tackles, but he understands angles, has improved his balance/change of direction skills and has the kind of length to certainly hold up on the blindside at the next level.
The mammoth (6-7, 305) Castonzo has also acquitted himself well. The guys at Sporting News noted that he stood out in one-on-one pass-rush drills, yielding very little and stoning defensive stalwarts such as Notre Dame's Ian Williams and Nebraska's Pierre Allen:
[Castonzo] pass blocked with good leverage and hand usage to enable him to play strong. In our eyes, he won the battle over Colorado's Nate Solder and now is the top senior offensive tackle in the draft.
That last statement is interesting, given that Solder has been gaining a lot of traction in draft circles of late. His move up the charts has surprised me, as I've always seen him as a a guy who gets too high in his stance and overcommits, making him vulnerable to counters. As such, he feels to me like an early second-rounder. Apparently, Bunting sees the same things I do:
I'm still not nearly as impressed with Colorado OT Nate Solder as most. Despite his long, athletic looking frame I don't think he's nearly as rangy as many make him out to be when asked to reach speed off the edge. Often times, he's consistently forced to lunge into his target and push him past the pocket. And in order to overcome his lack of initial range he will get overextended on his initial kick-step. I also believe he struggles to re-direct and mirror his man inside. In my view would be better suited to play on the right side and reminds me of Patriots RT Sebastian Vollmer.
Perhaps NFL scouting types also feel this way; might that be why the Bengals staff has given Solder a lot of reps at RT?
My feeling is that all three of them might prove to be RTs at the NFL level. If so, I'll take Carimi. He plays with a nasty streak that reminds me of Marc Columbo. Columbo's body is shot, and his game reflected it in 2010. But I'll always give him props for the fire and passion with which he competes. To my mind, the mild-mannered Cowboys would benefit from a few more nasty, brutish types. If they trade down in the first round (or, by some miracle, he's still there ar the top of the second) Carimi wouldn't be a bad place to start at all.