The Washington Post

Senior Bowl: North practice notes and observations

Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher is one of the top linemen at the Senior Bowl. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

The practice for the North team here at Senior Bowl week concluded a bit ago, and later this afternoon the South team will practice.

In attendance for the two-hour session was Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, vice president of football administration Eric Schaffer, director of player personnel Scott Campbell and members of the team’s scouting department.

Some observations from the session:

– I was impressed talking to safeties T.J. McDonald of USC and Phillip Thomas of Fresno State at the player-media dinner last night, and both stood out in practice today.

McDonald showed his versatility. He was used in the box, rushing off the edge, covering receivers in the slot, and further upfield in cover-two looks and in a centerfield role when Thomas covered receivers in the slot.

Using his size, speed and strength, McDonald got the better of running backs trying to pick up his blitzes on one-on-one drills.

– Both McDonald and Thomas made some plays against the run as well. But Thomas wasn’t as effective while blitzing off the edge.

McDonald appeared more comfortable playing closer to the box or in one-on-one coverages than he did in those Cover-2 looks. A couple of times, he was slow to react when providing help over the top, but at other times he showed good closing speed and helped make downfield stops.

– Thomas looked comfortable in coverage regardless of where he lined up. He said he prides himself on being able to cover like a corner and hit like a safety.

–  Oregon State corner Jordan Poyer and Connecticut corner Dwayne Gratz both made some nice plays in coverage. Gratz had two pass breakups and an interception.

– The best offensive lineman on the North squad appears to be left tackle Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. The 6-foot-7, 305-pounder is quick off the line and moves well when getting out on stretch plays, and in pass coverage he was quick to react and remained in front of the pass-rusher, consistently winning one-on-one battles. Fisher is likely to go early in the draft, however, so he probably wouldn’t meet the Redskins’ needs for a right tackle.

– Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh also did well on most of his one-one-one matchups. At 6-5, 297 pounds he’s not quite as big as Fisher, and not quite as quick. But he still appears to be a solid lineman who is projected to go in the second or third round.

– Illinois offensive lineman Hugh Thornton has seen time at right tackle, as well as at guard, but appears more comfortable at guard. He moves well for a guy who is 6-4, 310 pounds, but he struggled with consistency in pass protection today.

–  Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is here this week trying to prove himself as a receiver/punt-kick returner. He had more struggles than bright spots today. He did make Utah State corner Will Davis look silly as he shook him with a double-move and was wide open to catch a bomb. But Robinson struggled with some of his route-running on intermediate routes, had some drops, and he also muffed three punts.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.



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Mike Jones · January 22, 2013