All-22: How 49ers use 'waste motion' to create matchups

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

Previous All-22 breakdowns:

Ravens’ defensive pressure looks
49ers’ Pistol offense (run game)
Anquan Boldin’s red zone impact
49ers’ Inverted Veer scheme

I wanted to take a quick look at one way the 49ers create matchups in the passing game using “waste motion” to target the deep 7 (corner) route. A concept/formation that has shown up all season on the 49ers’ tape with their Regular personnel (2WR-1TE-2RB) in the game. Widen the defense (both zone and man schemes) and get the matchup of TE Vernon Davis vs. a LB or SS in coverage on an outside breaking route.

Personnel: Regular (2WR-1TE-2RB)
Formation: Doubles Slot
Route: Smash-7


What is “waste motion?” Offenses will motion the F/H-Back from a 2-back set to a No.1 alignment. The idea is to widen the CB in Cover 1 or Cover 3 (3-deep, 4-under) and work the ball to No.2 vs. a favorable matchup. Remember, the F/H-Back aligned as the new No.1 isn’t getting the ball. His job is to fill up space, remove the CB and allow the QB to target No.2 on the 7 or seam.


The CB is now removed (Cover 1) and plays over the top of the new No.1 (F). This gives the 49ers the matchup they want: Davis vs. a LB in press-coverage. Win at the line, stem to the outside and push the route vertically up the field.


With the LB stuck in a trail position (and the FS working from a deep middle of the field alignment), Davis can break to the 7 route. An easy read for QB Colin Kaepernick to target the 49ers’ TE.


End zone angle of the finish from Davis. A basic scheme (Smash-7) that we see every Sunday in the NFL with some added window dressing of pre-snap “waste motion” to set up the ideal matchup for the 49ers.

All-22: Can Ravens disguise pressure vs. 49ers?

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

Previous All-22 breakdowns:

49ers' Inverted Veer
Anquan Boldin's red zone impact
49ers' Pistol offense (run game)

With two weeks to prep for the 49ers and QB Colin Kaepernick, the Ravens’ defense will install some new schemes for Sunday’s matchup in Super Bowl XLVII. But after watching tape from the post-season, Jim Harbaugh's offense should expect to see multiple pre-snap looks that are scripted to create confusion in the protection count and force the 3-step hot reads.

Using the All-22 tape, let’s break down three examples of how the Ravens are disguising their pressure schemes.

Ravens vs. Patriots
4-Man closed side pressure (2-deep)


The Ravens are showing Cover 1 (man-free) pressure with FS Ed Reed in a single high alignment and SS Bernard Pollard walked down over the TE to the closed side of the formation. With both the Will (Paul Kruger) and Mike (Ray Lewis) aligned to the open side, the Ravens want to show overload pressure. However, this is only a 4-man pressure scheme (Pollard and the Sam Backer blitzing to the closed side) with the protection of a 2-deep shell (nickel works to open side deep half). Underneath, the Ravens will roll both Krueger and Lewis with Nose Tackle Haloti Ngata dropping to the closed side seam-hook.


Here is a look at the end zone angle of the Ravens’ pre-snap alignment. Pollard will allow the Sam Backer to clear on a vertical rush path and hit the closed side C gap with the underneath defenders dropping into coverage.


2-deep over the top with the three underneath defenders playing the two seam-hook drops (Kruger, Ngata) and the middle hook (Lewis). That leaves the CBs to jam and run with the No.1 WRs. A 4-man pressure scheme that plays out like a zone blitz concept.

Ravens vs. Patriots
4-Man A-gap pressure (Cover 1)


The Ravens are showing double A gap pressure (ILBs) at the line of scrimmage with Reed in a single high alignment. However, Baltimore is going to drop both OLBs (Kruger, Suggs) at the snap. Play Cover 1 in the secondary (Pollard matches up to Aaron Hernandez) and expect to see the 3-step game.

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Again, only a 4-Man blitz from Baltimore. Show a 6-Man pressure scheme at the line and drop the OLBs into the underneath throwing lanes. The idea is to try and steal one by setting a trap for the QB.


The Ravens want to impact the throw from Brady with Kruger dropping underneath the slant to the open side of the formation. The CB will drive on the route from an outside leverage position with Reed coming downhill on the throw.

Ravens vs. Colts
5-Man A-Gap pressure (Cover 1)


Same idea as the pressure we just looked at with Reed walking down to hit the open side A gap and Lewis blitzing the closed side B gap. Again, drop both Suggs and Kruger vs. the 3-step game, “add” another backer to the blitz front (rush to coverage) and play Cover 1 in the secondary.


This is a fee run at QB Andrew Luck. Because the Ravens are showing a 4-Man overload look to the open side, the Colts push the protection. And that allows Reed to come untouched through the A gap with Suggs dropping right into the throwing lane.


Sideline view of Reed arriving at the QB, Suggs underneath the slant and the CB driving on the route. That’s good football.

What did we learn?

You don’t have to bring 6-Man or even 7-Man pressure to force the ball to come out. By giving the QB multiple looks at the line of scrimmage, the Ravens can disguise their blitz fronts, drop into coverage and still play for the quick passing game in 3rd down situations.

All-22: A closer look at 49ers' Pistol offense

Click here for my playbook breakdowns on the NFP “U” homepage.

Click here for a chalkboard look at the base NFL run game (Pro Set).

The Pistol offense and the 49ers. We all know that leads to talk of the Read Option (Zone Read) and QB Colin Kaepernick. However, let’s not forget about the base run game. The same schemes we see out of a Pro Style system (Power O, Counter OF, Lead Open, Trap, etc.) show up in Jim Harbaugh’s playbook from the Pistol alignment.

Let’s start with a quick review of the Read Option and then get into the coaching points of the run game on the All-22 tape…



The 49ers run the Read Option out of their Regular (2WR-1TE-2RB) and Ace (2WR-2TE-1RB) personnel from a 2-back Pistol alignment. Ride the RB through the mesh point, wrap the F/H-Back up through the hole and read the end man on the line of scrimmage (DE in 4-3, OLB in 3-4).


Look at Kaepernick’s eyes. He is reading the path of the DE. And as we all saw in the NFC Championship game, the Falcons kept their DEs up the field to play the QB. This is an easy read for Kaepernick on the give with the F/H-Back fitting up on the force player (Mike Backer/SS).


A clear running lane for Frank Gore to square the pads, get vertical up the field and finish off a productive gain.



Same blocking scheme you see from a Pro Style system with the 49ers getting the kick-out block from the TE in the “Diamond” alignment. The open (weak) side guard pulls with the F/H-Back working to the closed (strong) side of the formation.


With TE Vernon Davis kicking out the edge support, Gore can follow the blocking path of the weak side guard and the F/H-Back. Let the play develop and pick a lane.


Because of the safety’s entry point into the run front, Gore cuts this play back inside of the guard and picks up positive yardage.



Think of running the Power O out of a Strong I alignment with Tank personnel (1WR-2TE-2RB) for Pro Style teams. The Niners start in a “Diamond” look, use short motion to create a “big wing” set (2 TEs) and run the Power O from the Pistol. Pull the open side guard and kick out with the F/H-Back.


With the Y TE (on the line TE) working up to the inside linebacker and the “move” TE releasing to block the SS (arc release), the FB is going to kick out the closed side OLB (BOB O=Back on Backer). That leaves the open side guard on a path to work through the hole or block the first opposite jersey that shows to the play side.



Why can’t you run the Lead Open out of the “Diamond” alignment? It’s the same blocking path if you were to run this play out of the straight I, Weak I, Power I, Triple I, etc. With Ace personnel on the field, both TEs will work up to the inside linebackers. A base downhill scheme.


Gore cuts this ball back and follows Vernon Davis up through the hole. The idea is to force the secondary to fill vs. the run game and tackle. That’s five to six yards before contact if the SS isn’t quick with his run/pass keys.



The 49ers run the “Wham” play to trap the Nose/DT out of their one-back alignments and this is similar when we look at the inside blocking scheme. Block down with the center and the closed side guard with the open side guard trapping the 3 technique DT vs. this nickel defensive front from Green Bay.


Remove both DTs with the trap and allow RB LaMichael James to get through the hole. And with a missed tackle, this turns into an 11-yard run. Not bad for a simple trap scheme.

What did I learn?

This Pistol offense is new to me. I didn’t see as a player back in the Big Ten or during my time in the NFL. However, I learn something every time I turn on the tape. With Kaepernick, the Read Option is always a threat. I get it. But after watching tape today, I’m more focused on the blocking angles and the path of the RB the Pistol offense creates. That’s tough to defend.

Watch out for Boldin in Super Bowl XLVII

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

Click here for my All-22 breakdown of the 49ers’ Inverted Veer scheme.

Anquan Boldin isn’t going to win with straight-line speed this Sunday vs. the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. That’s not his game. The Ravens’ WR isn’t a 4.4 or a 4.5 guy when you put a stopwatch on him. However, Boldin has been very productive during this post-season run because of the ability to win within the route stem and play the ball at the highest point in the red zone.

Let’s go to the All-22 tape and take a look at Boldin’s three TD catches this post-season from an inside alignment.

1. “Sight Adjust” vs. Cover 0 (man-pressure, no safety help)


With the Patriots showing zero-pressure, QB Joe Flacco checks at the line of scrimmage to the “sight adjust” (or hot read). Think of the 3-step route tree with Boldin (slot alignment) as the primary target vs. a DB playing with inside leverage (Cover 0 technique).


Because the Patriots are sending a 7-Man pressure scheme, the Ravens will slide the protection to the open (weak) side of the formation—but the ball has to come out. Look at Boldin here. A quick step to the outside on the release that forces the DB to widen his feet and squat.


The DB is already beat. Can’t stop your feet and allow the WR to create leverage back across your face with no safety help in the middle of the field. That's trouble.


Nice work here from Flacco putting this ball up so Boldin can climb the ladder. Let your WR go make the play and finish.

2. Seam (“Nod”) vs. Cover 0 (man-pressure, no safety help)


I’m still calling this Cover 0 because of the leverage (inside shade) and the safeties. At the snap, this might look like a Cover 4 alignment. However, with the closed (strong) side safety aligned over the TE and the open side safety moving to a “rover position” once his coverage (RB) stays in on protection, this plays out like zero-man.


We can call this a “Nod” route (or “Stick Nod”) with Boldin taking the release vertically up the field and sticking to the inside. That forces the DB to open his hips and creates separation up the seam. Put the DB in an adverse position and exploit his poor technique.


With the DB stuck in a trail position, Flacco can once again put this ball up high for Boldin to finish the play. Even if the DB “plays the pocket” (stick the hand in between the WR’s arms), Boldin is too strong at the point of attack.

3. 7 (corner) route vs. Cover 1 (man-free)


Base Cover 1 from the Colts with the FS moving to the deep middle of the field, the Mike Backer dropping to an inside rover alignment and the DBs playing with an outside shade (funnel WRs to help in the middle of the field). The Ravens are running the Smash-7 (Boldin aligned as No.2 to the closed side) with the TE on the inside vertical seam to occupy the FS.


Boldin uses a hard, outside release to beat the DB’s initial leverage and stacks on top within the route stem. That's an ideal position to continue up the seam or break to the 7 cut. And with the TE running the inside vertical to hold the FS, the Ravens have created another one-on-one matchup for Boldin.


Quick end zone view with Boldin breaking to the 7 cut. What stands out? The separation and the Colts’ DB struggling to get back “in-phase’ (on the hip) vs. Boldin with the ball in the air.


Another strong finish for Boldin. And that's why I’m really interested to see how the 49ers match up to the Ravens’ WR once the ball crosses the 20-yard line this Sunday. Remember, Boldin aligns in the slot for a reason down in the red zone: to get the ball.

What's next for the Senior Bowl prospects?

With the Senior Bowl now complete, the focus is back on the NFL and Super Bowl XLVII. That’s how it should be with the Ravens and 49ers arriving in New Orleans to get ready for Sunday’s matchup.

Play for a ring and everyone is watching.

EJ ManuelUS PRESSWIREE.J. Manuel and the rest of the Senior Bowl prospects will now continue their combine prep after a week in Mobile.

However, those rookie hopefuls we just checked out in Mobile this past week will get back to work.

That’s right. This isn’t time for a vacation. Nope. Hit the weight room, the track and start to prep for the next step in the process: the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

It’s coming at the end of February. And so is the talk of 40 times, the 3-cone drill, short shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump, etc. Mesurables that don’t define a prospect (or what you see on the tape), but still play a major role in the grading/scouting process.

And those drills (along with the static position specific drills) are practiced and perfected over the next month through training. Even down to the steps in the 20-yard short shuttle (5-10-5), these prospects will work daily with repetition, strength training and functional movements to show up and put their talents on display in Indy.

Run a 4.6 at the end of January? Well, the goal is to get that down to a 4.55 by the time you put your hand on the line at the combine. The same goes for a prospect that wants to get a high 4.4 40 time (4.8, 4.7) down to the low 4.4s (4.3, 4.2). Work on the start, the explosion in the first 10-yards and more. It can be done.

For many of the guys we just watched during Senior Bowl week, they will head back to some of the top training facilities in the country (thanks to their agents paying the bill). Think of IMG Academy or Athletes’ Performance Institute. And there are others that will work with their college strength coach on campus (Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle runs a combine prep program for former Hawkeyes).

I did it myself after graduating from Iowa and playing in the now extinct 2000 Hula Bowl All-Star game in Maui (too many good times on the islands to keep that event going). After starting a training program in Tempe with Athletes' Performance, I flew back to the Phoenix area after the game and was in the weight room on Monday for another week. That was followed by a trip to Iowa City to finish my combine prep with Coach Doyle.

Remember, the All-Star games are the first step. That’s why we talked about footwork, technique, hips, route running ability, power, strength and so on this past week down in Mobile. That stuff matters. That stuff sells when you are putting your skill sets on display.

But it doesn’t stop now. Nah. This is when it gets interesting. Now we get to see who can master the “take home test” of the standard combine drills and show up in Indy ready to wow us with their speed and athletic ability in shorts.

So, while we will listen to stories from Super Bowl media day down in New Orleans or begin to break down tape in anticipation of Sunday’s ball game for the Lombardi Trophy, the prospects that want to be in the league will be training.

Time to work, rookie.

All-22: A look at 49ers 'Inverted Veer' scheme

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

Click here for my previous video breakdown of the Inverted Veer scheme.

Looking ahead to Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens will have to prep for QB Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers' Read Option (or Zone Read). However, don’t forget about the Inverted Veer (Power Veer) scheme the 49ers put on tape in the NFC Championship. Another way for Jim Harbaugh’s club to test the edge of the defensive front with Kaepernick reading through the mesh point.

Let’s go to the All-22 tape and breakdown the scheme…

49ers vs. Falcons
Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)
Formation: Doubles Slot (Gun Far)
Scheme: Inverted Veer


– The 49ers are going to put stress on the closed (strong) side DE with the TE on an “arc” release (outside release to the second level) and the backside guard pulling (think of Power O blocking). Ride the RB (LaMichael James) through the mesh point and read the path of the DE.

– Why the “arc” release vs. the SS? Look at it as a false pass key. With the Falcons playing Cover 1 (man-free), the SS has to read Vernon Davis for his run/pass keys. By releasing Davis up the field, the Niners can remove the SS from the run front and create an easy blocking angle for the TE.


– Here is a look at Kaepernick reading the DE through the mesh point. If the DE stays up the field (RB path), the QB will keep and follow the pulling guard through the hole. However, if the DE squeezes the hole (or hesitates), Kaepernick will give to James.


– Because the Falcons’ DE hesitates at the point of attack, Kaepernick gives to James with the 49ers setting up a running lane. The backside guard gets enough of the Sam Backer to slow his angle to the ball and Davis fits up on the SS. With both the Nickel and closed side CB removed vs. the slot formation, the FS (deep middle of the field player) has to run the alley and make an open field tackle.


– Speed sells with James. The 49ers’ RB eliminates the angle of the FS and puts this ball in the end zone. Just another example of what the 49ers can do offensively next Sunday on the Super Bowl stage.

Ten observations from Senior Bowl week

After spending the week at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, here are ten observations I took back with me to Chicago. My notes on the quarterbacks, the talent at the offensive tackle position, wide receivers, the best barbeque in town and more.

1. Questions at QB: I asked three pro scouts who had the best week of practice in Mobile and I got three different answers: Ryan Nassib, Mike Glennon and E.J. Manuel. My take? I’m going with Nassib. The Syracuse QB will need to develop his overall game, but the skill set was the best I saw on the field. Without Geno Smith and Matt Barkley (both opted out of the Senior Bowl), this group didn’t have one QB that stood above the rest.

Denard RobinsonUS PRESSWIREIt will take some time for Denard Robinson to make the transition to the WR position at the NFL level.

2. Denard Robinson looked tentative: I know Robinson is making the transition to the WR position and that is going to take some time when breaking down his ability to run clean routes. And I also give Robinson credit for showing up to compete with a previous injury. However, I didn’t see the dynamic playmaking ability the former QB displayed at Michigan with the football in his hands. Whether it was fielding punts or showcasing his talent after the catch, Robinson didn’t play at a high level this week.

3. First Round Talent at Offensive Tackle: Both Eric Fisher (CMU) and Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) displayed solid footwork, technique, power and could be the next two tackles to come off the board this April after Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. They weren’t perfect on every rep, but you could see enough in 1-on-1 and team drills to know that these two will make some money this year.

4. Solid group of wide outs: Markus Wheaton (Oregon State), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech), Chris Harper (Kansas State), etc. However, the one prospect I really enjoyed watching this week was Marquise Goodwin (Texas). The WR has legit speed and I’m interested to see how he fits in an NFL game plan next season. He could be a playmaker.

5. My top two DBs: CB Desmond Trufant (Washington) and SS Jonathan Cyprien (FIU). Both prospects have a swagger to their game and they want to compete. Trufant has quick feet, can turn the hips, change directions and play press. Cyprien is built like an NFL safety. And while he is a better fit in the box from the scouts I talked to, he also got some work in the deep middle of the field. Physical player that will use his pads in the run game and take proper angles to the ball.

6. Small school prospects: I love watching small school talent compete (and win) vs. prospects from BCS programs. That’s what I saw with DT Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern) and CB Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana). Williams is quick off the line and turned some heads in 1-on-1 drills. And while I did get some questions on Alford’s size (5-9), the CB has good feet and can close on the ball. Let’s keep an eye on these two throughout the draft process.

7. Raw talent at DE: Margus Hunt (SMU) and Ezekial Ansah (BYU). Both are really raw at this stage of their development and must work on their technique when they rush the passer. Can’t lean on the bull rush when you compete against top competition. They both need pro coaching. A pretty common theme when catching up with scouts before I left town this week.

8. The RB position: Two names that impressed me down in Mobile: Stepfan Taylor (Stanford) and Mike Gillislee (Florida). I liked their vision, burst through the hole and ability in the open field. Good backs that can fit in pro schemes.

9. 1-on-1 drills don’t disappoint: My favorite part of the week. There is so much you can get out of watching a DB or a WR or a DE in 1-on-1 work where they have to win with technique. You won’t get away with poor footwork nor can you lean on speed when the competition level rises down in Mobile. Some players were exposed while others stepped up in these matchups in front of the NFL’s top coaches, scouts and GMs.

10. Best barbecue in Mobile: There are some great places to grab food in Mobile when it comes to barbeque, but I’m sticking with the Brick Pit. My new favorite lunch spot during Senior Bowl week. If you get down there, make sure to stop by and get the pulled pork plate with baked beans and coleslaw. Outstanding food.

Senior Bowl: Wednesday prospect notes

Click here for my notes from Tuesday’s practice notes.

Let’s run through some of my notes from the North and South squad practice sessions on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile.

Goodwin US PRESSWIRETexas WR Marquise Goodwin has top tier speed and showed the ability to win vs. press-man on Wednesday.

Goodwin’s ability at WR: I know the Texas product can run. Goodwin has top tier vertical speed. However, I was more impressed Wednesday with his ability to win at the line of scrimmage vs. press-coverage. Very athletic player when you watch him win on the release and get into the route stem. There has been a lot of talk from scouts on Markus Wheaton from Oregon State, but don’t forget about Goodwin as a WR that can earn an NFL paycheck inside of the numbers and pressing the top of the secondary.

CB Desmond Trufant: Smooth footwork, quick hips and he displayed the ability to play press-man in 1-on-1 drills. I thought Trufant played with a little swagger to his game and wanted to compete throughout the session on Wednesday. You can see the talent watching the CB change direction and drive on the ball.

BYU’s Ezekial Ansah: The DE has speed coming off the ball and I can see why scouts are drawn to his athleticism. But like most of the pass rushers down here in Mobile, Ansah has to develop his technique. Move past the bull rush, attack the edge of the blocker and use your hands to create leverage to the QB.

Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor: Thick build at the RB position (5-9, 216) with a solid burst to get through the hole and square the pads. If you look at the Stanford run game (Power O, Lead, Counter OF), Taylor is a fit at the next level.

DE Margus Hunt: The SMU product hasn’t had a great week of practice, but the opportunity to develop his skill set has to be attractive to NFL clubs given his size (6-8, 277). Hunt must develop counter moves when he gets on the edge of blockers and he needs pro coaching at the point of attack. Raw talent.

Gillislee’s vision: The Florida RB showed some vision on Wednesday when he got the second level of the defense. Gillislee was quick to create angles in the open field and I like the cut-back ability.

Quinton Patton: The WR runs clean routes. That’s why you see the Louisiana Tech product winning on double-moves. Set up DBs, chop the feet and then separate down the field. Patton had another solid practice on Wednesday.

Small school DT: Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern had a burst off the ball in 1-on-1 drills, displayed quick hands and plays hard. Keep an eye on him throughout the draft process.

Shawn Williams: The Georgia safety is going to hit and he will fill the hole in the run game. In 1-on-1 drills, Williams worked vs. the tight ends. And while he can slide the feet on the release and drive to the hip on inside breaking routes, he needs to keep TEs off his body at the top of the route stem. That’s where he allows some separation and finds himself in a trail position.

Senior Bowl: Tuesday prospect notes

After watching both the North and South squads practice on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, here are some of my notes from Mobile.

Eric Fisher is a true talent: It is easy to see the skill set the LT brings to the field. Fisher has great flexibility, power in his base and is strong on the initial punch. The Central Michigan product stands out in One-on-One drills and plays with technique. That sells in Mobile when you can consistently win matchups in front of the entire league. There is no question Fisher carries a first round grade and I would bet he is climbing up some draft boards.

John Jenkins US PRESSWIREJenkins showcased some power in One-on-One pass rush on Tuesday.

John Jenkins: The NT/DT from Georgia has legit power. During One-on-One drills, Jenkins beat up interior O-Lineman with a straight bull rush. Looks like a good fit as a 3-4 NT that can extend his arms and generate a solid push up the field.

Small school talent at CB: There are going to be questions on the size of CB Robert Alford (5-9), but the Southeastern Louisiana prospect wants to compete. I was impressed with his footwork, closing speed vs. inside breaking routes and the ability to change directions. A scout I talked to projected him as a guy who could fill the role as a No.3 corner.

More QB questions: I can see why scouts are looking at Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib. There are some skills you can develop when watching him in 7-on-7, team, etc. But I haven’t been overly impressed with the QBs so far. I’m anxious to start looking at college tape after the Super Bowl to get a better feel for this group.

Denard Robinson’s transition to WR: Route running. That’s where the former Michigan QB needs work. Robinson is a great athlete. And I could see that when he ran a couple of double-moves during the morning session. But for anyone trying to make the switch to the WR position, the ability to run clean routes is the biggest challenge. Right now Robinson will round his cuts coming out of his breaks and that allows DBs to close on the ball.

Keep an eye on safety Jonathan Cyprien: The FIU product stood out on the practice field and is built like an NFL safety. Cyprien took good angles to the ball and he was physical at the point of attack on Tuesday. A player to watch the rest of the week.

Lane Johnson: The Oklahoma offensive tackle has top tier athletic ability, good feet and moves well in pass pro. The question: can he add some more size to his frame? One scout told me he would like to put 10 pounds on Johnsion.

USC safety TJ McDonald: Scouts aren't sold on his game tape, but McDonald showed some range on Tuesday, the ability to flip the hips in coverage and he wasn’t shy about setting his pads on the edge. I know McDonald is stiff in his pedal and needs to come out of his breaks with more speed. However, looking at his size (6-2), I see the USC safety as an interesting player.

WR speed: I will focus more on the WR prospects tomorrow, but check out Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. He can push a CB up the field and get on top of the secondary. Deep ball speed.

Senior Bowl: 5 things to watch on the practice field

Tape study is still the No.1 tool to evaluating and grading rookie prospects, but this week we get to see some of the top talent in the country at the Senior Bowl. And after checking out the North squad Monday afternoon, here are five things I will be looking for on the practice field down in Mobile, Alabama.

E.J. Manuel US PRESSWIREFlorida State's E.J. Manuel is one of the QBs down in Mobile, Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl.

1. One-on-One drills: My favorite part of the week. DBs vs. WRs, O-Line vs. D-Line, LBs vs. RBs in pass pro. There is nowhere to hide in these matchups and you find out quickly who wants to compete in front of the entire league. Focus on the ability of WRs to run clean routes, DBs in their plant and drive, the footwork of Offensive Tackles in pass pro, the hand placement (counter moves) of DEs, etc. You can get a feel for where these prospects are at in their development by watching One-on-One drills throughout the week.

2. QB play: No Geno Smith or Matt Barkley, but we can still check out Ryan Nassib, Landry Jones, Mike Glennon, E.J. Manuel, etc. These QBs will see basic coverages in the secondary (Cover 1, Cover 3) and the routes are pretty standard (Curl-Flat, Slant-Flat, Levels, Verts). Because of that, look at ball placement, footwork in the pocket, accuracy, arm strength and study the route tree. Can these QB prospects throw the deep 7 cut or hit the comeback? There is enough here in 7-on-7 and team drills to evaluate the QB position.

3. Secondary technique: I spend a lot of time watching the DBs go through individual drills, One-on-One and 7-on-7 because it gives you an opportunity to study their technique. Last year in Mobile, Harrison Smith and Janoris Jenkins showcased their skill sets on the field and had scouts talking throughout the week. That's what you want as a rookie prospect. Focus on their footwork in off-man, the ability to maintain their cushion (distance between DB and WR), the transition (open the hips) vs. the deep ball and the speed coming out of their breaks. And if they get beat, find out why. Did they take a bucket step (step behind on transition), stick their eyes on the QB or open too soon when the WR stemmed the route up the field?

4. Football speed: We will get into 40 times, the short shuttle (5-10-5), 3-cone drill, etc. when these prospects head to Indianapolis for the NFL combine next month and throughout the Pro Day circuit. However, I want to see who can display that speed in pads. I look at WRs at the top of the route stem, DBs playing the 9 (fade) route, RBs when they press the edge of the formation. That’s where you want the “football speed” to show up this week on the practice field. Play fast. That's the drill.

5. Production under pressure: This is job interview. Every drill, every practice. There are head coaches and GMs in the stands with pro scouts lining the fences next to the field. Hey, everyone is watching. That’s not easy when these young players are removed from their college schemes, handed a new playbook for the week and have to respond to NFL coaching for the first time (Lions and Raiders staffs running practices). I want to see how they respond to the coaching and if they can make plays under the stress of the week in Mobile. That sells.