The offense not only had to deal with rainy conditions this morning at McDaniel College, but it was also confounded by a charged up defense. Led by a rotation of hard-hitting backers, the front seven was dominant against the run and the pass. The secondary was even less forgiving, as receivers had a hard time gaining separation, and quarterbacks were forced to eat the ball.
Here are other key observations and notes from today’s morning session:
· Formations and Fronts: One of the more interesting designs that the offense ran came out of a four-wide, one back set, in which three receivers were flanked to the strongside and the split end was flanked wide to the weakside. Willis McGahee was the lone back, aligned off set, behind the left tackle. On defense, safety Haruki Nakamura lined up wide as the cornerback on the weakside. (Nakamura was at cornerback on numerous occasions.)
As the play developed, McGahee caught a swing pass out of the backfield and darted behind guard Ben Grubbs, who pulled from the line. Grubbs was successfully able to get a hat on Nakamura, paving the way for McGahee’s long gain toward the end zone.
There were also a few occasions in which fullback Le’Ron McClain started out in a three-point stance at tight end, only to motion into the backfield in his traditional fullback role. This was a version of a three-tight end set that the team will employ during the season, with McClain as the featured third tight end, capable of flexing into the backfield.
· Who Stood Out?
– Derrick Martin: With the addition of free agent cornerbacks Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr, and third-round draft choice Lardarius Webb, Martin has been asked to play at safety. The fourth year defensive back appeared to be unsure of where he needed to be as a center fielder. There were two specific instances when Martin had his eyes locked into the backfield and was slow to react to a downfield throw. He was a lot better when he lined up close to the box, as a quasi linebacker who helped against tight ends and slot receivers. Martin had no trouble turning and running with receivers when he was isolated in man coverage.
– Prescott Burgess: Burgess had the hit of the day. He absolutely tattooed tight end Edgar Jones on a quick-hitting pass play. Burgess was equally physical as a gunner on kickoff coverage drills.
– Derrick Mason: Mason wasted no time showing off his importance to the offense by catching two passes thrown over the middle, one of which was a diving stab. In spread formations, Mason operated from the slot. The slot could be Mason’s new home when the team goes to its three and four-wide formations.
· Scouting the Rookies
o Dannell Ellerbe: At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Ellerbe has a compact, powerful build, but he is not built like a prototypical linebacker. Despite lacking size, Ellerbe packs a wallop. He has had no trouble shedding blockers at the point of impact. Equally impressive is Ellerbe’s sideline-to-sideline speed and ability to cover. Ellerbe looked fluid when turning his hips. Thus far, Ellerbe looks like another gem plucked by the front office from the undrafted pool.
Other Rookie Notes
– Speaking of Ellerbe, he may have had the second hit of the day next to Burgess’ shot heard around Westminster. On a collision inside of the trench area, the rookie from Georgia exploded into guard Chris Chester and put him on his back. It is rare to see a linebacker display that type of raw power against an offensive lineman.
– It was interesting to see Paul Kruger compete in two instances in which a running play was executed to his side. Even though he was successfully blocked and pushed backward, Kruger kept fighting through the block until the play was blown dead.
– Backup center Robbie Felix showed nice technique and stayed low in his stance during line drills.
Photo by Donna Johnson