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2019 NFL Draft Wrap-up Thread

Draft Thoughts  

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  1. 1. Thoughts on the Titans 2019 Draft?

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  • Poll closes on 06/01/2019 at 09:00 PM

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BudAdams   
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Drool, energy drinks, a Day 3 pick based on a single play: Titans GM explains reasoning behind all six selections

By Travis Haney 2h ago 4

 

Sifting through film clips of the Titans’ recent sixth-round draft pick, West Virginia linebacker David Long, Jon Robinson raises his laser pointer at the projection screen on his office wall.

 

“This is the Baylor game. I was at this game,” Tennessee’s fourth-year general manager says, taking a drag from a blue Red Bull can.

Robbie Bohren, the team’s longtime head of media relations, has found a chair in the room and is watching some of the film.

 

“Does it help you to see these guys in person?” Bohren asks.

 

Robinson kind of shrugs.

 

“I don’t know that you learn a whole lot,” he says. “It’s good to see them on the hoof.”

A second or two passes.

 

“I might have salivated when I saw Jeff Simmons live,” Robinson says of the team’s eventual first-round pick, a standout defensive lineman from Mississippi State.

But when Robinson saw Simmons play, he admits that he never imagined he’d be a possibility for the Titans, who at that time appeared destined to pick somewhere between 15 and 25. (They ended up at No. 19 after a 9-7 season.)

 

Simmons only entered the picture after he tore his left ACL in February.

“For us, really, had he not had the knee injury, I would say it was a real slim chance that he would’ve been there at 19,” Robinson said. “I mean, I didn’t think we had any chance.”

Starting with and focusing on Simmons, Robinson took time this week to discuss at length with The Athletic each of the Titans’ six draft picks.

He broke down each prospect’s film and laid out the picks’ timelines, from the initial scouting to the draft week finish line.

Round 1 (No. 19 overall): DL Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State

Tennessee’s area and national scouts made their Simmons presentations in December, describing a lineman with the chance to impact games in a profound way.

Based on his in-person observations and some “quick” film study, Robinson saw all he needed to see.

Continuing to discuss Simmons was essentially pointless; he’d be a sure-fire top-10 selection, with a real chance to sneak into the top 5.

He would not be there at No. 19.

“It was, ‘Yeah, I saw him. I’m all set talking about him. Who’s next?'” Robinson said. “There were other players we probably needed to focus on. In a typical scenario, you probably don’t have a chance to take him.”

But Simmons’ knee injury, as unfortunate as it was for him, changed everything for the Titans. More and more, Robinson started to sink himself into Simmons’ film.

“Powerful. Athletic. Long. Can play a lot of spots. Versatile. Good motor player,” Robinson said. “With those defensive linemen, a lot of times you worry about them taking plays off. I mean, he’s a guy who doesn’t take very many plays off. He plays with some enthusiasm.”

Words that Simmons repeatedly returned to this week while watching a dozen film cut-ups:

“Factors”: That’s how Robinson described Simmons’ disruption, particularly when it came to the quarterback. Even if the play didn’t result in a sack, Simmons would “factor” in creating pressure.

“Gets vertical”: After getting jostled or absorbing contact, Simmons showed an ability to shake free and again get in a straight line, with speed, toward the QB. The plays often showcased his reaction time and burst, both of which are sublime.

“Dead”: One way or another, Simmons tended to kill plays himself.

The film showed an athlete who is excellent with his hands and possesses a sturdy, sturdy base. Robinson even noted some advanced technique polish, a credit to Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

His best game, Robinson thought, was Mississippi State’s Outback Bowl game against Iowa. The en vogue thing for high-end prospects is to sit out bowls.

Simmons, instead, was relentless in the game.

“Exactly,” Robinson said.

At one point, two Hawkeyes offensive linemen, who’d just been embarrassed by Simmons, were jawing at one another on the field.

Watching the film again this week, Robinson still seemed to marvel at Simmons. It was almost as if the drool was re-forming as he watched his top pick work in maroon and white, all the while envisioning him this fall in two-tone blue.

“That’s a big son of a bitch running right here,” Robinson said, almost giggling as he watched Simmons sprint toward the sideline in pursuit of an Ole Miss ball-carrier. He laughed a little more when Simmons bumped his large frame into Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown, the Titans’ second-round pick.

It was clear to the Titans early on that Simmons was a special player. The evaluation process then extended to two other important areas: the knee injury — and the much-publicized incident as a high school senior.

On the night of the first round, and then the following day, Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel talked at length about assessing Simmons’ character regarding the videotaped incident of him assaulting a woman in a fight involving family members. (Simmons pleaded no contest to a simple assault charge and was found guilty of malicious mischief. He reportedly paid more than $1,000 in fines.)

Mississippi State made a difficult decision to still allow Simmons to enroll. Those in Starkville rave about the model citizen he was in three years on campus.

Even so, the first step for the Titans was to have a ground-floor conversation, with Robinson bringing in owner Amy Adams Strunk. Was this incident enough to summarily cross off Simmons from the board, just in principle? Or did it require more evaluation and research?

“Jon and Mike came to me months ago, and we discussed the incident,” Adams Strunk said April 26 at Simmons’ introductory news conference. “We watched the video together. It begins with trust from Mike and Jon that I was able to get comfortable. But they were both very respectful that I needed to be comfortable, because at the end of the day, I have the final decision. It was a process.”

Robinson and the scouting department conducted numerous interviews with those who knew Simmons, with Simmons receiving a consensus character endorsement. Every piece of information signaled to the Titans that this really was an out-of-character moment. They knew it was a horrifically violent loss of control, but their final impression was that it was also something that led Simmons to mature.

At that point, the matter was resolved in their minds. They no longer returned to those concerns.

At the combine in late February, Vrabel received a general question regarding character evaluation. He never mentioned Simmons by name — but he also wound up saying something very similar after the pick was made.

“Well, we all make mistakes. I think that that’s the first thing,” Vrabel said in Indianapolis. “I’ve got kids: I’ve got a freshman in college and a junior in high school. We all understand that things are going to happen. Is it a mistake or is it a bad person? If it’s a mistake, you try to fix the mistake. If they’re a bad guy, you move on from bad guys.”

Adams Strunk gave full, public support of Simmons after the pick.

“We’re getting a great football player; that goes without saying,” she said. “But we’re getting a great man. Our locker room is so important. We only have good men in there, and this young man is a good man.”

Hearing the owner’s words, Simmons bowed his head and broke down in tears.

“I think he was extremely genuine,” Robinson said this week. “Amy conveyed how she felt about him and about us in the process, that we vet these players out and the fact that, since I’ve been here, we don’t bring bad people into this organization, this community.

“I think everybody got to see who Jeffery really is. It was a pretty powerful moment.”

Regarding the injury, Robinson said he did not recall, at least as a GM, selecting a player with a serious knee injury during training. It obviously wasn’t a deal-breaker, though.

“Historically, guys have been taken with that injury,” Robinson said. “I mean, guys come back from that now. Medicine has changed a lot in the last 20 years. I’m certainly no doctor, so you’re relying on their exam and our discussions with the doctor who did (the surgery) and the trainers working with him at Mississippi State.

“He was getting after the rehab, so …”

Even so, the Titans — who should again be playoff contenders in 2019 — had to become comfortable with Simmons missing some or all of the upcoming season, as he continues his rehab. Simmons said he’s targeting an October return, but the team has said it will not rush him back.

“Mike and I talked about it,” Robinson said. “We talked about it with Amy (and told her), ‘We’re probably not going to have this guy for a little while. There’s a chance he can come back and help us in ‘19, but there’s a chance he might not.’

“We kind of have to wait to see how it goes. But this type of player, you don’t usually have a chance to draft them unless you’re not winning very many games. The risk-reward factor, the reward far outweighed the risk.”

Draft Day in Nashville had arrived, with 200,000 people descending on Lower Broadway to create the most memorable draft spectacle in the league’s history. About four miles north, at the team’s Saint Thomas Sports Park home, Robinson spent part of that day again watching Simmons’ film, “just to make sure we were right.”

He turned it off feeling confident about Simmons, if things fell the right way.

As the draft got into the teens, Robinson took a look at the team’s board. He described his board as “horizontal,” with the war room comparing three or four players head-to-head. (As opposed to a “big board,” numbered 1 through X.)

Robinson skirted questions about who was being compared with Simmons for the 19th pick, other than to say where Simmons’ position was in his mind.

“He was at the top of it. He was at the top of it,” Robinson said.

I asked specifically about Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and N.C. State offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury, both of whom were selected before the Titans picked. He didn’t say whether they would have been favored over Simmons, if there were a choice.

“We liked them. We had them ranked up there pretty high,” Robinson said.

Did Robinson have concerns about Simmons being selected by another team, prior to No. 19?

“I thought there was at least two teams we were going to have to dodge bullets on,” he said, adding that there was “no chance” the Titans could have waited until the second round to select Simmons.

I suggested that maybe the Colts, at No. 21, might have taken Simmons. (Indy wound up trading out of the first round, perhaps another indication that Simmons was a coveted target.)

If that were true, it could have been part of the reason Robinson declined a couple of trade offers (“one strong and one kinda OK”) to slide back into the “mid-20s.”

“I didn’t feel like the extra picks, although I would have loved to have had them, was worth passing on him as a player,” he said.

When Minnesota took Bradbury at 18, the Titans’ war room lit up. There was no debate. The choice was a clear one.

“It was a very good moment. Very good moment. Great moment,” Robinson said. “He was far and away, we felt, the best player for us.”

One reason the Titans went with a defensive lineman, Robinson said, was because he felt as if the talent at that position “dropped off pretty drastically.”

The scouting group believed the talent pool at the other need positions — edge-rusher, interior offensive line and receiver depth — was deeper, allowing Tennessee to address them in the ensuing picks and still get value.

And they accomplished that, it would seem.

 

Round 2 (No. 51 overall): WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss

 

While watching Brown’s film, Robinson describes a complete receiver. At various points, he praises his route-running, his physicality (as a receiver and a blocker), his acceleration after the catch and his effort in gaining extra yards.

The film shows him excelling in the slot, as well as on the outside. Brown has received favorable comps to Pittsburgh breakout receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

“We felt that A.J. had position versatility,” Robinson said. “There may have been one or two guys better at one singular thing, but A.J. was better at everything.”

In that horizontal player comparison, at least among receiver options in the second round, Robinson admitted that the team was also looking at South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Brown’s Ole Miss teammate, D.K. Metcalf.

Robinson hinted that Samuel might have had a similar (if not better) internal rating, but that was made moot when San Francisco selected him at No. 36 overall — 15 slots higher than Tennessee would pick.

“We liked Deebo,” Robinson said. “He played outside, inside, had some punt return value. A little smaller in stature, but I thought Deebo played pretty big.”

If the team was considering an interior offensive lineman, given that’s where it went in the third round, viable options such as Oklahoma’s Cody Ford (Buffalo, No. 38), Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins (Green Bay, No. 44) and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy (New Orleans, No. 48) came off the board before the Titans’ turn.

That thrust Robinson and the Titans toward a short list of receivers.

“We thought those guys were some of the better prospects on the board at that point,” he said.

Metcalf and Arcega-Whiteside appeared to be more limited than Brown, in the Titans’ estimation.

“We thought Metcalf was really more just an outside receiver — a big, powerful, fast guy,” Robinson said. “Arcega-Whiteside, he played some inside, but we felt really he was more outside. He was really good on the jump ball, boxing out guys. That was really the strong part of his game.

“We thought all those guys were good players and would have been happy with all of those guys. Time will tell if we were right on A.J., but we liked him the best. That’s why we took him.”

Robinson and Vrabel made mention after selecting Brown that, during the draft process, his professionalism set him apart.

“When some guys come in here, maybe they’re more about the lifestyle than football,” Vrabel said. “With A.J., especially, we got the sense that football was really important to him. Playing and competing was really important to him and not somewhat the benefits that maybe come along with being a professional football player.”

Robinson said the Titans spent a relatively extensive period with Brown during the scouting process. He was one of the team’s three picks who came to Nashville for a top-30 visit, a chance for franchises to host prospects during the draft lead-up.

They also spoke at length with Brown during the combine and they attended his pro day in Mississippi. They were sold on the film — and on Brown as a locker room fit.

“He acted like a pro,” Robinson said. “You felt like you were talking to a pro receiver.”

 

Round 3 (No. 82 overall): OG Nate Davis, Charlotte

 

Davis is the first Titans pick that Robinson, while watching film, suggests will require some development. He points out a specific play against the University of Tennessee in which Davis needs to run a defender out of the play rather than trying to engage him.

The misplay leaves him off balance, but Robinson counters to say that Davis’ athleticism keeps him from falling.

“A bad athlete hits the ground,” he said, underscoring a scouting favorite: Evaluators love players who rarely fall.

Robinson also mentions that Davis has been criticized by scouts and analysts for his stance, with “his butt dragging the ground.”

“We sent (offensive line coach) Keith (Carter) to go watch him and work with him, and within five minutes, he fixed that,” Robinson says.

He also points out a play displaying Davis’ quick hip turn and an adjustment while Davis was playing right tackle for Charlotte. The bet for the Titans is that his athleticism will be even more prominent inside, in tighter spaces against less agile interior linemen.

“That’s pretty good for a 300-plus-sized man,” he says, rewinding and playing the hip turn a couple of times.

Davis’ stock rose after a solid Senior Bowl week, but Robinson said his group had “good grades” on Davis extending back to his Charlotte career. Meeting with him that week in January in Mobile, Ala., they came away very impressed by his intelligence. He was another of the team’s top-30 visitors.

Robinson said he received “a couple of pretty good offers” to trade out of the No. 82 overall pick, but he felt as if the interior offensive line crop was nearing a talent dropoff.

“It just felt like if we slid back too far, we were going to be short there (because the pick would be a project),” Robinson said.

The team feels as if Davis isn’t too far away, even if there will be a transition in going from Conference USA to the NFL.

“Definitely, he needs to continue to take strides with his technique and his stance and his hands,” Robinson said. “But the athletic tools and the mindset are there. The power is there. The anchor is there.”

Can Davis get snaps this fall?

“Yes,” Robinson said.

 

Round 4 (No. 116 overall): DB Amani Hooker, Iowa

 

“I was really sold on this guy on one play,” Robinson said.

He then cues up the play: With Northern Illinois driving, Hooker is lined up at free safety in a zone look. He starts to creep in, knowing that the Hawkeyes are blitzing a linebacker.

Hooker initially moves right and jumps a slant route. He follows the receiver across until he’s picked up by a teammate. At that point, Hooker demonstrates a special level of awareness to turn and find another receiver who’s come over on a deep crossing route.

Against most opponents, this is a touchdown.

But Hooker reacts instinctively, turning and quickly catching up with the receiver.

The quarterback throws too late, and Hooker comes down with an interception inside the red zone.

It’s no wonder Robinson was sold: Hooker essentially plays three different roles in one single play, covering about 30 yards in the process, before creating a takeaway to take points off the board.

“Yep,” Robinson says.

Hooker later added a safety in the same game.

Of the team’s six picks, Robinson shows the most surprise that this player was still on the board in the fourth round. It borders on shock. So it’s no wonder Tennessee traded up to snag Hooker, giving up just 11 spots in the fifth round to do so.

Robinson said he traded up because he recognized that Hooker had visited a couple of teams with safety needs who were ahead of the Titans, who were originally scheduled to pick five spots later at No. 121.

“When you get that intel, you’ve got to move,” he said.

So … why was he there at all in the fourth round?

“I … I don’t know,” Robinson said. “I’m glad he was.”

There isn’t an imminent need at the position, but Robinson highlights a play that shows Hooker timing a delayed blitz from the slot in a way that looks very similar to Logan Ryan. (Ryan’s contract is up after this season and he’s coming off a fairly serious injury.)

One way or another, Hooker will see the field this fall.

“He’s a versatile guy who can play in base defense or sub defense, can play in the kicking game,” Robinson said. “At that point in the draft, he was the best player on our board — or one of a couple.”

He was the third top-30 visitor the team selected. Robinson said he made a mental note when Hooker told him that he’d been in contact with former Iowa and current NFL defensive backs Desmond King and Micah Hyde.

“He wanted to understand the process,” Robinson said. “He asked those guys what to expect. For a young player — I think he’s only 20 (Hooker turns 21 in June) — to have that type of mentality, it’s pretty impressive. He’s ready to be a pro.”

 

Round 5 (No. 168? overall): OLB D’Andre Walker, Georgia

 

Robinson flips through a few clips of Walker — a pass-rusher by trade — lining up in various places, including with his hand on the ground at end. He says that’ll be a role he can fill in nickel and other “sub” packages.

He stops on a play in which Walker is standing up as an outside linebacker. Walker’s left foot is his lead foot and Robinson notes that college edge rushers who lead with the left foot often have a false step, pushing the left foot back and then driving forward with the right.

However minimal the delay, it can be a waste of time — and perhaps the difference in impacting a play. Atypically, Walker shoves forward off the left foot and launches himself into the backfield. A quick first step can be as simple as a young player having just one step, not two.

“He loads that front foot, so he just rolls off of it,” Robinson says. “There’s no wasted movement.”

Robinson then focuses on Walker’s “shin angle.”

Robinson jokes that “shin angle” is a Vrabel thing.

“I’m stealing that from Vrabes,” he says.

Robinson later commends a “pretty good effing body lean right there. That’s power.”

Even if Walker needs to develop to some extent, there appear to be raw materials in his toolbox.

The Titans talked with Walker at the combine, attended Georgia’s pro day and then went to a separate, private workout. Linebackers coach Shane Bowen traveled to work with and evaluate Walker.

Some analysts believed Walker might even be a Day 2 selection, but the Titans still got him in Round 5 — even after trading down in the Hooker deal.

“I didn’t think he’d be there, really, when we were picking,” Robinson said. “He would have been gone within 10 picks of where we picked him. We busted a team on him.”

I asked Robinson if teams always knew when they’d “busted” another team by vulturing a player it sought.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “You find out.”

 

Round 6 (No. 188 overall): ILB David Long, West Virginia

 

“If you like guys who tackle the guy with the ball, this is your guy,” Robinson deadpans as the turns on the Long film.

Long played inside linebacker at WVU at 5-11 and 227 pounds. If you’re wondering, Jayon Brown’s draft profile says he checked in at UCLA at 6-0, 231 pounds.

“Everyone wants to bag on him because he’s small,” Robinson said, adding that Long figures to be better against the run vs. coverage.

So there’s where he differs from Brown; coming in, the 2017 fifth-rounder excelled in coverage, developing in his second season into a three-down linebacker — and a good one. So Long’s learning curve will be a bit different.

Robinson highlights that Long communicates well, setting the defense. That’s always a plus for inside linebackers.

“He gets guys lined up,” he says. “He’s telling the corner what to do.”

He calls Long an “active player who will have time to develop in the pass coverage.”

The son of a heavyweight boxer, Robinson adds that Long will be an immediate special teams piece.

All six draft picks will play this fall, the GM anticipates.

“They’ll all have a role on the team,” Robinson said.

 

Final note: Titans pass on QB crop

 

So, who (or what) wasn’t drafted?

A quarterback.

Robinson had floated in the winter the idea of taking a QB to develop, as the team tried (and failed) to do a year ago with sixth-rounder Luke Falk.

Robinson said this week, however, that the Titans did not entertain selecting a quarterback in any round in the 2019 draft.

“We got to our picks and stuck to who was the best player there and picked them,” he said. “That’s about it.”

 

Marcus Mariota is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, though he could be extended one more season via a franchise tag. The team also recently traded for Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, giving up a fourth-rounder in the 2020 draft.  Logan Woodside is currently the third quarterback on the roster. Woodside spent some time on the practice squad a year ago before playing in the AAF (until it folded).

 

In the event that the Titans, for whatever reasons, end up moving on from Mariota after this season, Tannehill presents a bit of a safety blanket and the team would obviously then prioritize a QB in 2020. It’s expected to be a deeper class of passers than the ’19 group, with Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa among the prospects.  Robinson has made clear, however, that he wants Mariota to be the team’s long-term solution at the position.

 

As for the 2019 draft haul, being able to go best player available from, really, the Hooker pick on suggests that Tennessee has general roster health. The needs aren’t as glaring as they’ve perhaps been in the past.  “I mean, I definitely think our roster’s better than it three years ago when I got here,” Robinson said.

 

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tgo   

Well I guess I should just cancel my Athletic subscription and then @BudAdams can just post the Titans related Articles. 

 

Or maybe we could just have a user account for the whole board and post all the articles in full on here. 

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Callidus   
On 5/9/2019 at 5:42 PM, Huston said:

 

We always seem to take a long time to sign high draft picks. Not that it has been that long yet mind you. My point being do we have some specific things they look to include in contracts that make it take longer than most teams?

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Going back to that play with Hooker: there aren’t many people in the NFL who make that kind of play in their entire career. The guy passed off the seam route after taking away the read, moved onto the drag route, and then pulled off perfectly into the crosser who went up field behind him. I’m being pretty ridiculous, but that single play reminds me of Polamalu. The guy is money in zone. 

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Number9   

TURRON DAVENPORT‏Verified account @TDavenport_NFL

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Mike Vrabel said the low stance that Nate Davis had was discussed and tweaked when working with them at his Pro Day. Now that they have him they’re working to make him comfortable with the stance. #Titans

 

  How involved will it be to get Davis into a proper stance and be effective?  

 

 

 

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japan   
1 hour ago, Number9 said:

TURRON DAVENPORT‏Verified account @TDavenport_NFL

FollowFollow @TDavenport_NFL

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Mike Vrabel said the low stance that Nate Davis had was discussed and tweaked when working with them at his Pro Day. Now that they have him they’re working to make him comfortable with the stance. #Titans

 

  How involved will it be to get Davis into a proper stance and be effective?  

 

 

 

Bust...

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Number9   
43 minutes ago, japan said:

Bust...

I don't think so.

 

Change of seeming small things is difficult though.  I was playing golf one day with a big strong boy.  He pounded the ball about 230 yards with a big hook into the deep rough.  On about the 12th hole, I just went over while he was getting ready to hit and told him to move his left foot slightly, about 3 inches.  Now hit it.  He nailed the ball about 255 yards down the middle w/a nice draw.  Next hole, he hooks the ball into the woods.  I asked him why he didn't use the stance I showed him.  He said it didn't feel right.

Edited by Number9

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tgo   
3 hours ago, Number9 said:

TURRON DAVENPORT‏Verified account @TDavenport_NFL

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Mike Vrabel said the low stance that Nate Davis had was discussed and tweaked when working with them at his Pro Day. Now that they have him they’re working to make him comfortable with the stance. #Titans

 

  How involved will it be to get Davis into a proper stance and be effective?  

 

 

 

I think it will take some time and reps, I really think Pamphile will be the starter in the end. I do really like Davis though, just think he needs a little development. 

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reo   
3 hours ago, Number9 said:

TURRON DAVENPORT‏Verified account @TDavenport_NFL

FollowFollow @TDavenport_NFL

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Mike Vrabel said the low stance that Nate Davis had was discussed and tweaked when working with them at his Pro Day. Now that they have him they’re working to make him comfortable with the stance. #Titans

 

  How involved will it be to get Davis into a proper stance and be effective?  

 

 

I would think it could be done. Depends on why he defaults to that stance. From my experience people who tend to do back squats like that are weaker in the hips/glutes and stronger in the legs so if that's the case then he might need to work on some strength and what muscles he uses. 

 

But if it's just a stance thing bc its more  comfortable that way then I wouldn't think it'd be that big a deal. It's not like a throwing motion where it sets and happens fast.

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Number9   
15 hours ago, reo said:

 

I would think it could be done. Depends on why he defaults to that stance. From my experience people who tend to do back squats like that are weaker in the hips/glutes and stronger in the legs so if that's the case then he might need to work on some strength and what muscles he uses. 

 

But if it's just a stance thing bc its more  comfortable that way then I wouldn't think it'd be that big a deal. It's not like a throwing motion where it sets and happens fast.

Interesting.  I hope it's simple.  I'm sure they looked into this with input from the strength/conditioning and OL coaches.  It still could be a little gamble by JRob to get a guy much better than his draft spot if he pans out.  Davis mentioned they showed him where he was losing time to engage in order to reach the correct blocking position.  He's probably going to get stronger in the areas you said, then he'll have to feel comfortable he has the same power.  I guess.

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