D-Linemen and LB’s at Combine— looking for early bloomers in Eagles system…

There were some amazing individual performances on Monday as the D-Line guys and the linebackers hit the field for drills… I’m not sure I saw an instant impact prospect that would immediately jump-start the Eagles 4-3 Defense (it’s tough for a rookie linebacker to jump right into a 4-3, maybe less so for a D-lineman)…

But I’m still shaking my head in humble awe of some of the individual performers…

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis, saw his share value rise the highest of all the D-line guys….

Poe had already established himself as the strongest man of the combine Sunday when he posted 44 bench press reps. Then on Monday, when D-linemen hit the field to work out at Lucas Oil Stadium, Poe turned some heads with an unreal unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.87 seconds.

His official time turned out to be 4.98. Still, the man weighs 346 pounds… He’s not supposed to be able to outrun guys who are 100 pounds lighter.

Poe’s time is right on par with that of Ndamukong Suh, who was a similar stand-out two years ago at the combine before the Lions drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick. Poe wasn’t expected to be the first defensive tackle taken in the draft before the combine. But after that 40 time and a strong showing in drills, he’s definitely given Eagles personnel management something to think about.

How did Luke Kuechly do in the LB event rankings? Overall he posted solid numbers…but still the nagging doubt remains if he really can take charge of the middle in a 4-3 Eagles defense…

I kept my eye on Luke since he is still showing up on the first round ballots of a lot of mock drafters… Here’s his cumulative event numbers:
40-yard dash….   4.58 seconds
bench press…..   27 reps
vertical jump…..   38 inches
broad jump……..123 inches (10 feet, 3 inches)
3-cone drill………6.92 seconds
20-yard shuttle…4.12 seconds
60-yard shuttle…11.43 seconds

By the way, Luke’s measurements came out at 6-3 in height, 31-inch arm length, 242 pounds weight, and 9.75-inch hand size.

So Luke wasn’t the fastest or the strongest LB out there, but he had a nice combination showing. I can see how many pro analysts come out of this week convinced that Kuechly is more of an athlete than given credit for. A tackling and QB-disruptive machine throughout his college career, Kuechly is widely thought to have all the tools to be an immediate starter in the NFL and shore up the middle of an entire defense. The major knock on Kuechly is that he had a lot of “inflated” tackle production throughout his career, the idea being that he is indeed a superb tackler but most of those tackles came 5 to 8 yards downfield in pursuit. He didn’t get up into the line of scrimmage to make powerful, impactful plays much, and won’t be relied upon as a pass rusher at the next level and is strictly a tackling, sideline-to-sideline backer.

I’ll put up some more comparative numbers for the top DL and LB performers at the end of this day. But first, I found it amusing to have stumbled upon this little quote from Wes Welker only hours after I had genuinely mused to Jerky and Boner and Spiffo in the Comments section here that “somewhere out there is a guy who’s eating his heart out because he wasn’t invited to the Combine…and he will become a great player, but right now he’s the only one who knows it…”

Sure enough I run into this little gem by Dan Hanzus of NFL.com: “Welker, once snubbed by Combine, now calls it “a waste of time”…

“First day of watching the combine. What a waste of time! Just watch the film.”—so tweeted Wes Welker to Mike Mayock during the NFLN broadcast on Monday.

The NFL Network shouldn’t take this personally, as Dan Hanzus points out. Surely, Wes is referring to the idea of the combine, an event he wasn’t invited to after graduating from Texas Tech in 2004. Welker has earned the right to make such a critique. The receiver is edging into Hall of Fame territory, despite going undrafted and unnoticed before catching on with the Chargers as a special teams player. He’s averaged 111 catches during his five seasons with the Patriots, proving definitively you don’t need to shine in the combine or have extraordinary measurables to become a star.

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Here are some more updates on the top performers for D-Line and Linebackers on Monday:

Monday’s workouts at the NFL Combine showcased defensive linemen and linebackers. The two position groups showed off an impressive combination of size and speed, highlighted by West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin and Arkansas State’s Demario Davis. 

Monday was when the meat-and-potatoes players on defense showcase their abilities. The linebackers and defensive linemen hit the field in Indianapolis and for some of the biggest and strongest players available in the draft, there was no lack of impressive athleticism and talent.

With the Eagles facing two decisions on their defensive line in Juqua Parker and Brandon Graham, defensive end could be a position for the Eagles to consider in the 2nd round. However, the talent is deep and many teams are looking for strong pass rushers, so some of the top talent won’t be available for Philly with their first pick in the second round.

Vinny Curry from Marshall built a reputation heading into the Combine as one of the best pass rushers in the nation, but some of his performances on Monday left scouts wondering a little. His 4.85 “40” time was disappointing to most, and many describe his positional workouts as lacking. He’s listed as a second-round prospect and his Combine performance could cause him to slide down the second round some. His game film shows a disruptive player that has produced in game-time reality, so hard decisions will have to be made on him. One notable workout for Curry from Monday was his three-cone drill… He finished in the top-five with a 6.90, showing some of his explosive change-of-direction ability.

Bruce Irvin from West Virginia wowed everyone in attendance on Monday with his complete workout. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound outside linebacker/defensive end blazed a 4.43 40 on his second run after posting a 4.5 in his first. His three-cone and shuttle drill times were tops in his category and his vertical and broad jump distances were in the top-10. Scouts saw explosion and burst and were pleased with how he handled himself in linebacker drills as well. He’s an intriguing prospect with a potential future as a situational pass rusher with immediacy, but may have a learning curve.

Nebraska’s Jared Crick struggled with injuries during his senior season and some of that may have been lingering on Monday. Scouts weren’t pleased with his fluidity, he looked stiff in positional drills and his 4.94 “40” wasn’t particularly impressive. Additionally, some are concerned about what they believe are shorter-than-normal arms for a defensive end. Crick has some versatility in his game though. Many believe he can be a defensive end in both a 4-3 or 3-4 system.

A middle-round linebacker is never a bad idea for depth and special teams consideration with the hopes of developing him into a potential starter. While the Eagles appear only mildly satisfactory at linebacker, a player that fits the profile for Philly is California’s Mychal Kendricks. His 4.47 “40” was tops among the linebackers, and his production and urgency on the field of play is encouraging for his future. He’s considered a little undersized at 5-foot-11, 239 pounds, but has been relatively durable. He’s also got experience playing inside and outside at linebacker.

A small-school player that impressed on Monday was Arkansas State linebacker Demario Davis. He’s projected as a late-round pick, but that may begin to improve. His “40” time was 4.61, good for fourth among linebackers, and his vertical and broad jumps were second among the position. He’s well-built at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and plays with an explosive style and nastiness. Many believe he’s versatile enough for the inside or the outside at linebacker and might be one of the biggest sleepers at the position in the draft.

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.