MOBILE, Ala. — Colts.com is in Mobile, Ala., this week for the 2020 Senior Bowl. What were some top takeaways from Tuesday's first day of practices?
» The South Team, which is being coached this week by the Cincinnati Bengals' staff, was first to hit the field for Day 1 of 2020 Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The very first observation: it was an unseasonably cold and breezy — altbeit sunny — day, with temperatures in the low-40s. Mobile isn't usually tropical at this time of year by any means, but it was a bit of a factor out there today.
» Another factor, for both teams: these NFL staffs are throwing as much as they can at the players and seeing what sticks. Tuesday was obviously the first opportunity to get out on the field and put a practice plan into action, and there were plenty of cobwebs being shaken out throughout the afternoon, whether in the form of multiple false start/offsides penalties or various communication issues. That's typically the norm for every first Senior Bowl practice, and then Wednesday's sessions tend to be much cleaner.
» The South team definitely has some size and strength up front on the defensive side of the ball, particularly with South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and Auburn's Marlon Davison, who looks much larger than his listed height and weight of 6-foot-3, 278 pounds. Kinlaw, in particular, shined during a few one-on-one drills, as he used his long arms and quickness to get by the offensive linemen in front of him with relative ease.
» Despite being the very first day of practice, the South team quarterbacks were able to find almost immediate connections with their wide receivers during early one-on-one drills against the defensive backs. Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, Oregon's Justin Herbert and Colorado's Steven Montez all had some well-placed passes during this portion of practice.
» Pittsburgh cornerback Dane Jackson definitely showed off some top-notch technique and competitiveness during those aforementioned WR-DB drills. Jackson was aggressive without being too grabby, and forced multiple incompletions. He did get crossed up bad on one rep against Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson, but that'll happen from time to time when it's talent-on-talent.
» Speaking of Johnson: he's a big dude. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Johnson had several quality reps, whether it was the aforementioned shaking of Jackson, or getting separation later during 11-on-11s and hauling in a first down from Herbert.
» OK, let's get to the quarterback play. With Colts head coach Frank Reich watching from the sidelines, it was Herbert that seemed to win the day for the South QBs. Herbert's arm strength has never been in question, and he certainly showed that off on Tuesday, but he definitely seemed to be the most vocal and expressive of the three South quarterbacks. Herbert had indicated teams wanted to see more of his leadership ability, which was on full display on the first day of practices.
» Hurts and Montez, meanwhile, battled through bouts of inconsistency on Tuesday, meanwhile, as the accuracy just wasn't there; both seemed to struggle at times getting on the same page with their new receivers. It'll be interesting to see how both guys will respond after watching the film and getting back after it on Wednesday.
» Colts general manager Chris Ballard always touts the Senior Bowl's ability to provide an "apples-to-apples" evaluation for prospects, no matter where they come from. Case in point: Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor. Vildor had two interceptions on the day, Tuesday including one solid play where he tracked down a deep attempt by Montez; he also picked off a Hurts pass during 7-on-7s.
» Harrison Bryant was an absolute monster at the tight end position on Tuesday. The Florida Atlantic product simply couldn't be contained during 1-on-1 drills, and showed off his versatility by remaining productive wherever he was lined up. Stock up.
» The North Team is being coached this year by the Detroit Lions' staff. It's always interesting each year to see the stark differences in practice routines by the two Senior Bowl coaching staffs; on Tuesday, the Bengals came out with what I would consider a pretty traditional practice setup, with stretching followed by individual and positional drills, followed by 7-on-7s, followed by 11-on-11s. The South Team, however, was all over the place; we were seeing 11-on-11s — mostly handoff plays — to start the session before the team stretch period even began.
» Last year, Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin stole the show throughout the week at the Senior Bowl practices, and was able to ride that wave into the NFL Draft, where he was a third-round pick by the Washington Redskins. On Tuesday, another Ohio State wide receiver was sensational in K.J. Hill. Hill showed off an array of route-running skills and techniques to get wide open during multiple one-on-one reps. The question now is, like McLaurin, can Hill keep it going across multiple days of practice?
» Sticking with the Buckeyes, Ohio State defensive lineman Davon Hamilton had a solid day up front, even drawing praise in the middle of one-on-one drills from Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Hamilton exploded from the interior in 2019 with 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
» On the quarterback front, Utah State's Jordan Love was far and away the North Team's top talent, ahead of Michigan's Shea Patterson and Washington State's Anthony Gordon. While Love doesn't have the size of, say, Herbert, he showed Tuesday that his arm talent might be just as good — if not better. From here, just like Herbert, Love hopes to show better consistency throughout the week after a solid start on Tuesday.
» Jason Strowbridge might be a raw pass rusher, but I can see the North Carolina product being irresistible to some teams early in the draft if he can replicate his first day of practice on Tuesday. He showed off plenty of strength, particularly in one-on-one drills, but perhaps what's most impressive: at 267 pounds, Strowbridge got by opposing offensive linemen whether lined up at nose, at the three-technique or off the edge. He's "slippery," as they say, and is definitely someone to watch the rest of the week.
» Sticking to the defensive line, Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore is by far the most polished product up front for the North Team. He just looks the part. At 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, he has the type of size and athleticism that, say, a team like the Colts could be looking for at the all-important three-technique position.
» Washington center Nick Harris is listed at 6-foot-1, which certainly isn't tall by NFL offensive linemen standards, but what he lacks in overall size he definitely makes up for in grit and fight. I don't blame opposing interior defensive linemen for trying to overpower Harris, but on Tuesday, he was having none of it, even almost sending one much-larger defender airborne during one rep. Football often comes down to leverage, and Harris seems to have a solid feel for his.