Great time yesterday with all the guys. Real cool meeting Matt Daddy, JonathanPDX, DuckFanAndy, dannyoneill, hazmat, and anyone else I shook hands with. I had a great time watching the game, tailgating, and meeting players and coaches afterwards as they left.
But, as far as the Spring Game itself was concerned (and, let's be honest, that's an oxymoron if I've ever seen one), there are some notes on our team that I took.
- Quarterbacks: Nate Costa and Darron Thomas both ran the ball surprisingly well. Their reads were most often great. Passing wise, Darron Thomas was one botched flea flicker away from having a mediocre looking game statistically. And while that throw was on the money, I'd rather his throws on those drag routes over the middle and those bubble screens were on the money. He evidently has very good arm strength, but he sure didn't seem to be showing it yesterday. Many of his passes were very, very limp and hardly had a spiral to them. His quick screens were often very slow developing because of the ball being in the air for so long. Costa, however, came out gangbusters and put the ball in front of his receivers to give them a chance to make the play. He was checking down a lot, but his checkdowns were going for very good yardage. So I have no problem with it.
- Runningbacks: To be honest, this position was pretty anonymous during the game. LaMichael had a few less than significant carries behind a pretty unimpressive O-line before calling it a day. Kenjon Barner ran pretty well and especially was a threat receiving it and making the play on his own. For the first time yesterday, I really saw Barner as a Jeremiah Johnson type back. He really better get as much or more playing time this coming year, because he is one of the most exciting players we have.
- Fullbacks: Wait, what is this doing here?
- Receivers: The first-string receiving corps was actually alarmingly unimpressive. Too many drops on easy screens. Their blocking often wasn't that great either on the zone reads. Jeff Maehl had a crazy stiff arm on one play, and D.J. Davis showed surprisingly good wheels to outran the coverage on the flea flicker play, but other than that the expected starters receiving unit looked like they weren't very dialed in for the game. Some of the walk-ons looked good, especially in the second half. Justin Hoffman was a receiver that we've heard about recently that looked like he really, really wants into the game. And I like that.
- Tight Ends: From the eyeball test, Brandon Williams looks a lot like a barely skinnier Ed Dickson. David Paulson had some really good receptions and runs after the catch that I liked to see a lot. We all know what David Paulson does when given playing time. I think we will be fine at TE this year, and may see some step-uppage from Paulson or even Williams.
- O-line: This one is hard to gauge because of the draft into the game. The O-lines for both teams were consequently very fragmented and neither were complete first-string lines. The White Team line looked better to me as Costa was almost always getting more time than Thomas was. By the second half, with all the walk-on linemen in, Hawkins was on the run a lot of the time. So, there's really no point in grading the O-line in this game.
- D-line: While I didn't see him play much except for the play where he swatted that Costa ball near the goal line, from the sideline Kenny Rowe looks skinnier. If thinner equals faster, ¡Viva La Rowe! Brandon Bair got in the game a few times, and I have a feeling he will have another very good year this year, using his height as leverage to get hands in opposing QBs' vision. While many of you talked about how inconspicuous Will Tukuafu was last year, Tukuafu was drawing doubles a lot of the time. We will probably miss Tukuafu's presence over on that side of the line more than his highlights.
- Linebackers: Bo Lokombo was flying around, but every other of our starters and rotation-guy linebackers were pretty quiet. Well, maybe not quiet. They were subtle, I guess. Former linebacker Eddie Pleasant was found in on many plays early on in the game, but other than that it was a pretty docile day for our linebackers, who were probably as well going fairly easy on an exhibition game.
- Defensive backs: Terrance Mitchell, a newcomer, had a 46-yard pick six in the first drive off of a Darron Thomas misfire. A defensive lineman sprinted towards Thomas and avoided hitting the young quarterback for safety reasons, so the officials present for whatever reason didn't call it a sack. Avoiding the "sack", Thomas stepped up and threw into double coverage over the middle and was picked off by the very, very speedy Mitchell. He took it to the house, which was awesome for him, but I hope it doesn't mean that Thomas is going to be a kid who will try to fit the ball into two-inch target and get picked like that. The rest of the secondary seemed to be good at getting off the receivers' blocks fairly well. There were many times the bubble screens were foiled due to a man breaking a block. However, it's hard to tell whether that was poor blocking on the receivers' parts or just skill and drive by the defensive backs. Looking forward to seeing how well the young corners play this coming year with Eddie Pleasant playing Bruce Lee behind them in case they get burnt.
All in all, a fun time yesterday. Though the Spring Game means hardly anything in the long run, it gave us a fairly good look at what kind of passers and runners Costa and Thomas are, among other things. I have a feeling Costa will win the job, but Thomas is certainly not far behind him at the moment, and could jump Costa if he proves to be knowledgeable enough of the playbook and composed enough when reading and confronting blitzes.