Getting defensive at the combine

After two-and-a-half days of blockers, ball carriers, pass catchers and signal callers the combine got a little defensive today. The men in the defensive trenches took to the RCA Dome late this morning to showcase their talents for perspective employers.

Whenever the defensive linemen workout at the combine, scouts always take notice but today was all the more important.

Consider the fact that more and more NFL teams plan on switching to a 3-4 defense next season and the margin for error is very slim when making a choice this April on a prospect up front.

To compensate for this, 17 "undersized" collegiate defensive ends were slated to go through a battery of linebacker drills at the end of today's session. Previously the number asked to stay for the extra work averaged around four.

What is the purpose of this?

To see if the prospects had the necessary talents to stand up over tackle and make plays going backwards as well as forwards.

These were not second-tier prospects either, as first-round locks David Pollack of Georgia and Erasmus James from Wisconsin were required to backpedal into pass coverage and prove they could intercept the football.

James' Badger teammate, Jonathan Welsh, came away with the finest effort. He not only has the speed to make the transition (his 40-yard times ranged anywhere from a 4.53 to a 4.60), but displayed an excellent feel for his new position.

The Buzz is getting louder

More then a month ago at the Senior Bowl, Florida State's prodigal son, quarterback Adrian McPherson, was shuffled around practice by his representatives.

The exercise was to acquaint himself with the NFL scouts and coaches on hand in Mobile. Once again this was practiced during Super Bowl week as agent-to-the-quarterbacks Leigh Steinberg took his prized client to all the major events.

The gifted passer, who was last seen tossing footballs for the Indiana Firebirds of the Arena League, was required by the league to go through the draft process after several teams tried to sign him as a free agent.

All along scouts were impressed by McPherson's candidness and the buzz started to swirl.

On Sunday it was taken to another level as the strong-armed passer took to the field for his turn at the combine. He did not disappoint, as McPherson was the best quarterback in the RCA Dome. His throws were on the money and scouts were again impressed.

McPherson's performance moved him into the draft's first day. When he returns to Tallahassee on March 15 for a pro day workout, another good result could push him into the second round.

Lion under wraps

It seems one part of the NFL season melts into the next. Just as the combine ends the free agency period begins.

One free agent now off the market is Detroit Lion offensive lineman Dominic Raiola.

Raiola's agent, Ken Zuckerman, worked into the wee hours of Sunday morning hammering out a five-year, $17.5 million deal with the club.

"Dominic wants to raise his family in Detroit," Zuckerman said. "The deal is good for both sides."

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