Scout Sightings: Washington at USC

An important PAC Ten battle from the LA Coliseum took place Saturday and half a dozen NFL teams were present. Here's a first hand account of how the players on the field did and what the scouts in the press box were watching.  

Hands down the top draft eligible players in this game were a pair of USC juniors.

Sam Baker is more impressive by the minute.  His run blocking has significantly improved and right now he is neck-and-neck with Wisconsin's Joe Thomas atop the offensive tackle chart.

Outside linebacker Keith Rivers also looks outstanding and is destined for the first round if he enters the draft.  In post-game interviews we did not get a feeling either way as to what Rivers future intentions are.

There is real concern about the lack of productivity from defensive end Lawrence Jackson.  It has been a topic of conversation and Jackson did not get a sniff of the quarterback at any time during the game. He actually looked very good when dropped into space and was asked to play in coverage on zone blitzes.

The progression of Isaiah Stanback at the quarterback is obvious.  His patience in the is pocket increasing five-fold and Stanback makes a lot of solid decisions, never forcing his throws.  He needs to improve his timing and pass placement

Another impressive player on the Washington offense is wide out Sonny Shackelford.  A reliable receiver with consistent hands, Shackelford continually gets separation from defenders and makes  important grabs throughout the game.  Lacking top size/speed numbers he is a late round pick who projects as a fifth wide out at the next level.

Here were the teams present and their player interests.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  Lawrence Jackson was their primary target as the junior has the athleticism the Steelers like in front seven players.  And while they had to be disappointed in his lack of productivity, the ability to drop in space, as mentioned above, impressed the scout on hand.  Trojan receiver Steve Smith was also a player they liked.  He'd fit in as a fourth receiver and looks to have some punt return abilities in him.  Finally the team also liked Isaiah Stanback. Offering a much better arm and upside then Brian St. Pierre who sits third on the depth chart, Stanback's athleticism is intriguing as he can be used to carry the ball or perhaps catch it in certain circumstances.

Washington Redskins: We spoke briefly with the Redskins scout on Saturday as he rarely moved the binoculars from his eyes whenever the USC offense was on the field.  The object of their interest?  Center Ryan Kalil, who looked very impressive.  Kalil would offer an upgrade over present starter Casey Rabach, who is signed through 2010, and would be a solid pick for the team in round three or four.  The defense also needs an end and Lawrence Jackson was carefully inspected most of the day.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboy scout on hand stayed through the entire game.  The team was incredibly impressed and interested in junior Sam Baker.  While they hoped to Dwayne Jarrett would see extensive action (he didn't because of a shoulder injury) they did like Steve Smith and Sonny Shackelford.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals were interested in just about every offensive lineman who took the field.  It was easy to see they really liked Kalil and Baker.  Another player they liked was Washington defensive back Dashon Goldson, who was used at both safety and in man-situations during nickel coverage.  A late round/free agent talent, Goldson would be a good fit for the Cardinals nickel/dime packages.

Atlanta Falcons:  The Falcons scout left at halftime but he had seen enough of Sam Baker, the player the team targeted.  

New Orleans Saints: The Saints had one of their more experienced scouts on hand and he was taking copious notes on every linebacker in attendance.  Obviously the team was impressed with Keith Rivers yet also took a liking to Husky Scott White, an undersized yet explosive weak side player.  The Saints were another team impressed with Stanback as the squad must bring in a young arm to develop behind Drew Brees.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals were interested in two Trojan linebackers, Oscar Lua and Dallas Startz to add depth with the pending suspension/release of Odell Thurman.  Startz lined-up at both middle and on the outside while Lua is now a part-time player.  Both will be free agents.

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