During Tuesday's practice session, there were quite a few plays that really stood out as I wandered around Ladd-Peebles Stadium checking out the sights and sounds of the afternoon.
My top picks of the day came on successive snaps when Alabama's D.J. Hall ran a smooth slant with Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie attempting to close the distance between the two. Hall snatched the pass from Tennessee QB Erik Ainge greedily, and made a nice move upfield after the catch.
Then on the next play, Rodgers-Cromartie dropped back in coverage and made a leaping grab of the next pass attempt, a sailing ball that landed about 25 yards downfield, less than five yards short of the intended receiver. What was particularly impressive about the cornerback's theft of the ball was his body control as he went up in the air and then tilted his upper body to grab the ball out of its natural arc as it was descending to the intended receiver. The awkward position and the weight of the ball was enough to force Rodgers-Cromartie to the ground, but you could clearly hear one of the coaches shout, "Nice pick!"
During the practice session offensive guard Heath Benedict out of tiny Newberry College — a school with roughly 800 students — drew the interest of the Philadelphia Eagles. Redshirted at the University of Tennessee in 2002 due to injury, Benedict transferred to Newberry after some academic challenges as well, and in 2004 provided their offensive line with an immediate boost. His raw power and his huge frame are impressive. And he's a bit of a raw talent who appears to have a significant upside with the right coaching.
After practice, team officials flooded the field along with the media. As I interviewed a few players, a number of team-player interviews caught my eye:
- The Redskins were very busy, talking with Texas WR Limas Sweed and Kentucky RB Rafael Little. Meanwhile, they had South Florida linebacker Ben Moffitt jot down a few notes for them while visiting with him. They also chatted with a pair of offensive linemen — Wake Forest's Steve Justice and Texas A&M's Cody Wallace. But arguably the most interesting meeting was with Erik Ainge. The Tennessee quarterback would certainly be an upgrade to their depth chart behind Jason Campbell. And he's a player who should be able to compete for a starter's role within his first three years in the league.
- One Browns official was visibly upbeat and clearly impressed with Florida WR Andre Caldwell. Watch for my interview with Caldwell that will be published by Wednesday evening at Scout.com.
Georgia Tech DE Darrell Robertson
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
- Both the Browns and the Chargers spent some time with Georgia Tech DE Darrell Robertson. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound lineman also took some reps during linebacker drills and is well-suited for that position in a 3-4 defense.
- The Redskins weren't the only team chatting with Tennessee QB Erik Ainge after practice. Kansas City, a team desperately in need of some quarterback talent, also spent time with him.
- The Vikings used a post-practice talk with linebacker Gary Guyton to set up a meeting with him later in the evening. Guyton was very upbeat and looks to be in terrific physical shape for this weekend's all-star matchup. He told me about his Senior Bowl experience to date, and what he hopes to accomplish this week in front of pro scouts, during an interview that will be released at Scout.com on Wednesday.
- The Ravens were also very active with the South team, talking to LSU running back Jacob Hester and Alabama DE Wallace Gilberry. Gilberry is another prospect who is seeing some work with the linebackers and has the right frame and skill set to play in the 3-4 rather than as a down-lineman at the pro level. Baltimore also interviewed LSU linebacker Ali Highsmith and free safety Quintin Demps out of UTEP.
- Denver checked out Louisville WR Harry Douglas, who is showing off his good hands in Mobile. While he's drawn some criticism for his route-running this week, he could certainly improve on that with some good coaching at the next level.