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On The Field For Some Entertaining Drills

Posted by Matt Terl on June 4, 2009 – 2:47 pm

Well, I jinxed it just a little bit. On this dreary, overcast day — the last of this four-day batch of OTAs — Malcolm Kelly was noticeably limited in practice. Coach Zorn, however, does not feel jinxed, and he remains optimistic: “He’s been limited in these last couple days because of getting him right back into it,” he said after practice. “We want to be smart with what he is doing as well, but he will be practicing next week just the same as he did this week.”

I certainly hope so.

Zorn was also optimistic about where the team is, following this week of OTAs. “I think we are better than last year, or coming into last year,” he said. “There were a lot more question marks. I’ll give you an example, [Chad] Rinehart wasn’t ready to accept the full responsibility of what he is already accepting this time. We did move Jon Jansen on, so we do have a clearer picture of the competition at right tackle. We’ve got legitimate guys working at left tackle to back up Chris Samuels. We’ve got [Derrick] Dockery in there and he has kept pace with what we were doing last year with Pete Kendall. We are in better shape, no question.” So that was good to hear.

On the field today, though, the most interesting things to watch were two drills.

The first was the QB net drill. This is one of those things that never seems to get old for me. I suspect that’s because it’s so straightforward: QB drops back to pass, Coach Zorn shouts out which hole in the net the ball should go through, and either the throw is a success or a failure. Not much gray area there.

And the star of today’s QB net drill?
Not Jason Campbell. “Not my best day at it,” he said afterward. “Did, like, two-for-five or something.”

Not Colt Brennan. “I was okay, I guess,” he said.

Nope — the star today by a fairly wide margin was Todd Collins.

“I started off slow, but I warmed up by the end,” Collins told me. “I kinda found my rhythm. It’s a kind of unnatural thing, throwing to a stationary target like that. When you’re throwing to a receiver, usually moving, it’s kind of a feel thing. You’re looking at their numbers, where the defense is, those things. This isn’t like that.”

Collins has actually been looking strong this round of OTAs, throwing the ball harder than he was last year, and I told him so. “Last year, I was having kind of a problem with my shoulder. It was sore, and it kinda lasted all the way through the beginning of the season. This year, it’s in better shape and that’s not an issue anymore. So I feel like I’m getting more velocity on the ball.”

A second year in Zorn’s offense is also helping. “We learned our technique, so this year is a lot easier just from the get-go, espeically because last year was kinda all over the place. Learning a new language, new plays, and a whole new philosophy.”

The other entertaining drill was not part of a new philosophy.

It was a drill for prospective punt returners, fielding punts while already holding two footballs in their arms, and Antwaan Randle El knew it from way back. “Oh, man, I remember [special teams coach] Danny Smith working me out with that one when I was a prospect coming out of Indiana and he was coaching in, I think, Buffalo.”

This version of the drill differed from the more common one in two ways: first, it was constant at three total balls. “Usually, you catch it, you keep it,” El said. Second, the balls were actually punted (by Hunter Smith), not launched out of a Jugs machine. “It’s tough catching it when a punter’s punting it. With the Jugs machine, you know right where it’s gonna be,” El added. ” With a punter, could be short, could be long, could be anything.”

Enough of this overview stuff, though. Who were the best and worst at it?

“Who’s that young running back we have,” El asked.

Anthony Alridge?

“Yeah, Alridge. He was the worst at it. DeAngelo [Hall] was the best, for sure. He’s got big, long arms, and long hands.”

“Yeah, I’m a beast,” Hall joked, when I told him that Randle El had declared him the winner of the competition. “Nah, seriously, I remember when everybody saw Pacman [Dallas cornerback Adam Jones] catch six, we all tried to catch ’em. I could only do five. It’s not complicated, though.” (The Pacman thing is here, at about the 4:30 mark.)

Fair enough. And who did Hall think was the worst?

“Alridge,” he said. “No doubt. I think we just taught him how to catch punts about a week ago, though.”

So I told Alridge that he had pretty much unanimously — among the two guys I asked — been voted the roughest guy at the punt fielding drills. “Aw, I don’t think I was the roughest,” he said. Then he stopped for a second. ” Well, thinking about it, maybe I was. It was my first time, though.”

But you’d seen the drill before?

“Yeah, I saw Pacman doing it on TV. See, the thing is with Pacman, he’s got them long arms. Fact, the only reason D-Hall can do it is because he’s got them hockey mitts as hands.”

Santana Moss was passing as Alridge said this, and he shouted back over his shoulder, “Yeah, he does!”

“He’s got them Jordan hands,” Alridge finished, shaking his head. “Nah, but I’ll do better next time.”

And how was the week? Did the OTAs treat you well? “I’m feeling good,” he said. “It’s fun out there, man.”

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