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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rookie Minicamp Rules?

These new rules are bizarre.  That only your pickups from draft weekend, and a select group of inexperienced practice squadders (I’m assuming, based on Jonathan Nelson getting in), will practice along with a very large pool of ‘workout’ players for a shot at the extra ten spots that might be available on the roster (you can go to camp with 90 players, another way of making sure no  one takes too many hits, I guess).
So, since Carolina didn’t draft or pickup any QBs (which, I would’ve picked up a kid from the undrafteds but not before – it’s unlikely you do trade Jimmy Clausen at this point, but if you do have the chance?  Do it – which means you at least need a 3rd guy on the roster who knows your O for the year), they had to pickup a couple guys who could.  Along with that, they dropped in 35 players who don’t have a contract at all for tryouts. 
So you have Luke Kuechly, probably the nation’s best college linebacker last year, along with at least 3 other guys they had rated at a 3rd round or better (assuming Adams, maybe Norman), running around out there versus guys who weren’t good enough to be put on an 80 man roster (most teams are keeping that final 10 for tryouts).  It’ll be nice seeing some of these guys against NFL guys, because there aren’t that many out there in rookie minicamps.  It shouldn’t be difficult to stand out when you’re facing guys who haven’t made a roster in a while, if at all.
It’s nice to see Schuyler Oordt in camp.   I was very high on Oordt, a guy I barely saw a few plays of, out of Northern Iowa.  His numbers were all that intrigued me – he came from a very simple offense where he barely got any targets, but he was the team’s second leading receiver. 
So what’s the big deal?  At 6’7, he’d be one of the league’s tallest players.  A 248 lb TE, Oordt adds 33 ½ inch arms to the package and a 4.67 40. Sounds great doesn’t it?  On paper, that’s ideal.  He was a guy I’d have drafted, probably as high as the 6th, last year.  He would seem to make sense in this league, where a tight end’s as valuable boxing out smaller guys as he is doing anything else – so many former power forwards are good at it now.   And Oordt’s physical stature makes sense there as well.
More or less, a TE is an anomaly, having gone from a very standard weapon to one of the few positions on the field that doesn’t have a matchup on the field.  Specialization has created corners that match up with WRs, naturally. Safeties have become a matchup on WRs and backs.  There’s not often anyone as tall as a TE in coverage, and most LBs have the size but it’s tough to keep up.   Add to that the easiest pass play in the book – the curl/hook, one of the few where you can face the QB and stand still for the pass – is something a box-out TE can take advantage of, that none of the other positions can.  If you’re in front of a LB, it’s just a jump and catch situation.
So why doesn’t a guy like this succeed? 
It’s a year in, so it’s not too late to succeed.  But I don’t know that Oordt will.  For one, he’s been with a couple of teams already.  Two, he’s lacking a lot of experience, and Northern Iowa isn’t a  first class program.   He’s not developed that well, in that he can and needs to get a lot stronger for his frame to use it properly. It’s clear he’s not quite the guy I thought he was, and while it’s nice to see him in camp, it’s not the way I’d have expected and I don’t have high hopes.
From a blocking standpoint, 6’7 is a lot to get low.  If you can’t block at WR, you’re a limited capability player, impacting on 10 plays instead of 60.   So a TE that can’t block really needs to be fantastic at receiving.  Take Gary Barnidge, a similarly built player, who couldn’t play in John Fox’s system.  He flourished in a way in preseason, looking like an NFL player finally, before becoming injured.   And that’s with more experience, at a major school, and honestly more talent.
I’m rooting for Oordt to be a longshot, to impress enough in rookie minicamp to make it to training camp, with a couple catches from Derek Anderson or Jimmy Clausen doing enough to get him on the practice squad, to develop.  
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