1) Coaching tips pay off. Lions assistant head coach/running backs Duce Staley apparently didn’t see enough of the aforementioned Jermaine Johnson in one-on-one pass rush drills in the late afternoon practice on Tuesday, so he asked for a little more at the end of the day.
And Staley, who is the acting head coach of the American squad this week, got quite an eyeful.
Johnson, hand-picked by Staley for three reps against Kentucky offensive lineman Darian Kinnard to close out practice, positively mauled Kinnard on his first rep.
“That was a speed to power,” Johnson said of his approach for the rep. “I got his hips turned and I put his ass on the ground.”
Kinnard came back to win a rep of his own against Johnson, absorbing a spin move and anchoring to beat Johnson’s final attempt, but onlooking players went wild over Johnson’s initial win, and a gaggle of scouts and coaches were certainly left with the impression Johnson wanted.
Johnson was impressive throughout Tuesday’s practice, but the performance required a bit of an attitude adjustment early on.
“My first rep wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t take to the coaching at first and I went out there with my own plan,” Johnson said. “Then I said, ‘You know what? Let me take coach’s point.’ And then practice went good ever since.”
That coach was Lions assistant Kelvin Sheppard, who is working with the American team pass rushers this week. The former LSU star and eight-year NFL veteran, chosen by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, struck an obvious chord with players with energetic, impassioned instruction on Tuesday. He was in every player’s ear during individual drills, never short for a pointer between reps.
“He used to play the (pro) game, so we linked immediately,” Johnson said. “I’ve taken to him. I’m taking what he says seriously and I’m trying to apply it.”
2) Playing at home. The Senior Bowl experience means a lot to many players, but perhaps none more than Roger McCreary. The Auburn cornerback, NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 45 prospect in the draft, grew up in Mobile and attended, by his estimation, four or five Senior Bowls as a kid. He used to hang around the tunnel at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the event’s former venue, and catch gloves or towels that players would toss into the stands as they walked off the practice field.
“I lived here my whole life. I lived five minutes from the stadium,” he said on Tuesday. “I used to brag on all the stuff I’d get off the players, and now I’m playing in it myself — …….