At the Senior Bowl, the defense got the better of the offense every day at practice. This trend carried over into the game, as the offenses scored a total of only 30 points. The defensive linemen on both teams dominated the offensive lines. There were multiple players on the Senior Bowl defense that significantly helped their draft stock.
This article will cover the best players at each position on defense at the Senior Bowl. It is broken up into more detailed positions to allow for more players. For example, the defensive line is structured according to the players’ technique or alignment (0T, 1T, 3T, etc.). For more detailed reports from every day of practice, check out our articles from Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
NT (0-2iT): Travis Jones, Neil Farrell
I wish I could break out the defensive line into even more positions. There were so many excellent players in the trenches for the Senior Bowl defense. None was more impressive than Travis Jones from Connecticut. The 6’4” 326-pound nose tackle dominated every player across from him; he even got the better of Zion Johnson a few times.
Neil Farrell also had a very solid week playing between the guards and is versatile enough to play further outside if necessary.
DT (2T-4iT): Perrion Winfrey, Devonte Wyatt
It would be nearly impossible to find two players at the same position who were better for the Senior Bowl defense than Perrion Winfrey and Devonte Wyatt. Winfrey embarrassed several offensive linemen multiple times in practice. He capped off the week by winning MVP for the Senior Bowl defense in the game.
If not for Winfrey, Wyatt might have been the best player in Mobile. Wyatt was incredibly consistent in practice, getting in the backfield against the run and the pass.
DE (4T-6T): Jermaine Johnson, Logan Hall
After one day of practice, it was abundantly clear that Jermaine Johnson was the best player on the field in Mobile. He was completely unstoppable and frankly didn’t even need to keep playing after the second day.
Logan Hall was not as dominant, but he made tons of splash plays. He’s positionally versatile and probably fits best as a 4-3 defensive end on the strong-side where he can one-gap or two-gap. Hall doesn’t have the production or athleticism of former Houston Cougar, Senior Bowl alum, and first-round pick Payton Turner, but he’s a very intriguing prospect.
OLB: (7T-9T): Kingsley Enagbare, Boye Mafe
Kinsgley Enagbare entered this week needing to show he could effectively defend the run and hold up against bigger offensive linemen. He did exactly that, usually playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker, while also showing his excellent pass-rushing ability.
Speaking of which, no pass rusher had a better game than Boye Mafe, who had multiple sacks and forced a fumble. Mafe struggled the first day of practice but everything seemingly clicked on the second day of practice. He displayed great explosiveness and bend off the edge.
SAM (on-ball): Jesse Luketa, DeAngelo Malone
These two players had some major question marks entering this week. Jesse Luketa spent most of his time with Penn State as an off-ball linebacker. In his final year, he moved into an on-ball role, more like an edge rusher. He bulked up for this game, adding nearly 20 pounds, but did not show any signs of slowing down. He put multiple offensive linemen on their backs and made several big plays in the game.
DeAngelo Malone needed to show he could hold up against the run as a lighter edge player (6’4”, 245 lbs). He played well in college, but it was not against the highest level of competition. Malone did just that, using his length to reach and control offensive linemen. He had an awesome week as a pass rusher, too, eliminating most of the questions surrounding him.
MIKE/ILB: Troy Andersen, Damone Clark, Darrian Beavers
It was difficult for the linebackers to stand out in Mobile for the Senior Bowl defense. They operated at a major disadvantage during the one-on-one drills for pass coverage. Troy Andersen experienced the fewest issues, routinely sticking with his man in coverage, relying on outstanding speed and athletic ability.
Damone Clark was solid across the board in all aspects of the game.
Darrian Beavers had some issues with staying with running backs in one-on-one drills, but looked much better against the run. Beavers can also be a three-down linebacker, as he can rush the passer.
WILL/OLB (off-ball): D’Marco Jackson, Brian Asamoah, Tariq Carpenter
The smaller run-and-chase linebackers looked a little better for the Senior bowl defense. D’Marco Jackson was the most impressive, displaying great range and pursuit; he also took over playcalling at various points in practice.
Brian Asamoah was a relative unknown going into the game, but he showed rare speed and athleticism that should help his stock, regardless of his inexperience and over-aggressiveness.
Finally, Tariq Carpenter was a late addition to the Senior Bowl defense, but looked like he belonged. Carpenter played safety at Georgia Tech but will most likely move to linebacker in the NFL, and he looked very solid at defending the run between the tackles.
CB: Coby Bryant (field corner), Tariq Woolen (boundary corner), Joshua Williams (BC), Tariq Castro-Fields (FC)
The defensive backs, especially the cornerbacks, were not put in great positions to succeed this week. The coaching staffs installed very vanilla schemes, ones especially meant to make life easy for the offense. Nevertheless, a few players on the Senior Bowl defense stood out above the rest. Coby Bryant, the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner, was probably the most consistent corner throughout the week, displaying physicality and good discipline in coverage.
Tariq Woolen appeared on many people’s watchlists in the pre-Senior Bowl process as a very intriguing athlete. Woolen did not disappoint, showing unique fluidity for a corner with his length, along with elite speed.
Joshua Williams comes from Division II’s Fayetteville State, but he looked like he belong as another long, press-type corner. He still needs some technical development but his raw traits are enough to bet on.
Finally, Tariq Castro-Fields displayed excellent man coverage skills, rarely allowing any separation by his receiver. That being said, he got a little grabby sometimes, which is something to monitor.
Slot: Roger McCreary, Jalen Pitre
Despite these players measuring in on the smaller side, they made numerous plays on defense at the Senior Bowl. Roger McCreary rang some alarm bells with sub-30-inch arms, but he continued to succeed in press-man and even displayed some ability to play zone.
Whereas McCreary spent the vast majority of his career outside, Jalen Pitre came in with extensive experience in the slot. He still measured in a few inches below his listing. However, like McCreary, Pitre continued to make plays just like he did in college, displaying a rare affinity for getting to the ball and delivering hard hits.
FS: Kerby Joseph, Tycen Anderson
The safeties were somewhat difficult to evaluate, especially the ones playing free, as both teams stuck with very basic (almost exclusively single-high) coverage shells. But Kerby Joseph capitalized on an excellent 2021 season by displaying his ball skills throughout the week in practice.
Tycen Anderson is one of several defensive backs who played multiple positions during the week in practice. He mostly played in the slot in college, but displayed great acumen playing deep.
SS: Leon O’Neal, Cam Taylor-Britt
Of all the positions on defense for the Senior Bowl, no other pair has two of my personal favorite prospects like strong safety. Leon O’Neal remains a major sleeper in this draft class, despite making multiple plays in practice and the game.
The other player is a convert from cornerback who can play any position in the secondary. Cam Taylor-Britt is a phenomenal athlete who played inside and outside corner, along with both safety spots. He even returned to practice and the game after chipping his tooth and getting it pulled after practice.
K: Cameron Dicker | P: Jordan Stout
I’ll keep it short for the specialists. These players displayed much greater power and consistency than their counterparts (Andrew Mevis, Iowa State; Jake Camarda, Georgia). Both can play all three kicking positions, with Dicker being the best placekicker and Stout being the better punter. Additionally, both were excellent as kickoff specialists, repeatedly booming kicks out of the end zone and even into the stands.
Finally, I couldn’t pick between Cal Adomitis and Jordan Silver for long snappers since: 1. I did not pay much attention to them, and 2. I do not know how to scout them.