Here are some of the things from my notebook here Tuesday in Oxnard.
• It's the first day of pads for the squad, the day that the players dread, coaches love, and scouts hold their breath. Things to look for today, more one-on-one types of drills. Receivers will be working against the corners, tight ends against the linebackers and offensive and defensive line in the pass rush drills. The lines along with the backs and linebackers will be involved in a 9-on-7 drill that will focuses on nothing but running the ball.
The last two practices, we have seen the squad work on blitz and blitz pickup but it will have much more of a physical tone to it since the pads have been put on. The key to the practice today and throughout camp when they are in full pads, will be how these players take care of each other while they work. No unnecessary cheap shots on the receivers or backs and the offensive linemen staying off the ground or off the legs of the defensive line.
• If you have followed my work closely, you have grown accustom to me talking about these rookie players on defense like J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Magee and Taylor Reed. The reason I bring these names up once again is that I have waited for this day when the squad went to full pads because I believe this is where you will see these guys shine.
I am especially excited about seeing Magee because I have felt like the athletic stuff in shorts and jerseys was really not the strength of his game. It was his ability to run to the ball and deliver a blow in space where he grabs your attention. Wilcox and Taylor have those similar types of traits, that run-hit factor, that gives you an understanding of why they can play in this scheme. I have a strong feeling that these players will be in on several plays today.
• The running backs have done a nice job in these first two days of practice finding lanes and cracks to run the ball through but with the pads on today, you will see those lanes close quickly. In jerseys and helmets, you see defenders working to get to the ball but also protecting themselves, in full pads, there will be more trash, more collisions and more physical play at the point of attack with linemen trying to finish blocks but the defense trying to fight those blocks.
Finding clean lanes will not be easy and there will be times where they must make lanes on their own. You will also see these backs have to take on blitzers and attempt to hold their ground without getting knocked into the quarterback. No matter what type of offense you run, if you don't have backs that are physical running the ball and cannot handle blitz pickup at the point, they are of no use to you. Full pads in these situations will separate who plays and who is inactive every week or looking for another job.
• Since Monte Kiffin took this job in January as the defensive coordinator, all we have talked about is how it will be scheme change for several different players on this defense. For the defensive linemen and linebackers, there are changes in alignments and fits but the group that will see the biggest change in how they play are the cornerbacks. [embedded_ad]
This scheme requires the corners to take a more physical or active role at the point of attack. Their job is to step up and work to either make that tackle in space or force the ball back inside. Soft corners can't play in this scheme. You have to be able to set the edge and keep big gains to little ones. The corners that have had success in this scheme have always had the trait of toughness to their games. This will be a big change technique wise for Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne but a necessary one. As the full pads are now part of the practice routine, we need to keep an eye on how they make those adjusts and their games do take a physical turn on the edge.