Two college standouts with ties to the Inland Northwest have spent the last week in Mobile, Alabama, at the Reese’s Senior Bowl – considered to be one of the most important job interviews in the lead-up to the NFL draft.
Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon and California linebacker Evan Weaver, a Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep graduate, put themselves on the NFL’s radar and earned invitations to Saturday’s senior showcase at Ladd-Peebles Stadium with head-turning 2019 seasons.
Both were NCAA statistical leaders and record-setters in the Pac-12 last fall – Gordon’s 5,579 passing yards and Weaver’s 182 tackles both breaking single-season marks in the conference.
Those accolades will certainly be considered as the 32 NFL teams grade Gordon and Weaver over the next few months. But equally important is how they measure up against their peers from other conferences, how they perform at their respective college pro days and how they grade out at the NFL combine should they receive invites.
After compiling various reports from Mobile this week, here’s the skinny on how Gordon and Weaver fared at Senior Bowl practices this week.
Anthony Gordon, QB, WSU
Quarterback is obviously the most scrutinized position at every level, and that doesn’t change during Senior Bowl week. Gordon spent his week with the North team, coached by Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions, and he’s been trading reps with Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Utah State’s Jordan Love. Had he not declared early, Love would have been playing Gordon’s college teammates in the season opener at USU this fall.
When players were measured and weighed, Gordon checked in at 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds, making him the lightest QB in Mobile, and the shortest, next to 6-1 Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts. Gordon told “Bears Barroom” he’s been working with Dave Spitz at California Strength and indicated he plans to put on 10-15 pounds before the combine. “I know that’s a knock on me and I’m looking forward to putting on the weight and putting that question to rest,” he said.
“#Wazzu QB Anthony Gordon measures in at 6-2, 199. There will be talk about his weight – until he throws in practice. #SeniorBowl,” tweeted Matt Hayes, a senior college football writer for Bleacher Report.
Gordon’s short, snappy release sets him apart from most draft-eligible QBs, and perhaps the one thing he definitively does better than the other five at the Senior Bowl. Some observers took note of that on Day 1, but Gordon also had a few deep balls hang in the air too long on a bad-weather day in Mobile.
“Early in the practice, some of what has people excited about Gordon was on display: A freakishly quick release and some velocity in the short areas of the field,” wrote Mark Schofield of Pro Football Weekly. “Tuesday is just a baseline day, but Gordon struggled at times. It was windy and raw down at Ladd-Peebles, but on deeper throws during practice Gordon’s passes tended to hang in the air a bit longer.”
Schofield also noted Gordon’s tendency to stay “stoic” in the pocket and “keep his feet underneath him” – a contrast to ex-WSU position mate and now-Jacksonville Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew.
“That is a bit jarring to see from him, but again, the release is so quick that he can make it work in college,” Schofield wrote. “You do wonder a bit about the transition to the pro game. Gordon did have a very good throw on a curl route to Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool during the team part of the practice.”
Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports picked “winners” and “losers” from each of three practices, listing the group of North QBs as Day 1 losers before tossing out the important qualifier: “It’s Day 1. No one is freaking out.”
Of the WSU signal-caller, Edholm wrote, “(Gordon) had little velocity on his passes and his footwork looked a little off.”
Gordon seemed to draw better reviews on the second day, however, and CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson, who filed a report from each of the three practices, used this headline on Wednesday: “2020 Senior Bowl: Jordan Love continues to shine, keep an eye on Anthony Gordon, Shea Patterson struggles.”
“He has a sneaky-good arm, moves well in the pocket, and as he pointed out to us, despite just one year as a starter for the Cougars, his 689 attempts is the equivalent of several seasons for most other quarterbacks,” Wilson wrote.
“Gordon is having a better Senior Bowl than Minshew did a year ago, and if he performs well the rest of the week there’s every reason to think he’ll get drafted.”
Some have been critical of Gordon’s pocket presence, while others have praised it. Gordon, not surprisingly, acknowledged it’s something he’ll continue to hone in on as the draft nears.
Gordon told Bears Barroom his feet are “a little too quick at time, got to make sure on certain plays I’ve got to be able to space out my drops and let the play develop more so I’m not sitting there waiting on my back foot.”
But the national leader in passing yards per game also showed off his ability to release the ball from a variety of arm angles – something Gordon’s attributed to his baseball career – and he made a handful of superb tosses that were reminiscent of his record-shattering senior year in Pullman.
After the final practice, reports suggested Gordon was strong enough Wednesday and Thursday to overcome a few Tuesday mishaps, and the quarterback largely helped his draft stock in Mobile, rather than hurt it.
“All three guys competed really well. It’s certainly most important for the quarterbacks to learn all the verbiage, all the vernacular,” Patricia said of the North QBs, according to NFL.com. “They need to understand what everybody’s doing on offense and then try to get everyone lined up and ready to go. They’ve handled all that well.”
Evan Weaver, LB, Cal
Last July, at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles, Cal’s to-be senior went into detail about why he dedicated his offseason to cutting body fat.
Essentially, it was for events like this, where scouts would need to see more than his monstrous tackling numbers to determine if he could thrive in an NFL defense.
Weaver, who continued to chip away at the weight loss through Cal’s eight-win season, showed up to Mobile at 234 pounds and told reporters Monday, “I feel like I’m one of the more athletic guys out here, I just need the chance to prove it,” he said. “That’s why I’m here this week. I’ll have three days, too, and I’m not worried about that part at all.”
There will also be questions as to what position best suits Weaver at the next level. In Cal’s base defense, Weaver played as a traditional inside linebacker, but other schemes allowed him to flex outside and act as more of an edge rusher.
“There were a few packages we had where I lined up outside and did a little rush end out there or maybe dropped back,” Weaver told Bengals.com earlier this week. “I’m willing to do anything in the league. Wherever they want to put me, I’ll go out and play.”
One practice video courtesy of Pro Football Focus showed Weaver losing track of Baylor running back JaMycal Hasty in a one-on-one passing drill, raising a concern about the linebacker’s abilities in pass coverage.
Though Weaver did make one strong play in pass coverage, emerging with a one-handed interception on Thursday.
“Weaver quietly had a good week,” tweeted Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot.
Another clip shows off Weaver’s tackling ability inside a run box. During Wednesday’s team period, a video shows the linebacker shedding off his blocker and sticking Hasty at the point of attack, creating a loud “thump” that draws oohs and aahs from those surrounding the practice field.
“Cal inside linebacker Evan Weaver is getting good buzz too,” RC Fischer of Fantasy Pros wrote. “I think that Matt Patricia is taking a bit of a shine to him because he’s such a cerebral player.”
Weaver pinned another running back during the team drills, noted Carmen Vitali of Buccaneers.com.
“He was involved in some Pac-12 on Pac-12 crime as he met Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin up the middle in a hurry,” Vitali wrote. “It was a huge tackle as he came right through the middle with a head start to back Benjamin up.”
The former Washington 4A Player of the Year also displayed his ability to muscle into the backfield and create negative plays. Weaver, who had 10 tackles for loss as a college senior, wiggled through two or three blockers to stuff TCU’s Darius Anderson on an inside handoff.
Weaver is expected to be selected in the upcoming draft. The linebacker indicated during an interview with “Silver and Black Pride” he wouldn’t mind playing for the NFL organization that was closest in proximity to him the last four years.
“It’s definitely a place I’d love to play. They have a great coach and he’s going to be there for a while, and they have a good system,” Weaver said of the now-Las Vegas Raiders.
“Mike Mayock is a really smart GM. He knows what he’s doing, and it’d be an honor to play for them and an honor to put the silver and black on.”
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