Senior Bowl Challenging for Ravens' Scouts

Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta has attended every Senior Bowl week since 1996, so sorting out all of the interviews and video he and his staff have accumulated should be easy at this point.

This year, however, DeCosta is feeling the pressure.

With less than a month before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the Ravens still don't have a full coaching team. Typically, the coaches would accompany the scouts down to the Mobile, Ala. event, where the entire group can scrutinize potential Ravens together.

Because there were no coaches accompanying this year - head coach John Harbaugh was working to compile his staff the moment after being hired Jan. 18. - DeCosta and Co. will have to press that much harder to bring the new additions up to speed.

"I'm feeling the heat," DeCosta admitted after taking a few precious minutes away from film study. "We're behind a little bit because of the [coaching] search, just not having the time you would normally have to put into watching tape.

"So, I feel the crunch a little bit, but fortunately we've got a great scouting staff. Those guys have been working very, very hard, and we'll catch up."

The sense of urgency was evident from the first day of practice, as general manager Ozzie Newsome even hurriedly left the moment Harbaugh's introductory press conference ended last Saturday.

Despite time constraints, the Ravens accomplished everything they wanted, attending all four practices for each team and evaluating all of the participants. DeCosta needed that attention to detail during a week that can foster a social climate.

Out-of-work coaches descend on Alabama to hunt for jobs. Agents tout their clients in an attempt to raise draft stock. And, fans come in from around the country to cheer their collegiate idols.

"It's somewhat of a social scene, but our guys really focus in on the players," said the scouting guru. "You can get a lot out of the Senior Bowl if you're disciplined and put in the time."

The Ravens are one of a handful of clubs in the NFL that do not subscribe to one of two scouting services - BLESTO and National Football Scouting - preferring to perform all of their assessments in-house.

DeCosta and the rest of the scouts had specific things they were looking for out of each player, beyond catching touchdowns or racking up sacks. Much of what they gather comes from one-on-one interviews with the prospects.

"You're looking at practice habits, enthusiasm, energy on the field, coachability, being able to learn a system quickly," he said. "The interview is critical for us - after practice we get a chance to meet with these guys and talk to some of the players that we're interested in.

"You can look at how their technique changes, also. Some of these guys, for instance, have never played any press coverage as corners, or the linemen may use some different blocking techniques and protections, different things like that. You get a chance to see these guys adjust on the fly, and that's what they'll have to do at the next level.'"

On the eve of the big game (4 p.m. on the NFL Network), DeCosta was quick with a few names that stood out during the week.

To wit:

  • "[USC quarterback] John David Booty had a great week, I thought," he said. "Very, very accurate as a passer. He impressed us."
  • "I think [quarterback] Andre Woodson from Kentucky was another guy who stood out down there. Showed a strong arm, play-making ability. He had a very nice week."
  • "Adarius Bowman, receiver from Oklahoma State, had a big week. Big possession receiver, strong guy, physical, good run after catch, break tackles and things like that. He was great."
  • "Cedrick Ellis, USC defensive lineman was really one of the better players down there this week too, showing us explosion and the ability to take over the drills."

He also noted Troy State defensive back Leodis McKelvin and Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco as two players that have flown under the radar.

Flacco and Booty had more chances to shine with Louisville's Brian Brohm and Boston College's Matt Ryan, regarded as the top two signal-callers in this year's draft, opting not to play in the Senior Bowl. DeCosta feels that such a snub can hurt a candidate with an NFL team that values competitiveness and

"I think what you're trying to do at this point is basically split hairs between the players and you want to be able to see a guy compete against his peers on a big stage," he explained. "So the fact that Matt Ryan and Brian Brohm weren't there, in my mind, you could question how competitive these guys really are.

"The other thing is that you allow other players like John David Booty or Joe Flacco to grab center stage and really help themselves quite a bit with his performance."

Having done the leg-work on the 100-plus seniors in Mobile, DeCosta is eager to turn over the information to the Ravens' new coaching staff - as soon as it's officially assembled.

"We'll catch them up," he confidently stated. "They'll get acclimated to our system and the way of doing things, and I don't anticipate they'll have any troubles picking things up."

For now, though, it's back to the film room.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content