By Matthew Postins
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is sponsored by the NFL Players Association and will take place at Home Depot Stadium in Carson, Calif., on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. Chances are the Dallas Cowboys will have scouts at the game.
This is just the second time the game is being played, but they have some big-time coaches leading the two rosters. Former Rams coach Dick Vermiel and former Jets coach Herman Edwards are the head coaches.
The quality of player in this game is a bit better than the two All-Star games we’ve previewed so far. But it’s not quite at the level of the Senior Bowl or the East-West Shrine Game, the latter of which is also this weekend.
Just as in my other previews, I’ll take a look at some players that Cowboys fans might want to keep an eye on in this game, based on what the team needs.
S Duron Harmon, Rutgers: Harmon was a two-time All-Big East first team selection and in 2012 and broke up a career-high five passes. So he has coverage skills, which are essential in the Cover 2 new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is planning to install. Harmon is listed as a free safety on Rutgers’ last depth chart. Right now he’s just outside the draft so he’s perceived as a developmental guy. This game gives him the chance to show how polished he really is.
C Mario Benavides, Louisville: He’s a sixth-round prospect right now, but he’s also the No. 6 center on the board. At 6-foot-3, 279 pounds, he’s a bit undersized for the NFL. He’s been a two-time All-Big East selection and he started his college career as a freshman All-America. Injuries are a big concern. So is the level of power he brings to his blocks. But scouts consider him tough and reliable. If you’re not completely sold on Phil Costa or Ryan Cook, Benavides is a player to keep tabs on this offseason.
LB Taylor Reed, SMU: Reed led SMU in tackles for three straight years. He has the potential to create turnovers and the speed to break plays if he gets his hands on the ball. At 6-foot, 240 pounds, he might be a candidate to play on the strong side of a Cover 2 defense one day, as he defends the run well. He’s gotten the most out of his college experience.
DT Dave Kruger, Utah: The Cowboys need help with the interior run and the exterior pass rush. Kruger, the younger brother of Ravens tackle Paul Kruger, could be an interesting prospect. At 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, he has the length and size to be the run stopping left defensive end in the Cover 2. He’s not considered a tremendous pass rusher, so scouts have to see that they can develop that skill if they draft him or sign him.
DT Terrence Stephens, Stanford: He’s a Stanford man, and at 6-foot-1, 295 pounds he makes the most sense as a run-stopper in a Cover 2. He missed the Rose Bowl for a secondary violation of NCAA rules, but that’s not seriously going to damage whether he gets drafted or not. The Cardinal relied on him to stuff gaps and clear paths for linebackers to make plays. Scouts are looking at his explosiveness, and he has to show it as this is a deep draft for defensive tackles.
DE Kentrell Harris, Virginia Union: Never heard of him? OK, he’s a Division II kid. Went to Virginia Union and had eight sacks last year. At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, he could play that left end position opposite the speed rusher. He has to spend this week proving it to scouts from the Cowboys and the other NFL teams. He has to make splash plays in workouts and in the game to get traction as the player evaluation process continues.
QB Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: The younger brother of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. If he’s three-quarters as good as his brother, he might be worth a flier. At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, his size isn’t prototypical. He showed improvement from 2011 to 2012, but doesn’t have explosive numbers. He needs to show that he has the skill set that’s worth taking a seventh-round flier on, because that’s the only thing that makes sense in the Cowboys’ world, if they choose to develop Tony Romo’s eventual replacement now.
LB Uona Kaveinga, BYU: His size and speed (5-foot-11, 233 pounds) make him a good size for a Cover 2 linebacker. He’s ranked among the Top 30 inside linebackers and has solid speed (4.67 in the 40). He has to prove he can play outside, because there’s little chance for him of getting playing time in Dallas if, as expected, Sean Lee is the middle linebacker in 2013.
WR Marquise Goodwin, Texas: NFL teams like to pay attention to prospects from their surrounding area, and Goodwin certainly qualifies. He’s a waterbug-type receiver in the DeSean Jackson mold, coming in at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. He has blazing speed and has competed for Texas in track and field and won several titles in the long jump. His leaping ability is exceptional. He can work as a slot receiver or as a kickoff returner. Dallas’ interest in a player like Goodwin will depend quite a bit on whether Kevin Ogletree departs in free agency. But wide receiver is a position where the Cowboys have quite a bit of depth.