» This year’s series begins with an in-depth look at the Colts’ contingent at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Senior Bowl is always considered one of the better evaluation opportunities for a few reasons: it’s an “apples-to-apples” comparison between some of the best draft-eligible prospects, no matter what level of college football they come from; the players take part in three practices and an actual game coached by real NFL staffs; and then it’s really the first time the teams can extensively speak with the prospects themselves.
Simply put, the Senior Bowl matters to the Colts. They currently have 15 players on their offseason roster who took part in this particular all-star game, including defensive end Ben Banogu, who took advantage of his opportunity last year to become a second-round pick in Indy.
“The Senior Bowl is a way for me to get my foot in the door,” Banogu said. “Teams kind of knew the kind of player that I was, but they didn’t really understand, or they couldn’t fit it into a certain box. So once they got to see me live and in person, and they kind of saw that I didn’t really skip a beat, and any of the things that they asked me to do, the Senior Bowl was really what put me over the top.”
» The episode kicks off with Ballard’s end-of-season press conference early in January, when he wasn’t shy about laying out his disappointment over the team’s 7-9 record in 2019, and what needs to happen moving forward this offseason.
“The one thing about this league is no one cares about your problems. They don’t care — they’re just glad you got ’em,” Ballard said. “Bad seasons happen, bad moments happen, things don’t go the way you planned them to go. … You’ve got to meet those (challenges) head-on. You’ve got to accept it. … It’s our job to make sure we have enough good players on the roster to win, no matter what occurs. It’s our job. It’s our job to find answers.
“I’m pissed, but I’m not discouraged,” Ballard continued. “When times like this happen, change occurs.”
» As we’ve become accustomed to with this series, there are plenty of exclusive, behind-the-scenes moments you get an inside look into for this first episode of the second season. First, you get a chance to be a fly on the wall for the scouting staff’s initial Senior Bowl meeting, where assistant general manager Ed Dodds lays out the expectations for the week.
“Just when you’re down there, you guys know the positions of need. It’s pretty obvious,” Dodds tells the group. “We’ve talked about it.
“You know what to do when we’re at practice — just handle your positions,” Dodds continues. “Look at the stuff we can’t see on tape: who’s first in line, what they’re like between reps, after a bad play, after a good play. Let’s try to look at that here.”
» At those practices, get an inside look at how guys like Dodds and Morocco Brown, the Colts’ Director of College Scouting, handle their business. Dodds likes to head down on the field for an up-close-and-personal look during individual drills before heading up for more of a bird’s eye view for team drills. Brown, meanwhile, takes in the practice from the stands with the other scouts, and has all sorts of sayings:
• “That was a phenomenal effort.”
• “Will he fold like a lawn chair under adversity?”
• “He look like a baby giraffe.”
• “Just watch and he’ll stand out. You’ll see who they are.”
• “I’ve seen better hands on a snake.”
• “He’s like a young bunny rabbit. He’s just eyes big, wanting to absorb everything.”
• “There’s another one, baby — another one for the draft room.”
• “That’s like hotel coffee vs. Starbucks. That’s not close.”
» The Colts’ coaching staff also plays a clear role at the Senior Bowl. Head coach Frank Reich and other members of his staff were down in Mobile taking in practice this year.
“The Senior Bowl is a great opportunity for the coaches to get their first look,” Reich said. “Being on the field down in Mobile, you get to see the intangibles, the interaction. Do you feel that explosiveness off the ball? The closer you get to the action, the more you feel it.”
“Who flashed? That’s a common term, right? Who flashed?” Reich continued. “What you hope is that a flash turns into something much deeper than that. … You want to get to know the players. You get a first impression (but) you discipline yourself not to make up your mind off that first impression. … Going out and looking for those people who you’re going to bring in for the Shoe, it’s a thorough vetting process, but it’s an exciting process.”
» Another extremely interesting aspect of tonight’s episode is an exclusive look inside the Colts’ prospect interview room at the Senior Bowl, where Brian Decker, the team’s Director of Player Development, takes over.
Decker, a former Army Green Beret, developed a system while in the military to find the best-of-the-best future Special Forces candidates — a dive into an individual’s character that also translates to the football scouting process.
Watch as Decker hammers away at various questions to prospects at this year’s Senior Bowl:
• “Let’s start with the people in your life: your parents, your siblings, your girlfriend. Any significant people.”
• “Who is the most influential male in your life?”
• “What kind of difficult times did you all have as a family growing up?”
• “Convince me: give me examples from the way you practiced, the way you play, on and off the field, convince me how tough you are.”
• “Give the best example you can think of from your playing career that demonstrates your ability to play at less than 100 percent.”
• “How long did it take you before you were able to get a good balance between school work, football as a job, and then whatever social life you had?”
• “Can you be the guy who holds people accountable?”
Decker says as the “gatekeeper” to the Colts’ future, it’s critical on his end to identify the makeup of players to ensure they get that piece of the process right.
“I’m trying to predict how well is he going to adapt to the demands at the NFL level,” Decker said.