Juron Criner has long dreamed of playing in the NFL.
Getting a chance to work with Redskins coaches all last week and in Saturday’s Senior Bowl was the first step in realizing that dream.
Criner, a wide receiver out of Arizona, was among the 100 or so NFL Draft prospects playing in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Redskins coached the South squad while the Minnesota Vikings coached the North squad.
Players arrived last Sunday, Jan. 22, and were handed a playbook and a practice schedule for the week.
They had to show coaches they could absorb information quickly and apply it to the field.
“It was a great learning experience,” Criner said. “It was a chance to take a peek at an NFL-style playbook and be coached by an NFL coaching staff.”
Criner, among the standouts during Senior Bowl Week, worked with a variety of Redskins coaches, from new wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard to offensive assistants Mike McDaniel and Richmond Flowers.
“They taught little technique [adjustments], things I need to work like getting the exact depth on pass routes and getting off the line of scrimmage,” Criner said. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot this week just by being more tuned in, from hitting the playbook hard, studying extra, staying after meetings to ask extra questions.”
Alabama tight end Brad Smelley worked closely with tight ends coach Sean McVay during Senior Bowl Week.
Smelley had an excellent practice last Thursday, even though the session was moved indoors to the Mobile Convention Center due to thunderstorms.
He caught several passes, including one in which he ran a route across field and was wide open, pulling in a pass from quarterback Brandon Weeden for a long gain.
It’s a play the Redskins have run with
Smelley said he has also run a variation of the play at Alabama.
“Everything has flowed pretty smoothly, I didn’t have a lot of mental errors and I feel like everyone has the game plan down and is comfortable with it,” he said. “That’s a credit to the coaches. The Redskins have really done a great job implementing their game plan and their [offensive] philosophy in just a couple days.”
Of McVay, Smelley added: “He did a great job of picking us up if we used a wrong technique, or if it was different from what we’re used to in college. A lot of it is the same, but some things you have to fine tune and do it the way they want to do it. He did a good job teaching it.”
For Georgia offensive lineman Ben Jones, the most eye-opening part of the week was adjusting to how NFL teams watch and evaluate film after practice.
“The way they watch it is different than what do in college,” Jones said. “They can pick up what you’re doing wrong so fast, and then right there they can tell you, ‘Hey, try this.’”
Baylor offensive lineman Phillip Blake echoed Jones’s comments.
“They really focus on technique when we go back and watch film,” Blake said. “This has been a great experience, to see how it is going to be at the next level. It is a great opportunity to show how we can learn being coached by this coaching staff.”