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Defensive Standouts from the 2023 Senior Bowl Practices


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Now that I’m back home after what was an amazing week down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, which many people I talked to called it the “start of the offseason”, I’ve had time to go back and review the practice tape and match it up to the live notes I took each day. Obviously, I cannot possibly see everything during each practice session, so I tried my best to be as efficient as I could be. Here was my basic process for each day:

  • Tuesday: General roster overview noting body types/builds. It’s one thing to see a player on TV and say “he looks ___”, but it’s another to stand 50 feet away from them while they are going through their workout. This was my chance to confirm, or deny, what I originally noted about a player’s size.


  • Wednesday: National Team WR/TE vs DBs, American Team OL vs DL


  • Thursday: National Team OL vs DL

In total, I attended 5 of the six practices and came away impressed with a new group of players each day. Some players were stellar all week long, while others got better each day. There were players who didn’t quite deliver the results based on the expectations set for them, and even some who continued to struggle in the same areas that they did on tape. For this article in particular, I will only focus on defensive players that caught my eye in a positive way. With all that being said, here are my Senior Bowl standouts, chronologically:


LB Daiyan Henley, Washington State

Speaking of perfect replacements, the Jets also have a decision to make at linebacker, with both Kwon Alexander and Quincy Williams set to hit free agency in March. It has been reported that Williams is seeking roughly $7M per year in his new deal, which could be hard for New York to fork over, considering they have to pay his younger brother north of $20M per season, and C.J. Mosley is due to make $21M at the same position. It’s nearly impossible for the team to allocate that much cap space into the linebacker room.


Enter Daiyan Henley.


Coming in at 6’ ⅞” and 230 lbs, the Washington State product could be the cost-efficient answer to their WILL backer spot. Henley was practically unblockable in 1-on-1s against the running backs, and his tenacity in pursuit of the football is something I can predict the Jets, and Robert Saleh specifically, coveting. His coverage ability was also exceptional throughout the week.

Daiyan Henley PBU at the Senior Bowl — the @WSUCougarFB LB can COVER ? pic.twitter.com/I81ZCRTMDK

— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023

S Sydney Brown, Illinois

Brown was one of the last players I watched and took notes on before leaving for Alabama, so he, and his twin brother RB Chase Brown, were players I wanted to immediately get eyes on. Besides having a rocked up physique, the 5’ 10” 213 lb Brown showed out in all phases. He played both safety and nickel throughout the week, proving his versatility can be sustained at the NFL level. While he had some issues with larger tight ends, he was handsy at the catch point and made every catch difficult. He had a good redzone period that included an undercut interception. The Jets will be looking to add to their secondary, and after an impressive week, Brown could be a player on New York’s radar.

Heck of a rep from Illinois’ Sydney Brown at the #SeniorBowl. Patient feet, smooth man turn, stays in phase and disrupts the catch point. Strong week from the Canadian. pic.twitter.com/Ei53aJQIl0

— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) February 3, 2023

CB Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford

My second Stanford standout from the week of practice, Kyu Blu Kelly was also a practice player of the week for his position group, as voted on by the players. After a quieter Tuesday, Kelly had a tremendous Wednesday that included a pick-6 that got his defensive teammates hype, as well as another near interception shortly after. Although the Jets don’t have a need at cornerback, he is an intriguing prospect that fits what the team likes out of the position.

Kyu Blu Kelly with the pick-6 at the Senior Bowl — @StanfordFball’s CB has looked good today at the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/fqRjbRWw3s

— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023

Stanford CB Kyu Blu Kelly continues to stand out in day two of @seniorbowl practice.

Nearly snags a pick here and has been jumping routes all day. pic.twitter.com/LazbpsSdUT

— Matt Anderson (@MattAnderson_8) February 1, 2023

DL Yaya Diaby, Louisville

For those that listen to Glenn Naughton and myself on JetNation Live, every Thursday at 6:30pm EST on YouTube, Diaby is a prospect we both have talked about in positive ways. What stood out most to be about the former Georgia Military product was his pass rush technique. Good first-step explosiveness, hand usage and finish. With the Jets likely looking for upgrades along the defensive line, Diaby is someone I will be mocking to the Jets in the mid rounds of mock drafts for the foreseeable future. He is also a standout human being.

Man, @LouisvilleFB’s YaYa Diaby wins QUICK here at the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/MnlH6lb4XH

— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023

In response to my question, @LouisvilleFB standout defensive lineman YaYa Diaby talked about his mother. Afterwards, I told him I got a bit emotional while listening because I lost my mom recently. YaYa put his arm around me and wished me well. He's a stand-up guy! #SeniorBowl. pic.twitter.com/EXHkPFOZxB

— Barroom Network (@BarroomNetwork) February 1, 2023

CB Mekhi Blackmon, USC

Someone who I was unfamiliar with before arriving in Mobile, Blackmon caught my eye in 1-on-1s on several occasions. His best rep of the week came against practice player of the week, Jayden Reed. Even Heisman trophy winner, and most draft expert’s QB1 for the 2024 NFL Draft Caleb Williams had something to say about the lockdown redzone play. From a Jets lens, Blackmon won’t be high on the priority list, but his ability to stick with wideouts in man coverage was on display. Depth at the position is always a must, so there is certainly value in drafting the former Trojan.

Not rare wid 6 tho! https://t.co/S5ilDpuwKy

— Caleb Williams (@CALEBcsw) February 4, 2023

There were many other prospects who could have made this list, so limiting myself to just five was very difficult. The Jets have prioritized defensive players in the draft on Day 2 and 3, with the added belief that this coaching staff can develop them into starters for the future. These players all check the boxes on the field as fits. You can check out my offensive standouts here, and make sure to tune in to watch the Senior Bowl at 2:30pm EST on NFL Network.

The post Defensive Standouts from the 2023 Senior Bowl Practices appeared first on JetNation.com (NY Jets Blog & Forum).

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