The Combine Report – Week 2: White, Zuerlein Were Solid In Victory

By: Barry Barnes, Founder

Who said nothing good can come out of Freeport, TX? Carolina Panthers cornerback Melvin White is not only making his town proud, but his team. He is a major contributor to one of the league’s best secondary, defensive units.

And the NFL Regional Combine help the Louisiana-Lafayette standout with the opportunity of a lifetime – of becoming a potential star in the NFL.

Against the Detroit Lions (1-1), the Panthers’ secondary had the task of facing one of the NFL’s high-flying acts, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

White and the aggressive Panthers secondary held the Lions to 253 passing yards and kept their big play receivers out of the end zone, including Johnson who had 83 yards off six grabs. Not bad against a unit that posted 364 yards in the air as the league’s best receiver had a 164-yard receiving night with two touchdowns against the New York Giants in Week 1.

Impressively, the Panthers defense held the Lions to one redzone visit, where Stafford connected with fullback Jed Collins for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 9:34 remaining in the third quarter for their only score of the game.

White covered wide receiver Golden Tate for the majority of the contest. Convincingly, he held down the right hand side of the field.

With the game in the balance entering the fourth quarter, as the Panthers had a strong 14-7 lead, White made the defensive play to help decide the game. Stafford went deep over the middle to Johnson, but Panthers cornerback Thomas DeCoud tip the ball in the air and White picked off the floating rock for a 23-yard return.

Melvin White/Google Images

Melvin White/Google Images

 The turnover set quarterback Cam Newton and the offense up for a nine-play drive, which was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by running back James Stewart for the eventual 24-7 win.

White attended the NFL Regional Combine in 2013 through the Houston workouts and was invited to the Super Regional Combine which was held in Dallas. He later signed with the Panthers in May of 2013, and never looked back.

White finished with three tackles, one was an assist.

The St. Louis Rams (1-1) did not achieve many trips into the endzone. However, they were good through the uprights as kicker Greg Zuerlein booted his squad to a 19-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2). Zuerlein went 4 for 4 on field goal attempts, including the eventual game-winning 38-yard field goal with 42 seconds left in regulation.

Zuerlein connected on field goals of 36, 35, 46 and 38. 

Teammate John Hekker contributed with two booming punts to help with the battle of field positioning for the team’s solid defensive unit, averaging 49 yards with one landing inside the 20.

Both players ventured through the RC in 2012. Zuerlein attended the workouts in Detroit, while Hekker participated in the New York/New Jersey sessions. 

Indianapolis Colts had a load on their hands Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Although the Colts (0-2) were defeated by the Eagles (2-0) in comeback fashion, linebacker Josh McNary won his way into the starting line up to replace injured linebacker Jerrell Freeman. McNary, from Army, started the game off strong as he wrapped up Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for no gain on Philly’s opening drive.

Josh McNary/Google Images

Josh McNary/Google Images

McNary had his hands full covering, like all the Colts linebackers, the Eagles speedy backs, most noticeably Darren Sproles. But McNary had a solid outing as he finished with four tackles, with an assist. The Colts scooped McNary up a
fter his NFL Regional Combine workout in Dallas in 2013, and has quickly become a staple for the young defensive unit in Indy.

Speaking of a young unit, the Washington Redskins (1-1) welcome youth to their improving secondary. Last week, the Redskins activated a hard hitting safety from their practice squad onto their active roster, Akeem Davis. Davis only saw action on the field as a member of special teams, where head coach Jay Gruden said he would make his impact.

“He’s a great special teams player,” said Gruden. “He’s still learning the defense – very raw as far as a secondary is concerned. He’s learning, but he really makes his mark on special teams and really helps in that regard. You hate to lose big guys that can run fast, and he’s one of those guys that can run fast and he’s somebody the other team has to really deal with on special teams.”

Akeem Davis/Google Images

Akeem Davis/Google Images

True to Gruden’s statement, the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) journeyed to FedEx Field, and wide receiver Mike Brown had to deal with Davis. With 3:25 left in the first half, Brown fielded a punt on the Jags 14-yard line – and Brown felt Davis as he was leveled. Despite receiving a personal foul penalty because he led with his facemask, Davis shook off his jitters, settled down and the product from Memphis debuted well in his first regular season NFL game, after attending the NFL Regional Combine in 2013 (Baltimore) and 2014 (Atlanta).

Atlanta may have been handled by the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) on Sunday in their 24-10 lost, but linebacker Joplo Bartu made his presence known as he led the Falcons (1-1) with eight tackles, one assist.   

The NFL Regional Combine is starting to not only produce NFL players, but NFL stars. White, Zuerlein and Bartu are starters, while several others like McNary are warming up.

It’s about to get hot for the RC players in the coming weeks, making Week 3 something to look forward to.

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