Inside the best one-on-one Senior Bowl battle

MOBILE, Ala. — Tuesday’s National Team practice at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, coached by the Detroit Lions, was just about on the verge of ending. The game clock at Hancock Whitney Stadium had stopped counting down, and there were no more period left to run. The roster of 50-plus NFL draft prospects huddled in a group near midfield.

Duce Staley, the Lions assistant coach who is inheriting the role of National Team head coach this week from the Lions’ Dan Campbell, started making some noise, audible to those watching even 50 yards away in the stadium stands.

Then Staley pointed to two players and called for an old-school showdown. It would be two of the best trench performers from that day’s practice — Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II and Kentucky OG Darian Kinnard — going mano-y-mano.

With the entire team watching and goading them on.

“I was like, ‘OK, here we go,’” the 6-foot-4 3/4, 324-pound Kinnard said.

Added Johnson: “You have to enjoy the journey. And to be called out like that, after my first practice down here, it obviously shows my coaches feel a certain way about me and what I did in practice.”

Practices had started some two hours earlier, and the offensive and defensive linemen had gone through a spate of one-on-one pass-rush battles, along with the “half line” drills that matched three offensive linemen trying to block three defensive linemen.

For football junkies and scouts alike, this is the good stuff. Sure, the quarterbacks earn a lot of eyeballs, as do the skill-position performers. It’s not hard to understand why in this fantasy-football era in which we reside.

But the trench battles are the real meat and potatoes of the practice show here.

Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II has been perhaps the best player at the 2022 Senior Bowl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon…

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