Mobile – Like every player down here at the Senior Bowl, Duke safety Jeremy Cash has something to prove.
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 registered three straight seasons with at least 100 tackles, and amassed 38 tackles for loss over that stretch, but Cash is trying to break that label of being an "in-the-box" safety.
He has to prove he can also cover and be the versatile kind of safety NFL teams covet. During Wednesday's South team practice, he showed that he could play sideline to sideline and be a productive cover man.
"I think we have a great example of that on that sideline over there today," Cash said of a play in which he knocked a deep ball away from a receiver along the right sideline in team drills.
"That was the biggest question mark, whether I can do that, because of how close I played in the box (at Duke). Just coming out here and being able to fly around, coaches are taking that into consideration."
He spent 55 percent of his snaps in the box last season, per Pro Football Focus stats, so the questions about his cover skills are valid, and something he'll have to continue to prove to NFL folks the rest of this week and over the pre-draft evaluation process the next two months.
The Lions could be in the market for a strong safety to pair with Glover Quin, depending on what happens with free agents Isa Abdul-Quddus and James Ihedigbo. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin could have fun finding ways to use a 6-foot, 212-pound safety that registered 333 tackles, 38 tackles for loss, eight sacks and six interceptions over the last three seasons at Duke. His 16 forced fumbles are the most in team history.
Players who can rush the passer from that position, also be a middle linebacker-type player in Cover 2 that can play the vertical middle, play the deep half and run sideline to sideline are pretty rare.
"The team that drafts me is going to get a heck of a player who's going to do anything to make a ball club better," Cash said.
Cash's physicality is by far his greatest asset. He said his biggest goal when he steps on the field is to "punish" offensive players for stepping onto it with him.
MAKING HIS MARK**
Duke kicker Ross Martin is the second-smallest player at the Senior Bowl, but he's proving he has a very big leg.
He made a 56-yard field goal during a South Team practice on Tuesday and topped it Wednesday by nailing a 60-yarder as his teammates surrounded him and the pressure was on.
"I just wanted to make a name for myself out here," Martin said after practice Wednesday. "Coaches had faith in me to line up a 60 yarder, so I was like, 'okay, I need to make this."
Martin made all seven of his kicks from varying distances during the field goal kicking portion of practice.
He made 78 of his 93 field goals in four seasons at Duke, including 26-of-30 as a senior last season.
SENIOR BOWL OBSERVATIONS
--Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington flashed at the North practice. He was good in one-on-one drills and completely blew up a running play in the backfield to end a team drill.
--Braxton Miller (Ohio State), K.J. Dillon (West Virginia) and Tyler Ervin (San Jose State) all had trouble fielding punts for the North Team on a cold and windy day. Something to watch out for in Saturday's game.
--Baylor receiver Jay Lee made the catch of week so far in the South Team practice. He snagged a one-handed, back-shoulder throw in one-on-one drills against Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones. The play drew some oohh's and aahh's from the crowd.
--The North team used Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs and Stanford tackle Kyle Murphy to represent the offense in a pass-rush drill against the defense with the entire team in a circle around them between two periods. Both players stuffed their opposing pass rushers, garnering big cheers and some pats on the helmet from their fellow offensive players.
--North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz has lived up to the hype so far this week. The projected first-round pick is very poised in the pocket and has a strong and accurate arm. He's been the most consistent quarterback through the first two days of practices.
--Clemson receiver Charone Peake (6-2, 208) has looked good so far this week, too. He consistently gets separation in one-on-one drills and catches the ball with his hands.