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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rutgers' NFL Draft prospects leave pro day with something to prove

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

 Jamal Merrell says he's up to 230 pounds, the most he's carried in his career, in an attempt to show NFL scouts he can add bulk while moving in coverage.

As the NFL's pass-first tendencies balloon, more teams opt for two-linebacker looks as almost a base defense. It places a premium on pass coverage.

Rutgers' Brandon Coleman impresses as team's top draft-eligible player

"Being my size, a lot of people my size put their hand down," Merrell said Wednesday at Rutgers' pro day. "But I showed consistently on film that I can play in space and use my athleticism. That's something that gives me a huge advantage."

Under former defensive coordinator Dave Cohen, Merrell played in a heavy slot role. He saw mixed results.

With little blitzing pedigree, he likely fits best in a 4-3 scheme as a strongside linebacker.


Jamil Merrell pointed Wednesday to his hands in his development as a rush linebacker, but his mobility was arguably his most encouraging sign.

A preseason foot injury kept Merrell from starting a game in 2013. His production and snaps dipped.

He showed fluid movement and awareness in linebacker drills inside Rutgers' practice bubble but was never asked to drop into coverage as a traditional end in Rutgers' scheme.

"Definitely didn't play it in college," he said, "but playing defensive tackle, defensive end, a little bit of 'R' in practice, I just know it's in my blood."


In his first public appearance since suffering a midseason broken arm, Lew Toler expressed relief in participating in front of scouts from 25 NFL teams.

Toler ran a 4.50 40-yard dash, per Rutgers' released times.

"A lot of anticipation, a lot of anxiety," he said. "I just wanted to get out here and show my skills, show that I'm able to persevere through any obstacle."

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