DMN: The combine’s hybrid linebackers

QUOTE: “Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.” -- Carl Schurz

Combine news and notes

INDIANAPOLIS -- Monday was workout day for defensive linemen and linebackers. There’s considerable crossover between the two groups, so many defensive linemen also worked out as linebackers.

Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida has only started seven games and one year of major college football, yet he looked as impressive as any defensive lineman I’ve watched work out. He’s raw and athletic, and he played hard all season. The lack of experience will hurt him in his rookie season — but in two years, if he keeps working hard, he might be the next DeMarcus Ware.

The hard part of this draft will be sorting out the 3-4 hybrid linebackers, players who really played defensive end in college but need to play outside linebacker in the pros. The team that does the best job in this area will be the one that has the best draft.

One such player, Jason Worilds of Virginia Tech, is very productive and had an impressive workout in Indy. He projects to outside linebacker.

Sergio Kindle of Texas was also really impressive and is another player who’s listed as a defensive end but is more of a linebacker. He played well in the national championship game and had a great career at Texas. His work out was impressive.

Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody might have run himself out of the first round. I admire that he ran the 40 here, but his times were not first-round worthy at 5.6 and 5.7. Like Ron Brace of Boston College who ran slowly last year, Cody will have to hope a team is willing to overlook his time -- and some might do that in the second round, but not the first round.

I’m told that Rolando McClain of Alabama was very impressive during the interview process and clearly can handle the leadership role on a team’s defense. He opted not to work out in Indy because he tweaked a hamstring injury, not because he didn’t want to run.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson of Florida State ran well at 240 pounds and was impressive in his drills.

Safety Eric Berry of Tennessee was being honest when he said his coach, Monte Kiffin, told him “there was nothing left for me to prove at Tennessee.” He’s a top-five player, and risking losing that status with the uncertainty of the rookie cap in 2011 made his decision to come out the right one.

Free agent thoughts

Many teams are looking for potential starters at quarterbacks, and for a second-round pick, Bruce Gradkowski of the Raiders might be tempting for some teams to pursue. The question that must be asked is very simple: Is Gradkowski as good as any of the quarterback prospects in the draft?

The Jets tried to get running back Thomas Jones to take a pay cut, but he was unwilling and now will have to take a cut from another team. Jones, who will be 32 in August, still has some gas left in his tank, but not as a starter and not as a full-time back. He’ll need to go to the right team and play in the right role.

No surprise that the Jets let Lito Sheppard go because of the $10-million bonus he was due to receive. Sheppard wanted the Eagles to give him a new deal, but they traded him to the Jets, and the Jets made him have to play well for the deal. His play last season might make it hard for him to get another job right away.

All this Lions trade talk is just talk. The Lions don’t want to trade any of their draft picks for any player, especially one who hasn’t played well for two years. Teams do not trade corners who can play, as evidenced by the Eagles trading Sheppard.

Off to Los Angeles to do NFL Network free-agent shows.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

For a look at possible landing spots for Antrel Rolle, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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