The Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: Here's how Senior Bowl week looks from an insider's perspective

The Senior Bowl is a cool place for football minds to congregate. Insidethepylon.com

Every year scouts, coaches, media members, agents, marketing reps and draft prospects gather in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl for what amounts to a week of All-Star practice where evaluators develop opinions about these players based on how they play in a series of one-on-one battles and team scrimmages. Does the actual game matter? Kinda, but I feel like it matters more to the locals than to any of the NFL teams who usually leave town after Thursday’s final practice.

But what is it like behind the scenes? What does Lance Zierlein do? Thanks for asking, guys. Every year I do my radio show from a “radio row” that features me and a local Alabama show. The topics on that show are... uh.... a little different than what is usually on my show. For example, if you need to know what's going on with Alabama's recruiting you will find out. If you need hypothetical discussions of Nick Saban as President of our country, that's your spot. This year, after my Tuesday show, I was lucky enough to tear tendons in my foot and take a trip to the hospital but whatevs.  I’ve already told that story on The Bench.

What makes the Senior Bowl week so cool is how loose it is. It's an important piece in the puzzle that is player evaluations, but there is also a social component where NFL people relax a little. At any point you can see guys like Dan Marino talking to John Elway on the sideline during a practice. After practice you might see GMs like Chris Ballard, Reggie McKenzie, Brian Gaine or John Dorsey having dinner with their scouts and personnel people at Wintzell’s Oyster House at a table right across from you. And there is a good chance you will see coaches and personnel people you recognize who are unemployed who look at the Senior Bowl week as a job fair and opportunity to interview with a team. Last year, I saw Wes Welker chatting it up with Bill O'Brien in the entryway of the hotel. Little did I know that Welker was actually in Mobile interviewing for a job as receivers coach.

And when it’s time to get loose? The go-to spot.... for as long as I can remember.... has been Veet’s conveniently located across the street from the primary hotel. Now if you think Veet’s is some sort of kick-ass club or hot night spot where the cool kids of Mobile gather, you would be wrong. No, it’s a straight up dude factory just like the entire Senior Bowl week. There is nothing nice about the place. Clearly remodeling or updating is not on their itinerary. They know you will come in and drink their beer or their vodka tonics regardless of if their toilet works. They know you will eat their fried mushrooms or instant pizza regardless of if they ever mop the floor to freshen up the smell. It's a dive bar where EVERYONE either goes or has gone.

Have too much to drink, fall asleep, wake up early for the show, eat lunch, watch back-to-back practices, have a great dinner with football friends at Dumbwaiter and then do it all over again the next day.

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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