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2023 Combine notebook | On-field workouts begin in Indianapolis

Stadium Panorama on gameday at home, FedExField, on September 11, 2022.(Courtland Sutton/Washington Commanders)
Stadium Panorama on gameday at home, FedExField, on September 11, 2022.(Courtland Sutton/Washington Commanders)

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine has officially begun with hundreds of the best college prospects taking the next step towards joining the NFL.  

After two days of arrivals, registration and interviews with teams, prospects are making the rounds with media members. The defensive backs and special teams players are the next positions to address the media, but on-field work has also begun today with the defensive linemen and linebackers going through drills. 

Here are some of the highlights from today. Check back for updates throughout the night. 

-- Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez is one of the players most commonly mocked to the Commanders at 16. While he has been most successful in press man situations, Gonzalez also excels in zone coverage and has a knack for knowing when to jump routes at the right time. Gonzalez was asked during his media availability about his backpedal and what he does to keep it so smooth. 

"It's work, day in and day out," Gonzalez said. "This is what I wanted to do my whole life. So, when it's something you want to do, there's nothing that's gonna stop you."

-- Another player often mocked to the Commanders, Penn State corner Joey Porter Jr. said that he has already met with the team in a former interview and "talked to them a lot." Porter also added that he likes the number of Penn State players on the Commanders' roster, which includes Jahan Dotson and Shaka Toney.

Porter is ranked as the third cornerback on Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board. Like Gonzalez, Porter is strong in man coverage and uses his length and size to give wideouts fits. He did admit that he was too "handsy" last season, but he has worked to smooth out that part of his skill set. He also felt that he left some plays out on the field and wants the play more on the ball.

-- Alabama's Brian Branch, Kiper's best safety in this year's class, has been busy in Indianapolis. He has already met with 16 teams and has nine more on his schedule. Branch is regarded by some analysts as a "plug-and-play" safety because of his quickness and high football intelligence. Branch views himself as a versatile player who can thrive at any spot on the field, and he believes that is one of his biggest strengths.

"It's a great selling point to the NFL teams. Wherever they need me I can play!"

-- There is a lot to process for rookies when they enter the NFL, and the amount of time it can take to dissect all that information can affect how they play. That should not be a problem for Illinois safety Sydney Brown, who said he can play multiple positions in the secondary with confidence. He also has an attitude that many coaches will likely love; he believes in taking risks on the field with no regret.

"I live by this thing, 'I think, therefore I miss,'" Brown said. "So, I don't think. I just go."

-- It's now time for everyone's favorite drill this time of year: the 40-yard dash. There were several interior defensive linemen that helped improve their draft stock. Georgia's Nolan Smith led the group with a 4.44, but he was not the only one who ran a sub-4.5. Tennessee's Byron Young had a 4.48 second run, while Pittsburgh's Calijah Kancey had the fastest time among the first group of defensive linemen with a 4.67.

-- Iowa State pass rusher Will McDonald IV reportedly had a fever of 104 degrees on Tuesday but insisted on participating in some of the drills. He did not run the 40, but he did go through the agility drill and showed solid quickness. He also had a 36-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump.

-- Moving on to the edge rushers and linebackers, most people's eyes were on Alabama's Will Anderson, who impressed during his interviews with teams and media members. He did not disappoint with a 4.69, but other players like Auburn's Owen Pappoe and Clemson's Trenton Simpson both ran 4.5 in their unofficial times.

-- Here's a couple notes on the vertical jumps for the linebackers: Vanderbilt's Anfernee Orji led the position with a 38.5-inch vertical. Tennessee's Jeremy Banks and Iowa's Jack Campbell was not far behind with 37.5-inch verticals, and Alabama's Henry To'oTo'o came in at 11th with a 32-inch jump.

-- A couple linebackers also stood out during the wave drills. Anderson, who worked out with the linebackers, stood out again with fluid movements, while Banks and Shaka Heyward were also smooth in their motions.

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