Schofield: Day 3 practice takeaways from every Senior Bowl QB
MOBILE, Ala. — While our Senior Bowl week kicked off with a look at how two quarterbacks — Washington State’s Gardner Minshew and West Virginia’s Will Grier — had specific things in mind when it came to how their traits would put them above some of their 2019 draft peers, two other quarterbacks down here in Mobile took a different approach: a quieter, yet calm confidence in their games as a whole.
The first is Trace McSorley, the passer who leaves Penn State as perhaps a living legend, given his time under center for the Nittany Lions and the sheer determination he brought to the field. When I asked him what was the one thing he wanted teams to know about him, his response was wide-ranging and covered a lot of bases: “I can make all the throws. ... I can continue to prove all the intangible things, but I think making all the throws, playing under center, those are the things that teams wanted to see me do this week, and I feel like I was able to do those things.”
But McSorley did not shy away from the leadership mantle. I relayed to him a quick conversation I had with Indiana University football coach Tom Allen, from Big Ten Media days a few years back, about how to stop the Penn State offense that featured players like McSorley, Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki. Allen told me, “you have to stop number nine first.”
McSorley admitted that it was a great thing to hear, but almost like Spiderman, he quickly pivoted to the great responsibility that comes with that: “It’s also a big responsibility, you hear those kind of things and you know that you gotta live up to that responsibility.”
As for Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, he felt that he ended the week of practices strong and that he put together a complete week for NFL scouts and evaluators to learn from.
“It felt great,” he said. ”... I’m constantly reminding myself that not a lot of players get this kind of opportunity, so I’m trying to live it up and make the most of this opportunity.”
Stidham also worked in the chance to talk up his velocity, something that did stand out at moments throughout the week: “I’ve always been able to have a little spin on the ball. It’s something I’ve just kind of always had, and it’s something I hope I can keep.”
Stidham also talked about the current training program he’s going through, and how the lessons he is learning in terms of footwork and mechanics are translating to his play on the field. But his best answer during our discussion came when I asked him what his favorite route concept to throw this week while running Kyle Shanahan’s offense. His eyes lit up at the question: “Oh man, there’s a lot this week, I can’t pick one, but there’s been some fun ones for sure.”
While the 49ers might not need a quarterback in this draft, a team running a facsimile of Shanahan’s offense might also have their eyes light up hearing that answer.
With clear skies and no rain in sight, it was back to Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the final day of practices. For both teams, this final practice meant a lot of situational work, including red zone offense installation, which is always a great test for quarterbacks. With the compressed field and tighter throwing lanes you find down near the goal line, this is when you see what quarterbacks can excel in the money moments.
The North Squad
Mizzou’s Drew Lock
We can start with the Missouri product, who remains the standout among the North passers. Lock came into the week with high expectations, and from his play on the field to the reports of glowing meetings with teams away from it, he is going to leave Mobile having done everything in his power to put himself into the mix as a potential top-10 selection.
His day got off to a good start during the red zone installation period, when he ripped a seam route up the left hashmark to TE Caleb Wilson with perfect velocity and placement. During the seven-on-seven portion in the red zone, Lock made a perfect throw on a dig route against a zone coverage, splitting the defenders and finding Penny Hart from Georgia State right between the 1 and the 8 on his jersey (more on Hart in a moment). Then, in the team portion of practice, Lock had a few great throws — including an out route to Hart from the slot, and a multiple progression read play when he checked the ball down to Dexter Williams, the Notre Dame running back.
Another strong performance to cap off Lock’s solid week.
Duke’s Daniel Jones
The other quarterback who came to Mobile with a certain set of expectations was Jones.
However, his performance has not matched what we have seen from Lock. Jones was shaky again at times Thursday. He started well during the installation period, including a perfect throw on a corner route to Andy Isabella, but then his day started to take a turn. He tried to drop in a vertical route to Alex Wesley, the wide receiver from Northern Colorado, but the throw sailed well out of bounds. During the seven-on-seven portion in the red zone, he was late on a vertical route to Jakobi Meyers, and though the pass was still completed he needs to be faster in those moments.
Jones did have two good throws that stood out: first a dig to Terry McLaurin in the red zone, and later a nice throw on the move to Hart in the flat. But the last throw to mention is a pass he attempted in the team portion, where he was late to pull the trigger on a Mills concept when both the post and the dig were open, and he was sacked instead. Jones may very well still come off the board in the first round, but he’ll need a big performance in Indianapolis in a few weeks.
North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley
Finley looked really solid in the early portions of practice during the installation period when the quarterbacks were throwing routes against air. He had a beautiful throw on a post route to Jaylen Smith, a pretty touch throw on an out-and-up to Washington TE Drew Sample and he made a nice anticipation throw on a dig to Meyers.
When defenders were added into the mix, there were some miscues, such as a post route to Hart that he missed and a seam route against a Cover 1 look where he failed to look off the safety, and left his receiver out to dry. But we also saw some quick reads and decisions, including full-field reads and checkdowns, from the veteran passer. He may not be flashy, but steady and conservative passers often find themselves with long careers at the professional level.
Penn State’s Trace McSorley
McSorley’s day started poorly. By my count, he missed on three of his first few passing attempts, including a post route to Hart that was behind the receiver and an underthrow on a sluggo route to Isabella that was intercepted. But he drilled in a slant route in a red zone drill with great velocity and placement in both the seven-on-seven portion and later in the team drills, and he also made a very quick decision and read on a slant/flat concept to hit the running back once he confirmed the coverage.
The South Squad
The South squad got things going early with some one-on-ones with the wide receivers and defensive backs in the red zone, and Stidham was the first to shine in this drill. He hit David Sills on a fade that he put in on a line with precision placement, and followed that up with a perfect throw on an out route to Hunter Renfrow, made with great velocity.
Later, in the red zone seven-on-sevens, he had two great plays. First a quick read and throw to attack zone coverage, hitting TE Foster Moreau right between the linebackers for a touchdown, and later a vertical route to Deebo Samuel in the back corner of the end zone for six. During a simulated two minute drill, he also showed the ability to click and climb the pocket, as he maneuvered through the chaos before finding Tyre Brady on a post route with a good throw between defenders.
You are going to hear about how Stidham helped himself this week, and though that does not erase some of what we saw on tape at Auburn, he definitely improved his draft stock down here in Mobile.
Minshew’s day got off to a slow start, as he missed on an early out route to Renfrow and later on a fade route to Brady. But he then started to heat up, as he drilled in a dig route to Sills and followed that with a perfect fade ball to Sills, showing the right balance between touch and trajectory to drop the throw into the back corner of the end zone. During seven-on-sevens, he had two very good throws, such as this fade to Samuel in the back corner of the end zone:
Minshew followed that with a perfect throw to Travis Fulgham, the Old Dominion wide receiver, for another score. But his best throw of the day might have been one that was dropped during the team portion. The South was running a dagger concept and Minshew read the safety rotation perfectly and targeted Anthony Johnson on the dig route, but his perfectly-placed throw was dropped. In all, it was a strong performance to cap off a strong week.
Grier started the day for the South with a bang, first drilling Samuel with a perfect throw on a slant route in the red zone, and following that up with a great fade route throw in the back corner of the end zone. During the red zone seven-on-seven portion, he was late on his first play to get to the checkdown, and then missed badly on a post to Moreau. But he redeemed himself with a perfect fade route to Brady for six. If there were some struggles for Grier, they came later, as he missed Brady on a post route, as well as Sills on a comeback route during his crack at running the two minute drill.
Jackson’s day was rather quiet. During a team portion he made a few pretty good decisions, getting quickly to a checkdown on his first rep (although he might have had Renfrow on a dig to the opposite side of the field) and following that with a great throw on a post route to Samuel where he opened to the middle of the field to freeze the safety and came late to Samuel on the left, before throwing a strike for six. There was one play that sort of epitomized the quandary with him, and it was a touchdown he threw to Moreau in the back right corner of the end zone. It was a perfectly placed pass with incredible velocity, but it came late in the play. So there is the dilemma: His arm talent can bail him out of some situations, but will it also serve as a crutch of sorts that prevents him from striving to speed up his processing. Something to watch for.
Also something to watch, the mechanics as discussed yesterday. Here is a great look at that locked front leg:
But we also got a good look at Jackson on the move today, which is an area where he can be very effective:
I think Jackson showed enough this week to ensure that he gets drafted; now the question becomes whether it is on Day Two or Day Three. The talent might see him pushed into Day Two, but some of the concerns about him mechanically might see him slide back into early on Day Three.
To read more about Mark’s three quarterbacks who helped themselves the most in Mobile this week, and to learn a bit more about the buzz around Ladd-Peebles Stadium, sign up for our free draft newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Friday morning.