Takeaways from Day 2 of 2022 Senior Bowl practice
As we transition to the quarterbacks, we’ll start with the less impressive group on day two of Senior Bowl practice. I’d say without a doubt, the first group of Desmond Ridder, Carson Strong, and Kenny Pickett all had some “average” days, in the words of Desmond Ridder.
Ridder was hit or miss all day, struggling to throw bubble screens consistently in the early portions of practice. He struggled to throw the deep ball as well but found a groove passing at the second level on Wednesday. Desmond’s scrambling ability did show itself as well, and he proved he is a solid athlete, so that was a nice touch on what was an OK day.
Carson Strong has some real-deal velocity on his throws. That popped immediately. He had some exceptional throws down the field on Wednesday, his best of the day coming on a rollout to his right and dropping it in the bucket 35 yards down the field during the 1-on-1 portion of practice. His velocity is legit, but the touch was lost specifically at the short and intermediate levels of the passing game. He really struggled with throwing with touch and outside of structure on Wednesday.
Closing out the initial group, Kenny Pickett was about as average as can be on Wednesday. Nothing in particular stood out from Pickett. He threw the ball, fine? The footwork and mechanics are good. The arm was, fine? The touch, especially at the second level was nice. The deep stuff wasn’t there. The ball didn’t pop out of his hands. These conditions mixed with smaller hands may have an effect on his ability to consistently be the QB we all saw at Pitt, but I believe Wednesday’s performance isn’t the norm, but a scenario in which his peers struggled just as much in other ways on Wednesday morning.
Wednesday’s second group of quarterbacks was much better, all of which had some exceptional highs. The biggest of which, started with Liberty’s Malik Willis.
Willis had a very good day on Wednesday afternoon. The athletic ability was on display, the tools, it was there. We saw it. Off-platform throws off of play-action, some really good throws attacking cover-2 during 11-on-11’s, Willis looked legit on Wednesday. He was very patient, threw with some anticipation, Willis looked very impressive.
Not only Willis, but Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe also had a splendid day on Wednesday. Zappe is your prototypical “solid” developmental QB. He has a very strong moxie about him, good poise, and command of the offense out there. He’s a decent arm talent that can make throws at every level of the passing game and he is also pretty accurate too when throwing to the far hashes on the field. There isn’t much “pop” in his throws, but they’re accurate. He had a strong outing all-around today.
Finally, UNC’s Sam Howell had a really strong first portion of practice. Howell was excellent and looked to be the best QB of the day in every portion before the midway point of 7-on-7 drills. Everything had velocity, touch, there were some strong anticipatory throws and his footwork was clean as a whistle. But as we began the more difficult portions of practice today and especially the 11-on-11 portion, he began to struggle a bit. He had a bit of trouble going through his progressions quickly and began to press a bit, or he would become ultra conservative and miss some open opportunities at the second-level of the field.
Overall, Wednesday’s practice showed us a few things that I’d like to bullet point as we conclude this takeaways piece:
- The Senior Bowl (and ultimately the 2022 NFL Class) of Defensive Lineman is utterly insane.
- Malik Willis’s stock is trending upward.
- Carson Strong has the “rubber band arm” that you want from your franchise QB’s.
- The Senior Bowl’s crop of running backs all provide adequate burst and receiving ability.
- Bailey Zappe, although coming from a small school, has proven that he belongs here. As if breaking the FBS Touchdown record wasn’t enough.