By Jeremy Hritz
The Senior Bowl is now in the books, and the next step in the offseason game is the NFL Combine which is scheduled March 3rd through the 6th. Because of the major focus on the quarterback position by the Steelers this offseason, I paid close attention to the performance of all 6 quarterbacks yesterday, and below, I offer my takes on what they showed, and how they helped/hurt themselves.
I do want to point out this is just 1 game, and these guys had to learn an offense quickly, and the offensive line play was truly subpar. This game should not be the be-all, end-all of evaluation.
Passing: 2/4, 11 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
Rushing: 4 carries, 54 yards, 13.5 YPC
Malik Willis showcased a unique ability to keep plays alive with his mobility, sometimes taking a shot down the field, while other times taking off for a run, including one big-gainer that nearly resulted in a score. Showed intelligence by sliding on a run to avoid getting crushed, and looked calm running the offense, despite not having great pass protection. Arm strength was on display and showed he can make all of the throws. Some passes were off target, and he fired one pass on his first read into traffic which could have resulted in a turnover. Had an awful under-thrown deep pass that a pass interference penalty was called. Impressed with his mobility, running ability, not so much with the passing game. Lots of work to do in that area, though he has the arm.
Passing: 6/6, 89 yards, 1 touchdown
Rushing: No attempts
Kenny Pickett showed nice touch on his passes, and the ability to tailor his throws to what the situation called for. This was especially apparent on his touchdown pass to an RB in the flat. Looked convincing in play action, and showed poise in his performance. Was precise and accurate on a short throw outside the numbers. Did throw short of the chains on a 3-13 and under-threw a pass that was still completed for a 38-yard game. Wish he would have got more snaps, but looks like he has what it takes to be a starter in this league.
Passing: 4/6, 68 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptsion
Rushing: 3 carries, 12 yards, 4.0 YPC
If there was one prospect I was impressed with and have a new-found appreciation for, it is Desmond Ridder. Ridder very much looked the part of an NFL QB, and I can easily see his game translating to the NFL. While I would have liked to see him take more shots down the field, he was solid in the intermediate and short passing game, utilizing play action and throwing on the move. His game looked crisp and fluid, something I didn’t take away from my initial study of him. Showed he can pull it down and run when needed. Did throw short of the sticks on a 3rd and 9, and also fumbled a snap. The player comp that popped into my head as I watched him play last night was Steve McNair, and while I am not saying Ridder will have that type of career, he was impressive.
Passing: 6/9, 67 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Rushing: 5 carries, 29 yards, 5.8 YPC, 1 touchdown
I was not impressed by Sam Howell early in this game, but as it progressed, his performance improved. Early on, he did not show an awareness of pressure, and he was sacked multiple times. I would have liked to have seen greater pocket presence to feel the pressure and buy more time with his legs, but that offensive line was not good. Also fumbled twice when sacked which hurt his performance. However, he did rebound to show some nice things, such as using his mobility to buy time and extend the play, also rushing when necessary (how he scored his only touchdown). Showed off his arm strength, and you could hear the pop on his throws on the broadcast. At times, did not show touch and just fired it. Comfortable and accurate throwing into the middle of the field. Scrambled for a first down when play broke down. Showed he can throw on the run under pressure. Really says something that he kept grinding and overcame his early struggles. Liked his game.
Passing: 6/11, 67 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: 1 carry, 0 yards
Not a great performance by Carson Strong. Got rid of the ball quickly. Was able to handle a bad snap. Climbed pocket at times to make throws down the field. But outside of that, it was more negative than positive. His mobility was exposed by a bad offensive line, and rarely could set up to make a throw down the field. Some of that can be attributed to the blocking, but not sure what he can give you in terms of creating outside of structure. Bad under-thrown pass on an interception and overthrew an open receiver in the end zone. Not a good day for Strong.
Passing: 8/13, 103 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: No attempts
Bailey Zappe’s performance gives credence to the belief that he is best suited as a backup quarterback in the NFL. Showed nice touch on first pass for 32 yards down the sideline, but after that, the wheels fell off. Lack of arm strength was apparent. Did not show awareness of pressure and was harassed consistently and sacked repeatedly. Lacked accuracy throughout the game, often under-throwing receivers. Didn’t push the ball down the field. Slight frame resulted in a DL pushing his OL into him and falling over for a sack. Some were projecting Zappe in the 3rd/4th round, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that drop to 6th/7th.
Ranking the QB Performances in the Senior Bowl
- Kenny Pickett
- Desmond Ridder
- Sam Howell
- Malik Willis
- Bailey Zappe
- Carson Strong