The squads put on full pads for the second day of practice, and as far as the quarterbacks go, one name continued to shine while another rebounded from a shaky first day, perhaps raising his draft stock in the process.
Under a sunny Mobile sky, the North team kicked off the day of practices shortly after noon. They began with some half-speed team work, focusing on protections and blocking schemes, with the quarterbacks relegated to handing off the football or simulating a throw from the pocket. Then the QBs moved over with the wide receivers to work through a few different routes in the route tree, including slants, comebacks, digs, and hitches against a simulated press. During this segment, Sefo Liufau was somewhat erratic with his ball placement on the early slant routes, but Nathan Peterman continued to display good anticipation on these throws, particularly comeback routes. As with yesterday, Peterman continued to move his eyes during the drill, opening to the middle of the field and then to the outside to find his target. When they moved to dig routes, all three quarterbacks, including C.J. Beathard, threw these patterns well.
When the receivers started to run hitch routes against a simulated press (with a fellow WR serving as a cornerback) all three QBs displayed good feel for these routes and the timing as well as the anticipation necessary to complete these passes. On these throws the ball often came out just before the break, which was nice to see from the three quarterbacks during this segment of practice.
The practice rolled into some one-on-one situations, and here’s what stood out from the three quarterbacks:
Peterman – He got off to a shaky start, throwing a vertical route and failing to keep the football inbounds. He then threw a dig route low and well in front of the target. But then he picked up the pace, showing great timing and placement on a comeback route to Jamari Staples (Louisville). This throw was followed up with a good out route to Amba Etta-Tawo from Syracuse, and a good five-step slant route to Zay Jones (East Carolina).
Beathard – Beathard was a bit late on a dig route to Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), but the throw was still completed. He then threw a very nice deep ball to Staples for a long completion.
Liufau – He started this drill with the running backs working against the linebackers, and missed on a flat route to a full back and then was late on a throw to the other flat, which was nearly intercepted. When he moved over to the wide receivers, he missed on an open vertical route, failing to keep the ball inbounds.
The players then moved into a situational seven-on-seven, and all three quarterbacks made some nice throws. With the players in full pads, they were given down-and-distances to work with, and this was a good time to judge the decision-making/situational awareness for these players. Peterman got the ball out quickly on the out route on a two-man sail concept early in the drill, and Liufau made some nice throws and decisions, including a checkdown on a 3rd and 4 play that was the smart read, and a very nice, quick decision to throw the slant on a slant/flat concept. Beathard made two very nice decisions/throws during this segment, first diagnosing a Cover 1 look which was rolled to Cover 3, when he threw the backside hitch route in the right spot. Then he threw a well-timed and placed comeback route against man free coverage, putting the football in the right spot.
Then came some team work, and the moment that quarterback watchers were waiting for all week. First Beathard made a nice read and throw on a dig route against Cover 3. But then on a 3rd and 9 situation, Peterman made a throw from the right hashmark to the left sideline on an out route against tight coverage, that showed nearly flawless timing, anticipation, and placement. The throw and catch elicited the first audible reaction from the stands of the day, and it was an NFL throw personified. While it comes in a simulated third-down situation, it is a sign of what those are high on Peterman point to when they sing his praises.
Inconsistency and redemption were the words of the day, centered around one player: Joshua Dobbs. The former Tennessee quarterback has a reputation for being inconsistent, and as noted yesterday his Senior Bowl week got off to a shaky start. But today he was the class of the South squad. This started early during the first segment of practice, an 11-on-11 session, where he threw a beautiful crossing route to Alabama tight end O.J. Howard.
When the South moved over into some one-on-one drills, Dobbs remained crisp, throwing a beautiful back shoulder throw along the right sideline to start the session and remaining strong through the portion of practice, displaying some solid ball placement and some good anticipation for most of his throws. Meanwhile, Davis Webb and Antonio Pipkin remained inconsistent. Webb threw an out route late and well behind his target, hitting the defensive back in the back shoulder. He rebounded with a good vertical route that was dropped, but then overthrew another vertical route, and overthrew Ryan Switzer (North Carolina) on a comeback route. Pipkin was late on a hitch route during this session, and missed on two vertical routes, a sideline 9 route, and a seam route.
During the skelton session, Pipkin was late on a corner route at one point, and left too much air under the football, and the safety rotated over and made the interception. This is a good learning point for the quarterback, as he’s seeing faster safeties this week with more range. He’s used to throws like that being completed as the safety likely gets there a step late. Pipkin also hesitated on one curl concept, although he showed some frustration after that play, as if he expected the receiver to break a different way, which might explain the delay in getting the football out of his hands. Dobbs continued to shine, showing very good anticipation and placement on a comeback. However he did miss Josh Reynolds on one play on a vertical route, when the WR used a nearly-flawless release against the press but Dobbs never saw him. However, it’s possible that route was not in the quarterback’s progression on the play.
Finally, two throws really stood out during the team session. Dobbs executed a beautiful throw on a play-action play, carrying out a fake to his right and then rolling to his left, doing a great job of getting his shoulders turned to the target and throwing one more comeback route with timing, anticipation and placement. But the throw of this session was from the Tiffin University product. On a vertical concept, he flashed his eyes to the right sideline to move the free safety outside, and then brought his field of vision to the middle of the field to find Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram open up the seam, before dropping in a well-placed throw that the TE snared with his hands. This was a great play from Pipkin and one to close out his day on.
Wrapping up the day of work, I remain impressed by Peterman and he continues to be the top QB down in Mobile. But the day that Josh Dobbs turned in is tough to ignore. He made a number of great throws, showed timing, anticipation, and good placement on most of his routes. This was a much improved performance from yesterday, and if the week is about getting a baseline on a player and seeing how they adapt and react to coaching, taking to advice and evolving in a new system, Dobbs really helped himself today.