MOBILE, Ala. —It’s merely practice and only the third day in a new offense with new receivers. Yet, when it's down in Mobile, surrounded by a who’s who of the NFL world, these things matter as much as any game.
So far, we’ve seen Wyoming’s Josh Allen impress the first day, while Baker Mayfield came into his own and was nearly perfect on day two. Day three was maybe the most interesting day of all, with more 11-on-11 drills played at live speed in full pads and plenty of red zone drills in tighter windows.
Here’s what we found as we assign our final winner between the two for the practice session.
To start things off, in warm-ups and walk through settings against air—with no defense—Allen was erratic with his accuracy. In fairness, all the quarterbacks on the team missed passes during today’s session, but Allen had the worst of them all, sailing one throw into the third row. That’s merely style points, but the thing about Allen is that when he misses, he misses big.
That aside, Allen’s accuracy, touch, and ball placement were the best they've looked all week long. He flashed some nice improvements in his greatest areas of concern. During 1-on-1s in the red zone, Allen was especially accurate in tight windows, a promising sign.
When we talked to the Wyoming quarterback, he seemed the most relaxed he’s been the last three days and was positive he’d improved every single day of practice.
“When I missed in the last couple seasons is when my feet weren’t right,” he explained. “So, as soon as I’m dropping back, I’m making sure I’m telling myself in my mind ‘short front stride, short front stride’ and everything else is going to follow consistently. That’s what I did today.”
His footwork did appear a bit sharper, not looking as lackadaisical or slow as it’s appeared at times in the other two practices. His placement was nice on balls inside. The young quarterback led receivers properly and putting the ball in the right spots when coverage was outside. He also demonstrated nice touch on fade passes. He was the best of the quarterbacks in the drill, and his ability to consistently thread the needle in tight windows was especially impressive.
Once 11-on-11 drills started, there was a different energy on the field. Allen nailed his first pass over the middle, leading tight end Tyler Conklin nicely on a crosser over the middle. At the end of practice, closer to the end zone, Allen nailed a dime on a laser in a supremely tight window to Cedrick Wilson, going over the second level on maybe the best throw of the day—at least between the two star QBs.
The big Wyoming signal-caller had a similar throw soon afterward, threading the needle over the seam into the end zone to Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe as he was surrounded by defenders. The placement might’ve been a half inch behind, and Smythe made a great catch, but had he led him too far it would’ve almost certainly been trouble.
Of course, Allen also had his share of near misses, slight overthrows, and inconsistent passes but once practice began to heat up, he picked up his game answering some of the biggest questions he had coming into the week. With defenders on the field, he was 14-of-21 with two drops and another pass deflection. By far his best day of practice.
Coming into Thursday, Mayfield was coming off a nearly flawless day. The one thing we would’ve liked to have seen was more plays on vertical throws, an area in which Allen’s been better and simply taken more shots. The Heisman didn’t give us any such throws, which was disappointing, but he still had himself a nice day with very few clear mistakes.
Unlike yesterday where Mayfield was a perfect 15-of-15 against air, today he did have few near misses with his ruthless accuracy not being nearly as on point.
His touch did look nice in 1-on-1 drills, as he led his targets and still appeared to be the most consistent of the quarterbacks with his placement.
In 11-on-11s, where he’s generally looked the most confident and in control, he started off great, threading the needle on a crosser and then unleashing a sharp pass over the middle. However, in the second session of 11-on-11s, which was played down in the red zone, he wasn’t nearly as sharp. First, he was forced to scramble out the pocket when pressure came down on him, then he missed a pass on a bootleg to the right and again was a bit inaccurate on a play action pass. He did nail a fade where receiver Allen Lazard made a spectacular contested grab with touch in a tight window, but the receiver did most of the heavy lifting.
The best part of his day came on 7-on-7s, where he threw a beautiful pass in double coverage over the second level and dropped it in the basket. He also had on-point ball placement on a crosser to Braxton Berrios that would’ve gone for a score. However, his best throw of the day came on the last play of that session, where he scrambled and threw a beauty on the run to DaeSean Hamilton for a touchdown that was right on the money.
Mayfield completed 16-of-24 balls with three drops. Just like Allen, he completed exactly 66 percent of his passes on the day. There wasn't anything that was overly spectacular, but Mayfield didn't do anything to hurt himself either.