Davis Webb might not become Eli Manning’s heir, but he certainly carries himself as if he intends to be.
Webb’s first day of Giants rookie minicamp in East Rutherford on Friday wasn’t perfect: He bobbled a snap from former Florida center Jon Halapio in individual drills. He aimed some throws instead of letting it rip.
But when Webb moved into 7-on-7 drills, he showed poise huddling and directing teammates. He hit Canadian tryout receiver Nate Behar 20 yards downfield along the left seam. Then he connected with undrafted Florida State rookie Travis Rudolph on a diving 12-yard catch over the middle, all through a classic North Jersey wind that reminded Webb of the gusts in Lubbock, Texas.
Webb had only received the Giants’ playbook Thursday night. But he made flash cards to study in the hotel with roommate and first-round pick Evan Engram, and on Friday Webb showed an unmistakable presence on the field that even coach Ben McAdoo recognized.
“I thought we had a lot of guys who carried themselves well,” McAdoo said when asked about Webb’s poise.
“D. Webb is going to be good,” Engram said. “He was really comfortable out there.”
No one is anointing Webb, 22, here in May of his NFL freshman year. He may be effectively redshirted all season behind Manning and either Geno Smith or Josh Johnson as backup.
The simple fact is, though, that Webb demonstrates qualities and a work ethic that make it clear why he was voted captain first at Texas Tech and again at Cal in his final college season. And precedent provides hope that the Giants’ third-round pick will acclimate well – and perhaps quickly – at the pro level, too.
“I went to Texas Tech and was a captain there and then moved up to Cal and after eight weeks I was voted a captain there, so I like that (process of arriving to a new situation),” Webb said. “You are around new friends, new teammates and a new system and you have to get after it. You kind of have to be all gas and no breaks, because it’s coming, and that is the kind of situation I am in right now.”
Webb’s learning curve will pertain specifically to fundamentals, such as taking snaps under center and footwork, and to the complexity of McAdoo’s offense, which relies heavily on timing.
“Fundamentals are big,” McAdoo said, “talking to him in today’s day and age about how we get away from center, how we receive the ball and just different things fundamentally, but a lot of stuff under center for him.”
Snaps under center aren’t as much of a concern playing for the Giants, since McAdoo runs a heavy amount of shotgun. Still, it is a less familiar process for Webb after playing in Tech’s Air-Raid and then in Cal’s evolved ‘Bear’-Raid version of the shotgun-heavy offense, and it all comes back to how he uses and moves his feet, and how that translates to how he properly sets and drives the ball.
“Everything in terms of his lower body, stepping into the throw, being able to generate more power, and that’ll help his accuracy,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “That scheme, that system, didn’t really have that much of an emphasis, so many of throws were all arm. So we’re excited to work with him to get his lower body capable to where we need it to be.”
Then there is the matter of the “different rhythm” of McAdoo’s timing-based offense, as Webb described, going through progressions in a system that “all ties into your feet.”
“That is something that I have to work on because I haven’t taken many five or seven step drops in my college career, but that is every quarterback coming in from a spread system,” Webb said.
Encouragingly, however, Webb is way ahead of his critics. He prepared for the draft with ex-Washington coach and NFL QB Jim Zorn, then worked again with Zorn in the Seattle area for four or five days after the Giants drafted him, focusing on verbiage and concepts that would help make the transition easier.
And Sullivan said Webb already made his biggest “jump” from his final collegiate season to the Senior Bowl this winter in his ability to play under center. “That is one of the things that stood out,” Sullivan said.
“He’s a work in progress,” McAdoo said. “You can tell he’s put a lot of time into it in the offseason preparing for Indy, in the pro workouts that he had. Again, we’ve got a long way to go there.”
Webb is saying all the right things, though, now that he’s officially in a Giants uniform.
He joked that he no longer calls Manning “sir” when texting the starting QB, as he did in their first phone call.
He said of his zest for mastering the playbook: “I want to make it like my baby. I want to make sure that this is my thing, I want to treat this right and I want this to be my only part of life that I am focusing on, and really dive in and get focused with it and learn it like it is the back of my hand, because that is the most important thing for a quarterback.”
Then Webb was asked if he sees himself as Manning’s clear heir apparent.
“That’s not my job,” Webb said. “I don’t pick who has playing time. It’s just my job to be the best player I can be.”
It was the right thing to say, but it’s also the goal, and Webb conducts himself as a leader who sets goals and has a track record of attaining them.
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