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Davis Webb has been, to an extent, rebuilt — So, what will version 2.0 look like?

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With the New York Giants passing on a quarterback early in the 2018 NFL Draft, Giants fans are wondering what they might expect from Davis Webb in his second NFL season. Here is a look at what that might entail.

NFL: New York Giants at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Seemingly lost in the hoopla over the New York Giants possibly drafting a successor to Eli Manning in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft was this fact: They addressed the quarterback position on Day Two of the 2017 NFL Draft, selecting Davis Webb in the third round. Webb, who was a starter at the University of California after starting his college career at Texas Tech University, now enters his second NFL season with many wondering if the organization considers him as the potential successor to Manning after all. Given that, it makes sense to take a look at what Giants fans can expect from Webb 2.0.

A look back

Before trying to project how Webb might fare in live action as a second-year player, it is important to look back a bit, at how Webb stacked up from a trait-based perspective entering the NFL as a rookie. Depending on who you asked, Webb was ranked anywhere from QB4 to QB7 in the 2017 Draft Class, a group that included Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, Nathan Peterman and Patrick Mahomes. As for who might have looked at Webb and ranked him as low as QB7, well, as Big Blue View’s own Chris Pflum found out recently...it was me. As I described to Chris:

When studying the quarterbacks for the 2017 Draft, I did not share the excitement many had about Davis Webb, who was my QB7. He came in behind the “Big Four” of Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer, as well as Nathan Peterman and the vaunted Brad Kaaya, who was my QB5 and someone I’ll be taking a well-deserved L on when I revisit those rankings in the future. But I digress.

Looking back on him, I still think that Webb delivered perhaps the best vertical route in this class, and my notes are littered with phrases like: “great deep ball here on 9 route to right, good placement, good job of looking safety off, + deep accuracy and + manipulation” (0:26 versus Utah on the DraftBreakdown cutup); “great touch on 9 route for TD” (4:50 versus Utah); and “tremendous deep ball...whew on this 9 route” (2:00 versus Washington State). Throws like that are going to get people excited about his ability to play the position in the NFL. So when the discussion turned to Webb as a potential first-round selection, there was a particular narrow path where even to me, it made sense. For a vertical-based passing system, say the Arizona Cardinals, Davis Webb is a perfect fit. He has the big arm and the deep passing ability to thrive in a Coryell-based scheme.

We will return to that scheme point in a moment, but first we can take a look now at some of those plays to highlight what Webb perhaps does best: Showing off an impressive arm and precise touch in the vertical passing game. Here is a look at that first throw, a deep ball on a vertical route against Utah:

Two things stand out on this play: Deep accuracy and manipulation. I love how Webb holds that safety in the middle of the field with his eyes before pulling the trigger on this 9 route. Manipulating defenders is a learned art that some younger quarterbacks need time to refine in the NFL, but Webb was flashing this ability while still in college, which is a great sign for his development.

Here’s a deep ball from Webb against Washington State that got me excited as well:

This is an absolute cannonshot. Hard to throw a better ball than Webb does on this play.

However, there were aspects to Webb’s playing style that gave me pause. Outside of the scheme-based limitations, which I addressed in the linked piece by Chris, there were two other areas that I identified that Webb would need to refine in the NFL: Mechanics and footwork. First on the mechanical aspect of the position, while his throwing motion was relatively clean he could stand from cleaning up the weight transfer in the lower body. In addition, Webb had developed a habit of “burping the baby,” or patting the ball before making his throw. While not fatal, this habit can tend to lead defenders to the football. We saw it on the previous play, but here is a good look at it:

I do like Webb’s thought process on this play. California had scored on a similar design to this play earlier in this game against Washington State, but they change things up on this play as one of the receivers runs a pivot route instead of a slant route. The play works, but you see that pat of the football before the release. It is a minor thing, sure, but every second counts.

Regarding the footwork, Webb needed to be more fluid in the pocket with his feet, particularly when working through progressions and becoming decisive with the football. Here is a prime example of this in action:

When evaluating quarterbacks it is pivotal to watch and analyze their feet. A QB’s feet are a window into their mind, and if the feet seem to be unsettled, then you can be sure the quarterback is also unsettled with their decision-making process. Here, California runs a Mesh concept, and as Webb is making up his mind his feet are very unsettled in the pocket, and as a result both timing and accuracy are impacted. Webb nearly steps toward the wrong target here making the throw, and it ends up falling incomplete. On these types of set/reset moments a quarterback really needs to work on getting his feet balanced and pointed to the target.

Limited preseason action

Webb did not see any regular season action in 2017, but did complete 18-of-34 passes for 190 yards in the 2017 preseason. Looking at some of his throws from the 2017 preseason we can find evidence of the traits and issues already discussed, on both the positive side of the ledger and the negative side of the ledger.

Late in the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Webb and the Giants faced a third-and-9 in Pittsburgh territory and the rookie quarterback looked to show off his prowess in the deep passing game:

The Steelers blitz here so Webb cannot step into this throw, but even without that opportunity, a simple flick of the wrist and Webb gets this throw out on time, on target and in the right spot to attack this Cover 2 coverage. The cornerback makes a great adjustment, but this is the right read and throw from the rookie QB.

Webb showed off his arm, his timing and his ability to use his eyes on this back-shoulder throw in the fourth preseason game against the New England Patriots:

As with one of the plays we highlighted from his college days, Webb here does a great job of training his eyes on the safety in the middle of the field, before flashing them to the right to execute this back- shoulder throw. The timing here is perfect too, as the release of the pass matches up with the receiver throttling down to turn for the ball. Webb was particularly impressive at the end of this game, leading the Giants to a win on a last-second field goal try.

But let’s look at two more throws, highlighting areas of his game that still needed refinement at this point in his career. First is a throw on a quick slant route against the Patriots in the fourth preseason game:

Look at Webb’s lower body on this throw, specifically his weight transfer. He nearly locks his front leg (left leg) straight on the throw, which creates a situation where his front leg is working against him, to almost slow his momentum and impact his weight transfer. That has a tendency to impact accuracy and velocity, and the throw here is broken up.

Then we can look to his debut against the Steelers, to see an NFL example of Webb “burping the baby” in the pocket:

Even with the pocket breaking down around him, Webb takes that extra half-second to pat the football while making his decision to throw. In the NFL, every little moment counts, and this is definitely something to watch in the year ahead.

Preparing for the debut of Davis Webb 2.0

Speaking of the year ahead, how can we try and project Webb 2.0 based off the limited information and footage available? Enter Tony Racioppi. Racioppi knows more about quarterbacks than nearly anyone under the sun, having set records as a passer for Rowan University, where he was a runner-up in 2001 for the National Division III Player of the Year. Racioppi spent time in both the European Football League and the National Indoor Football League, as well as with the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. Following his professional career he moved into coaching, and helps train quarterbacks with the TEST Football Academy, the Manning Passing Academy, and also at the Hun School of Princeton.

If you follow Tony on Twitter, and you should, you probably know he’s spent the offseason working with a number of quarterbacks, including Webb. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about Webb and the work they have put in this offseason. At the outset, he was very high on where Webb was as a QB entering this offseason. “Davis is a big, tall and athletic QB who has a top 10 NFL arm as well as a tremendous ability to throw with touch and catch WR angles and speed.”

Judging on some of the Twitter videos Tony has posted this offseason I had a sense of the areas he and Webb were working on this summer, but Tony was kind enough to break the three areas down for me.

Throwing Sequence

First up, the throwing sequence and mechanical clean-up. As Tony described it, “[c]lean up throwing sequence making sure shoulder closes on step/not getting weight forward and keeping back foot connected to ground throughout.” Very similar to one of the weaknesses outlined above.

You can see the work in this area paying off in these quick clips:

On both of these throws you can see a much cleaner weight transfer, as well as Webb doing a great job of keeping that back foot connected to the ground throughout the throwing motion. Racioppi has Webb working on this by also using medicine balls to stress the proper weight transfer, as you can see here:

Judging by some of the reports out of Giants’ OTAs, this work seems to be paying off so far.

Footwork

Footwork is an area I stress in my quarterback evaluation, and Webb (under Racioppi’s tutelage) has also spent a great deal of time working on his balance and feet this offseason. According to Racioppi the areas they stressed were the “...top of drop using footwork to make balanced/straight throws to every area of field.”

Here are a few more clips that highlight Webb’s work in this area this summer:

Set/reset type of throws are critical to quarterback success. The ability to keep your feet in the ready position while working through progression reads at all sides and levels of the field allows a quarterback to make smart decisions with his mind, while making accurate throws that start with the feet. This is a prime example, as Webb is reading the middle of the field here, before coming to the route along the sideline on time, in rhythm and with precise footwork and accuracy.

Here is another example of this concept, with Webb throwing the deep ball after another set/reset moment in the pocket:

Pocket Movement

The third area of emphasis for Webb this offseason was pocket movement, specifically the ability to climb or move around the pocket and extend plays while still delivering on time. As Racioppi put it, “...movement in and out of pocket. Ability to climb/slide quickly while making throws on time.” This was something we discussed briefly when looking at Manning in 2017, the ability of a quarterback to improvise and extend plays and still make throws down field.

This is a great example of Webb looking to improve in this area:

This is a designed play-action play, but Webb flushes to the right and still makes a strong, accurate throw on the move.

So what can we expect from Webb 2.0? Early reports from OTAs were very positive, with some declaring Webb “ready to play” and others declaring him a “standout” who has made a “sizeable leap forward.” Perhaps with the addition of Mike Shula, known for a more downfield, Air Coryell-influenced offense, Webb can be expected to take such a leap given a better schematic fit. But more than anyone else, Racioppi probably knows best what Giants fans can expect in year two and beyond, and the former QB has high praise.

“Davis was already a talented player but after spending a year under Eli learning the pro way of being a QB on and off field plus all the hard work we put In offseason he’ll be a great player in this league. Nobody worked harder then we did over last 7 months to be prepared,” Racioppi said.

A huge thank you to Tony Racioppi for taking the time to chat with me. Please follow him on Twitter @tonyrazz03