In light of Sam Darnold’s injury, the Jets reportedly activated Davis Webb from the practice squad on Saturday, so we’ve been taking an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses.
The 23-year-old Webb is listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, and has been on the Jets’ practice squad since the season began. The Jets had been paying him the same salary that he’d get if he was on the active roster earning a minimum salary, which is a sure sign they’d have been prepared to activate him if another team sought to poach him. Webb was drafted by the Giants last season in the third round.
Webb was initially recruited to Texas Tech, where he was competing for playing time against Baker Mayfield. Due to a late season injury, Webb was able to start down the stretch and set many freshman records. He won the MVP as Texas Tech won the Holiday Bowl.
Webb was the starter in his sophomore year, but suffered a season-ending injury in his eighth start. Over the two years, he had completed over 60 percent of his passes and thrown for over 5,000 yards with 44 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
In his third season, Webb was beaten out by Patrick Mahomes and ended up appearing in just five games and throwing only 41 passes. At the end of the season, he announced he would be transferring to California.
In his one year with the Golden Bears, Webb passed for over 4,000 yards with 37 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions as he was an honorable mention all-Pac-12 choice. Unfortunately, Cal had one of the worst defenses in the country and, despite starting off 4-3, they lost their next four and ended up missing out on bowl eligibility.
Webb won the Most Outstanding Player award at the Senior Bowl, attended the scouting combine and had lots of interest as he threw in a torrential downpour at Cal’s pro day before the 2017 draft. He was getting some top-50 buzz, but eventually got drafted by the Giants in the third round.
After not having taken a snap in his rookie year, Webb was surprisingly released in final cuts before the season, with rookie Kyle Lauletta having beaten him out for the backup role. The Jets signed Webb to their practice squad after he cleared waivers.
Let’s move onto some further analysis of what Webb brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Webb has good size and put up some decent athletic numbers at the combine. He ran a sub-4.8 40-yard dash and posted solid explosiveness and agility numbers.
One concern is that he has small hands, which often leads to questions about potential ball security issues, but he has just one fumble in preseason action.
Webb is known for his strong arm and had plenty of success throwing down the field in his collegiate career. He had 18 touchdown passes on passes more than 20 yards down the field in his senior year alone.
Webb is reportedly capable of throwing the ball 75 yards and did have some success on downfield throws this year in preseason:
While his film shows that he possesses the ability to throw with touch, he’s also had a tendency at times to put too much juice on short and intermediate throws, which can sail on him:
Webb shows the ability to throw the ball with accuracy, but timing can be a problem. He has a tendency to release throws too late which can lead to him throwing behind his receiver or, in some cases, gives defenders a chance to jump the route.
He does showcase his arm talent from time to time, though, as he did on this play:
Like most quarterbacks, Webb’s numbers drop significantly when he’s pressured. His completion percentage in his senior year was close to 40 percent when pressured.
Webb is a rhythm passer, who shows poise when things are under control, but can have a tendency to panic when pressure comes. He - perhaps understandably - didn’t show much faith in his protection while with the Giants, often rushing to get rid of the ball or escaping the pocket when he could have stepped up.
Here’s an example of Webb dealing with the pressure well by staying composed and taking what the defense gives him:
Webb will stand tall within the pocket and didn’t have major issues with passes being batted at the line of scrimmage in college. However, in preseason action - while he didn’t throw an interception - he had several passes tipped or deflected, a few of which almost led to turnovers.
Webb has good upper body mechanics and has a smooth release and fundamentals when kept clean. However, he does have a tendency to hesitate and pat the ball while waiting for something to develop.
His footwork is inconsistent and this can let him down under pressure. He won’t always step into his throws and there’s a lot of wasted motion in terms of “happy feet” when pressure comes.
This is Webb’s biggest weakness and obviously something that the teams who have shown interest in him have been hoping they can teach him to get better at. Since he’s played in spread offenses in college, Webb isn’t as advanced as some other rookies in terms of going through his progressions.
Due to his unfamiliarity with the pro-style progressions, opposing defenses can look to set traps and these did seem to confuse him into some dangerous throws in preseason action:
The main thing you’d like to see more of from Webb’s highlights is an ability to make anticipatory throws. His tendency is to release the ball as he sees his player getting open, which - as the Jets have seen from their recent quarterback projects - will not fly at the NFL level.
While he has good athletic ability, Webb has never really been a running threat. However, in his senior year, he did rush for six touchdowns, having only had three in his three years at Texas Tech.
He doesn’t really look comfortable moving around the pocket and when he vacates, he’s still usually looking to throw and isn’t much of a scramble threat:
When pressured, he has flashed some escapability, but will often get rid of the ball before he has a chance to reset his feet, which can lead to some erratic throws.
Like most quarterbacks, you wouldn’t expect to see Webb contribute on special teams unless it was as an emergency holder or something. However, he did punt seven times at Cal, averaging just under 40 yards per kick, so that’s something he could theoretically do in an emergency too.
Webb is learning the nuances of the pro-style offense having played three years in an air-raid offense and then moved to a school that also operates out of the spread in a downfield offense.
In the event he gets called into action this season, the Jets might need to simplify things for him, although he has been running the scout team in practice, so hopefully he’ll be getting more comfortable with pro-style concepts.
Webb’s 2014 season was ended prematurely due to an ankle injury and he also had to have shoulder surgery at the end of that season. Otherwise, he’s mostly been healthy, although he lost 40 pounds due to a mysterious illness when he was a freshman.
Webb is a player with an excellent work ethic. He is reportedly very coachable and determined to get better, as he watches a ton of film and takes a lot of detailed notes. He hasn’t had any off-field issues. His demeanor is one of confidence but without being too arrogant or cocky.
As a college prospect, Webb was more of a Josh Allen or Christian Hackenberg type, who showcased potentially elite tools, but didn’t grade out well due to being inconsistent and occasionally erratic. The challenge for Webb will be to continue to learn the mental side of the game.
The odds are still against Webb seeing action with the Jets this year, but they enter this Sunday’s game just one injury away from Webb taking the reigns. However, he could just as easily never get into the game and end up being inactive for the rest of the season. The Jets could opt to retain him on the roster though, because they might be reluctant to expose him to waivers.
Realistically, Webb will probably be somewhat out of his depth if called into action, much like we saw with Bryce Petty; a prospect with a similar background in spread offenses. However, Webb is known for being diligent in his preparation and the Jets will have been working on a package of plays that he should be comfortable with if called into short-term or emergency action.
Longer-term, Webb has a chance to stick around as a project if he can learn how to make the most of his tools in a pro-style system. Depending on how fast he develops, perhaps he could even compete for a backup role next year, but this could be something that takes longer than that.