As you probably know, the Jets have a new developmental quarterback. Davis Webb was a third round pick of the Giants just last year. He was surprisingly waived last weekend and went unclaimed. The Jets signed him to their practice squad earlier in the week.
I found myself curious about this situation. It isn’t every day that a team gives up on a day two pick after just one season. Even Christian Hackenberg got two seasons to try and prove he was worth something.
Some Giants fans suggested this move was a power move by new general manager Dave Gettleman. Webb was drafted by the old general manager. Gettleman selected his own developmental quarterback this year, Kyle Lauletta. That made Webb obsolete for reasons that went beyond merit.
Things like this do happen in the NFL. It wouldn’t be the first time a general manager made a move based on ego.
Still, something didn’t seem right. Almost every team in the NFL is looking for talent at the quarterback position. Surely it reasoned that some team would be willing to give up a late round pick for somebody with potential at the most important position on the field. Webb was a third round pick just last year after all. The Giants ended up cutting him, however, indicating there was no trade interest.
Even more strikingly, every other team then had a chance to claim Webb off waivers, acquiring him for nothing. Nobody did. Even though he was a guy who seemed to have potential on paper, not a single one of the 32 teams in the league was willing to offer him a spot on the 53 man roster. He ended up settling for a practice squad spot instead.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this. The first place I looked was at Webb’s preseason stats, and boy they were ugly. Webb only completed 52.8% of his passes and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. That’s brutal. Still, stats at the quarterback position don’t tell the whole story. Sam Darnold’s efficiency was just a hair better at 5.4 yards per attempt in the 2018 preseason. Yet when you went play by play with Darnold, there was a competency that the numbers didn’t show.
Was Webb the victim of a similar misfortune? I decided to take a look at his preseason passing attempts.
After doing that, I came to a simply conclusion. Webb is an enormous project who has a very, very long way to go if he ever wants to find success on the NFL level. He has a remedial grasp of some very basic elements of the quarterback position. Maybe Gettleman was influenced a bit by not wanting somebody else’s project on his team, but Webb made the decision easy by showing so little promise in the preseason.
I’ll spare you being forced to watch all of the snaps, but I will take you through a few of the major issues I saw.
Webb has a pretty clean pocket on this play.
There’s plenty of room for him to step up in the pocket.
Instead he bails on the pocket for no reason and runs himself right into defenders who would been pushed out of the way had he hung tough. His pocket panic leads to a sack.
Here you’ll see pressure off the edge, but Webb once again has plenty of room to step up in the pocket to try and find something down the field. Instead he sees pressure and dumps it off for a minimal gain.
A 52.8% completion percentage is ugly and indicative of extreme inaccuracy. To be certain, there were a number of open receivers whom Webb targeted with wildly inaccurate throws that fell incomplete. I could put together a video of Hackenbergian UFO’s from Webb’s 2018 preseason.
But I want to point out something else. Poor accuracy doesn’t just lead to incompletions. It also leads to completions producing less than they should.
Take this play near the end of the first half. The Giants were in field goal range and out of timeouts. They were looking for a quick completion to the sideline to get a little bit closer and stop the clock.
Webb hits the pass, but it is not a well-placed football. The receiver has to slow down to adjust to it because the ball is a little behind him. This allowed a defender to get to him to make a tackle, which ran out the clock. If Webb’s pass had led the receiver, he could have caught it in stride and easily made it to the sideline to preserve the field goal attempt. This inaccurate throw led to a completion, but it cost the Giants a shot at three points.
On this third down play, wide receiver Kalif Raymond wins and gets inside of the cornerback covering him. With a step on the cornerback, an accurate throw that led Raymond and hit him in stride probably would allow him to get to the sticks for a first down. Instead we again see a throw behind the receiver, which again gives the defender time to catch up and make the tackle. The placement is the difference between a fresh set of downs and a punt.
On this play, the Lions show a look presnap that suggests they will be in Cover 2 with a pair of defenders deep and five defenders in underneath zone. With three receivers lined up on the bottom of the picture and two defenders, Webb believes he will have the yellow guy open.
However, after the snap the Lions roll into a Cover 3 with the two outside corners dropping into a deep zone and one of the safeties driving on the route Webb is looking at.
Webb is fooled, and the result is an incompletion.
That one isn’t necessarily the end of the world. A young quarterback is going to get fooled presnap by a disguised look a defense throws at him from time to time.
Let’s look at another situation. This play call gives Webb a really simple read. Where he goes with the ball is determined by what the cornerback does in zone coverage. If the corner drives on the short route, the deeper receiver will be open.
If he drops deep, the short pass will be open in the flat.
The underneath receiver is obscured a bit by the graphic, but the corner here is clearly dropping to take the deep route.
Webb ends up trying to force this ball into an impossibly tight window. The underneath guy was open. Mind you this was a first down play, and the Giants still had all three timeouts in the two minute drill. There wasn’t anything dictating that trying to force the deep ball was the right decision.
The Surprising Conclusion
By now you are probably thinking that I don’t want Webb.
I will be honest. Based on what I have seen, I think it is unlikely Webb will even amount to a decent NFL backup. I would say he is a pile of raw physical tools with very few of the necessarily skills to succeed at the quarterback position in the league developed. He also hasn’t shown much growth between last season and now, which is how you go from third round pick to practice squad so quickly.
But that doesn’t mean I am against the addition of Webb to the practice squad at all. Webb might be a pile of raw physical tools, but a practice squad spot is the right investment for players of that profile. The purpose of the practice squad is to try and develop players with those raw tools, understanding it is probably a long-shot in most situations.
It is a terrible idea to invest an early round Draft pick in a player like this the way the Giants did (or the way the Jets did with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg). Even though the Jets are paying Webb more than your typical practice squader, they have nothing to lose with this addition. They can walk away easily if Webb does not pan out. If he beats the odds and shows a surprising ability to develop, they could end up with a backup quarterback. I don’t need to explain how valuable that would be.
It just should be noted that “project practice squader” is a more apt description for Webb at this point than “third round prospect.”