The New York Giants surprised many with their selection of quarterback Davis Webb in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Webb, the 87th overall pick out of California, is the highest quarterback pick since the Giants drafted Phillip Rivers fourth overall and traded him for Eli Manning in 2004. He spent three years at Texas Tech, eventually losing a quarterback competition to Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes was drafted 10th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He was coming off a couple of injuries,” Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said. “Coming off an injury, Mahomes had a leg up. He just kind of beat him out at that point.”
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Webb transferred to California for his senior year. He had a breakout season, going 328-of-620 for 4.295 yards, 37 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 135.6. Detactors dismissed Webb’s season as a byproduct of the Air Raid offense ran by former Golden Bears head coach Sonny Dykes.
Webb has been working with former NFL quarterback/head coach Jim Zorn since December. As a player, Zorn was best known as quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks from their inaugural 1976 season until 1984. He was head coach of the Washington Redskins in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Zorn has noticed an improvement with Webb.
“He pays attention to the right things,” Zorn said, “I saw Davis for 10 weeks and he was the same in his preparation and got better and better. I think he’s a guy who doesn’t get distracted easily, which I think is a really good quality when you’re trying to prepare to become something in the NFL, especially at the quarterback position.”
Zorn has put together a program that will help Webb transition to the NFL. They are beginning with reading defenses and understanding pass protections. One of the biggest challenges facing rookie quarterbacks is understanding the language of a team’s playbook.
“What I ended up having him do is break down games,” Zorn said. “Meaning he had to call defensive personnel, write it down, defensive fronts and what they are doing. We then had a language that is going to be familiar when he comes to New York because there are some similarities.”
Zorn wants Webb to learn some of the verbiage the Giants will use in calling plays so it’s not completely foreign to him. What they cannot simulate is how the Giants want him to run a play, specifically what he should be thinking about at the line of scrimmage.
“I can tell you there are some general concepts that we’ve used here that I know the Giants use,” Zorn said. “But there might be some nuances, some checks, a protection change that the Giants will teach him and that will be the time he gets to learn and hone his skills for the Giants specifically.”
The Air Raid offense Webb played at California is based on the quarterback getting the ball out as quickly as possible. There is very little, if any, reading the defense. Ben McAdoo’s version of the West Coast offense will be significantly more complex.
Zorn believes Webb has the arm strength and ability to make all the throws. He needs to work on his mechanics and accuracy when throwing the deep ball. Zorn also says Webb needs to have one particular skill down pat.
“Getting a play from the coach and spitting it out in not just a monotone, or a memory tone but with purpose,” Zorn said. “Talking to his players in the huddle as though he knows what’s going on and actually being able to verbalize what he just heard in a way that doesn’t say, ‘I don’t even know what I’m talking about here, but here goes’.”