Eli Manning will reportedly be on a “pitch count” this training camp and preseason, which is nothing new for the 14-year veteran. It’ll provided rest and reduce wear and tear on the league’s reigning active Iron Man. This tactic will also allow the New York Giants’ brass to see a whole lot of Manning’s backups – most notably rookie Davis Webb.
When the Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers, tomorrow night, at MetLife Stadium, Manning will likely get the night off – along with other stars like wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. That means it’ll be time to see how far Webb has progressed since being selected in the third round of this year’s National Football League draft.
The 87th overall pick, Davis is 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds and has the measurables that scouts love. He has a big live arm and stands tall in the pocket. He’s not a scrambling option, but can move around the pocket enough to avoid the rush. He’ll need such dexterity against a Steelers defense that has about as unique a scheme as any in the NFL. Sure, Pittsburgh won’t be throwing the kitchen sink at the kid, but at the very least, they’ll likely work on a few wrinkles to see what’ll stick for regular season use.
Davis is a Texas native who originally starred at Texas Tech University, and was so good early that he held off a future two-time Heisman Trophy candidate in the process, Baker Mayfield, who later ended up transferring to the University of Oklahoma. The irony of Davis’s fate was meted a year later when he lost his starting spot to Patrick Mahomes, who was drafted in the first round this year by the Kansas City Chiefs. Following that disappointment, Davis transferred to the University of California.
It was a long and winding road to end up in northern New Jersey, so whatever the Steelers throw at him, Webb feels he’ll be ready – even if he rarely gets actual reps during training camp. He reasoned what he’s been through as a collegian and learning at the feet of Manning has properly prepared him for preseason action.
“Nervous is, to me, when you’re not prepared,” Davis reasoned, already sounding like a Manning disciple. “I’m just going to be amped up and excited and want to get out there and play an actual game with my teammates for the first time in a while.”
Head coach Ben McAdoo will go with either veteran Josh Johnson or Geno Smith as the starter against the Steelers, but noted that Davis will definitely see time. He added that he’s intrigued to see how Davis responds to live action despite rarely getting even scraps of reps during practice.
“He’s doing a nice job. It’s always a tough situation,” McAdoo said about always being ready, even when a player isn’t getting many practice reps. He also allowed that Webb will almost certainly “have butterflies,” but he’ll need to fight through that and use such heightened anxiety as a helping tool.
“We talked about how your fears can lead to your greatness [and that], your greatness lies within your fears, so embrace them and compete your tail off on Friday night,” McAdoo said.
Davis reasoned he’ll be a bit jittery prior to the game, but he isn’t worried that Johnson and Smith have left very few opportunities for him to shine as a backup.
“I’ve gotten every rep this entire training camp,” Webb said of his mental exercises. “I’m watching every play progress and going through my reads back there. I might not be throwing it, but mentally I’m throwing it. So, mentally I feel sharp.”
The Giants have failed for years to properly groom a young quarterback to sit and watch behind Manning – and possibly succeed the future Hall of Famer. The most recent hopeful heir was Ryan Nassib. And after four uninspiring seasons, the former Syracuse University product is backing up another future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees for the New Orleans Saints.
Giants’ fans can only hope that Webb turns out better. Manning’s swan season is at least two years away, but now is the time for Big Blue to see if they finally found a plausible successor.