That didn’t stop the New York Giants from entering this summer with the mid-round picks from the past two drafts as their contingency plans should something happen with starting quarterback Eli Manning. The only other quarterback on their roster is Alex Tanney, who is on his eighth team in seven years and has attempted a grand total of 14 career passes.
After watching training camp and the first two preseason games, it’s not hard to realize the Giants are banking on Webb to be their backup. With little money currently available under the salary cap, they’re not trading for Teddy Bridgewater or spending to bring in a veteran. Webb is destined to be their guy, this season and perhaps beyond.
He started Friday against the Detroit Lions and received some reps with the first-team offense. Webb has spent most of the summer working with the second-team offense while Lauletta, a rookie out of Richmond, and Tanney have split third-team snaps.
It was a risky proposition the Giants settled on this spring, and they couldn’t have felt great after watching Webb stumble in the preseason opener. Everything that left the over-amped quarterback’s hand sailed high.
Webb’s performance Friday night in Detroit at least gave hope that the Giants are in capable hands if something were to happen to Manning. The second-year quarterback looked poised and effective. He threw for 140 yards on 14-of-20 passing with a touchdown pass and no interceptions in a 30-17 win over the Lions. He threw darts and touch passes on the run and from the pocket. Webb appeared to have total command of the offense, and the look of a quarterback with potential to be a starter.
It was just a preseason game that validated what the Giants had seen most of the spring and summer, but it at least allows the Giants to sleep easier at night knowing their backup QB situation isn’t a dire emergency. And it’s possible they have something for the future with Webb and Lauletta, who held up admirably while completing 2-of-5 passes for 27 yards and showcasing some nifty footwork on a touchdown scamper.
“I feel like they’re making progress on a daily basis, and that is a good thing,” Shurmur said of his quarterbacks not named Manning. “None of them get all the reps but I think they’re doing the best with the reps that they get. I think all three guys have made very good improvement. They’ve improved.”
Shurmur wasn’t ready to declare Webb the backup or make any definitive evaluations off one preseason game. He said they have Manning and no depth chart behind him.
Practice and the preseason to date seem to indicate otherwise. Webb is the backup. He’s been No. 2 in the pecking order since the start of the Giants’ offseason program. Something would have to unexpectedly change dramatically for Lauletta or someone else to take that spot.
There is a lot to like about Webb, from the big arm to the impressive work ethic and binders he keeps on every opponent (they’re so in-depth they clutter his home office).
Now, we can add his ability to handle some adversity.
Webb knows he didn’t play well the previous week in a preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns. He watched the film, heard the chatter and inevitably knew there were questions about whether he was good enough.
“I’m used to that,” Webb said.
He handled it all impeccably. Tight end Evan Engram and running back Wayne Gallman said they didn’t see anything different from the way Webb carried himself throughout the week, which included strong performances in joint practices with the Lions.
Engram and Gallman should know. They are two of his closest friends on the team.
Engram said he can usually tell when something is bothering the often self-critical quarterback. Not this time. Webb and the Giants knew he missed throws in the preseason opener that he had been making in practice. It left Webb without panic or anger.
“No [anger]. Not at all,” Engram said. “I was kind of surprised. Usually he likes to duck off and not be in the mood to talk. But he was fine. He knew he would get another opportunity. He knew he could do better. He came out and showed that [Friday night].”
Webb did make some minor changes to his routine. He wanted to find ways to calm his mind prior to the game.
He read a book called "Way of the Peaceful Warrior." He altered his playlist, and listened to an audiobook on the bus ride to the stadium rather than reviewing the playbook. Webb said he studied enough throughout the week to be successful in his first start since November 2016 against UCLA. He was right.
It helped that Webb received the opportunity to play with the first-team offense and against a higher-caliber defense. The Lions starters played most of the first half. Against them, wide receiver Sterling Shepard created separation at the final second when Webb threaded a perfect touch pass on third-and-long in the first quarter. Engram then made a difficult catch on another third down later in the drive.
Seeing Webb in first-team action seems to be part of the Giants’ desire to get a more accurate evaluation on their 2017 third-round pick after he inexplicably didn’t play a single snap last year despite a golden opportunity for him to get experience in a lost season. Webb could have gotten some of the growing pains (like controlling his emotions and refining his pregame routine) out of the way rather than having them filter into this year’s preseason opener. But that didn’t happen. This preseason is his chance.
"I’m pretty confident in my ability. I think I needed to hit the reset button and figure out how I want to play football," Webb said. “I want to play football at a smooth, calm level. Again, I didn’t play my best game [Friday]. Guys around me made plays."
Webb at least made enough plays to allow the Giants to sleep comfortably at night knowing they can trust their current backup quarterback.