After being drafted in the third round by the New York Giants roughly six weeks ago, Davis Webb is now part of the smartest quarterback room I've ever been in. And the next few seasons could be the most beneficial to the rookie signal caller's NFL journey -- if he makes the most of working behind Eli Manning's great football mind.
I spent four seasons as the Giants' QB2 (2008-09 and 2011-12) in the quarterback room with Eli and now-offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. I learned something new nearly every week, whether while watching film, on the practice field or in game action. And this was near the end of my 12-year career.
As the Giants' mandatory minicamp kicks off on Tuesday, so does Webb's opportunity to learn behind an aging, future Hall of Famer. In his rookie season, what should Webb expect?
1) Learning from a Manning. Eli is the smartest person I've ever played with, and he convinced me of that every day. There were many times when Mike and I thought we were seeing everything while trying to help Eli prepare for the week, and Eli would see something nobody else did. In fact, that seemed to happen daily. Webb's going to be constantly surprised by keys and signals Eli finds on film, and the only way a quarterback gains more trust from coaches and teammates is by knowing and feeling comfortable with the playbook. If Eli wasn't comfortable with a play, he talked to the offensive coordinator, and it was taken out. Webb, who comes into the league with an impressive football IQ, isn't going to be surprised by the learning curve that comes with being a first-year quarterback in the NFL. He will, however, feel overwhelmed at times with the vast amount of information he's being asked to decipher each week.
2) A difficult transition awaits. In 2016, we witnessed another Cal quarterback -- No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff -- struggle to pick up an NFL offense. In Cal's system, the quarterback isn't asked to do pre-snap reads, call audibles, etc. And Webb has most likely already realized that he'll have a lot on his plate as a potential starter in the NFL someday. After all, Webb took most of his snaps from shotgun at Cal, so learning to play under center will be one of the first tasks to master.
3) Reps will be very limited. Last week, Giants quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. praised Webb during OTAs, saying, "Davis is just falling in line with the rest of the guys." That's a good sign. Yet, as the 2017 season gets closer -- and with everyone participating in team workouts -- Webb shouldn't expect to get more than a fourth of the snaps. In fact, I'd be surprised if Webb threw a pass to new Giants receiver Brandon Marshall at all. Eli is very conscious about the number of reps he gets with his receivers, and it'd be nonsensical for him to pass on the opportunity to perfect his timing with the best receiving corps in the NFL.
Observing Eli's mannerisms and demeanor from the backfield when he's taking a snap is vital. That is equally important to taking the rep yourself. Seeing the play develop through Eli's eyes can greatly benefit Webb when he steps in.
4) A mentor-student relationship with Eli. When I was with the Giants, the team drafted young quarterbacks in 2008 and 2009, and Eli treated them with respect. If Webb asks the right questions and puts the work in -- and doesn't make Eli feel like his job will be taken Day 1 -- they will have a good relationship. Eli is a great teammate, friend and leader, and he'll help mold Webb into an NFL-ready quarterback.
It's no secret that Eli is on the back end of his career, and he understands that. Webb is bound to get a chance to start at some point in the future (with the Giants or someone else) and the best advice I can offer the young QB is this:
Listen, take notes -- a LOT of notes -- and study religiously. Be Eli's shadow and you can't go wrong.