Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

As season opens, Giants scrutinized over backup QB

Of all the New York Giants story lines to grab national attention coming out of the cutdown to 53 players, perhaps the one story no one saw coming involved the backup quarterback.

Yet that is precisely where the Giants, who this weekend open at home against the Jaguars, find themselves after a rather curious 48 hours that saw Davis Webb, the team’s third-round draft pick last year and a player who received the lion’s share of snaps behind projected starter Eli Manning in the spring and summer, waived by the team.

So what exactly went into the curious decision to part with Webb and retain rookie Kyle Lauletta and journeyman Alex Tanney?

“I think I mentioned long ago there was no depth chart behind Eli (Manning),” head coach Pat Shurmur said Monday after the team’s first practice as a 53-man unit.

“We were trying to figure out who the guys playing quarterback were going to be behind Eli. (Webb) got a lot of reps, and I think it was probably that where people start to assume because he’s taking second-string reps that he’s a second-string quarterback, and it didn’t play out that way.”

The question is why. Webb finished the preseason completing 28 out of 53 passes for a team leading 283 yards and one touchdown, numbers which while not horrible, were on par or better than his competition, Lauletta (17 of 35 for 194 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) and Tanney (18 of 33 for 177 yards, one touchdown).

The answer apparently goes beyond the production and to the intangibles that Shurmur looks for in a quarterback. The Giants head coach has, in the past, downplayed the importance of a quarterback’s having a strong arm, and has placed more of a premium on things such as decision making.

So when it came to the quarterbacks, Shurmur sounded as though he was more impressed with Lauletta’s decision-making process, again praising the rookie out of Richmond on that quality Monday.

“I like the fact that he’ll decide what he’s looking at, see it and pull the trigger,” Shurmur said. “He’s very decisive in what he does. He’s a gamer of sorts and we’re looking forward to working with that.”

Lauletta, as he has done all summer, has kept his head down and remained humble regarding what he’s been able to accomplish.

“I think just doing what the coaches asked me to do – be a quick decision maker, be smart with the football, be accurate, let the guys get yards after the catch by throwing it accurately and just knowing where to go with the football,” he said when asked what he thought he did well enough to earn the trust of the coaches.

“There were some rough practices towards the end of camp and a couple games I wished I played a little bit better, but all in all I felt like I showed improvement throughout the whole camp and I was on the right track, and I think there’s a lot I can improve on and a lot I will improve on. Like I said, we have great coaches, especially Coach Shurmur being an offensive guy. He’s been a great help to me and I think I can only keep getting better with him at the helm.”

Although Lauletta is a fourth-round pick and Webb a third, Shurmur downplayed draft pedigree, noting that where a player is drafted has little to no bearing on pecking order or entitlement.

“Really, at some point, regardless of where you’re drafted, once you’re settled in as a player on the team, that kind of goes away,” he said.

“We’re all out here trying to earn a spot every day, players and coaches. So, at some point, whether you’re drafted in the third round or the fifth round, that sort of goes away at some point and you play it out.”

In explaining the decision to retain Tanney, who first entered the NFL in 2013 with the Browns and who in one career game, that being in 2015 with the Titans, has completed 10 of 14 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, Shurmur pointed to that game experience as being valuable.

“Here’s the thing with a veteran backup quarterback,” he said. “They can go in and function with very few reps and I think that’s an attribute that I look for in a guy that could potentially be a backup to a guy like Eli, because they don’t get that many reps during the training sessions.”

Even when that quarterback has one NFL regular-season game under his belt?

“He’s the one we signed and he’s the one that we worked with and he’s the one we liked,” Shurmur said. “That’s what it is.”

For now.

SERIES HISTORY: 7th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 3-3. Since 2002, when the Giants recorded a 24-17 win at New York, each team has traded off in winning their regular-season matchups. Each team is also undefeated against the other on its home turf. Their last meeting came in 2014 at Jacksonville, a 25-24 Jaguars win.