NFC North Tour: WR or QB?

Vikings draft pick Joe Webb goes back to his college position; Bears draft pick Josh Moore knows he must get stronger; a sharper and smarter Matthew Stafford impresses in Detroit.

Minnesota Vikings

Joe Webb arrived in Minnesota last month expecting that his days playing quarterback were finished. A sixth-round pick by the Vikings, Webb had been told that he would be a wide receiver in the NFL.

But then Vikings coach Brad Childress and the offensive staff saw Webb throw the football on the final day of a three-day rookie minicamp conducted shortly after the draft.

Webb's passes impressed the Vikings so much that the idea of moving him to wide receiver was scuttled and he was shifted back to where he played last season at Alabama-Birmingham.

"He has an aptitude to be a quarterback," Childress said. "We went and drafted him as an athlete but if you go back and look at the UAB numbers he put up outstanding numbers. So he knows what he's doing moving around back there as a quarterback. He processes very quickly. We are going to continue repping him at quarterback."

Webb was so convinced his future was at wide receiver that he worked at that position at the Senior Bowl and his Pro Day. But he is ecstatic to be back under center.

"It feels great," said Webb, who passed for 2,299 yards and ran for 1,427 yards last season at UAB. "It's been a long time since I've been at quarterback. I've been working out at receiver most of the time throughout this whole process."

Childress does not plan to shift Webb around and said he will continue to work as a signal caller in order to help his development.

"It's not like he's going to play quarterback one play and go out and play wide receiver on the next play," Childress said. "We're trying to get him immersed in the system."

Williams Wall

Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are likely going to be available for most or all of the 2010 season after being granted an extension to the temporary injunction granted in an 11-page opinion from Hennepin County District Court Judge Gary Larson on Friday morning.

In his decision, Larson said the Williamses had "satisfied the standard" for proving that their suspensions should be blocked during the appeals process. In short, what the decision appears to show is that the Williamses can appeal the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and, even if they lose at that level, would have the chance to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Given the time that having cases filed and heard at both levels typically take several months, it appears at face value that there is little chance both appeals would be heard during the 2010 season.

Although Larson ruled against the Williamses in his decision, claiming the NFL didn't harm the Williamses through their drug testing policy and procedures that contradicted Minnesota law, in his ruling Friday, he gave the impression that his ruling may well be overturned on appeal, saying the league shouldn't benefit from "it's own misconduct."

"(The NFL) knew StarCaps contained Bumetanide, that players were ingesting Bumetanide, that Bumetanide was dangerous and withheld information about StarCaps, knowing that players would suffer as a result. (The NFL) created a trap that it knew would result in violations of the program."

(The following was provided by our Vikings site, VikingUpdate.com)

Vikings extra points

— Veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard was one of seven players being given a shot to catch punts during OTAs. Sheppard, who was signed by the Vikings as a free agent after one season with the New York Jets, has returned only eight punts in eight seasons and hasn't done it since 2005.

— Organized team activities are optional and the Vikings are using them for rookies and selected veterans, meaning many players aren't on the field on certain days. The team opened the Wednesday session to the media and the only two starters taking part were safeties Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams. "We'll have different people trickle in and out," Childress said. "There was a group that was out here practicing yesterday that wasn't here today. There's a group that's inside the building taking care of some of their strength needs and after the season needs. Some guys are rehabbing."

— Running back Toby Gerhart, the Vikings' second-round pick, isn't at OTAs because he is taking classes at Stanford in preparation for his graduation in June.

Chicago Bears


Josh Moore
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Fifth-round draft pick Joshua Moore, a 5-foot-11, 188-pound cornerback agreed to a four-year contract on Tuesday.

At this weekend's full-team minicamp, which begins Friday, Moore will be competing for a backup spot behind starters Charles Tillman and Zackary Bowman, along with returning corners Corey Graham, Woodny Turenne and D.J. Moore plus street free agent Tim Jennings, a former starter with the Colts. Turenne was an undrafted free agent last year, while Moore was a fourth-round pick in 2009.

Moore is considered a good cover corner, but red flags were raised when he bench-pressed 225 pounds just two times at the Scouting Combine.

"He's willing, but he needs to be a more physical tackler," Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said. "He's very aware of that situation, what he needs to do in that area. This is a man's league. You're going against 28- and 29-year olds; you're going against men, so you better be strong. He knows that and he can get better. Does he have to be the strongest guy on the team? No, but he's got to be stronger for his position."

In his three years at Kansas State, Moore played in all 37 games and started each of the final 24 over his last two seasons. He had career totals of 175 tackles, six interceptions, 34 passes defended, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Last season he was honorable mention All-Big 12 when he defended 13 passes and was second on the team with 64 tackles.

Moore realizes his lack of strength is a weakness that has to be corrected if he's to approach the same kind of success in the NFL.

"Right after the draft, I came in knowing my strength was one of the biggest problems I had," he said at rookie minicamp. "I feel that I have the athletic ability and I have the size. So strength was one of the biggest question marks on me. Since I did those two reps at the combine, I put that behind me, and I'll be moving forward from here. Hopefully this summer I can work on getting stronger with the Bears staff and they'll make me a better football player."

Bears extra points

— The Bears and fourth-round defensive end Corey Wootton agreed to a four-year contract that is expected to be worth $2.3 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus.

Wootton, the 109th overall selection, is expected to contribute in a rotation at defensive end that will have Julius Peppers starting at one end and Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije competing for the starting job at the other end. Wootton started 49 of 53 games at Northwestern, with 156 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 38 tackles for losses, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Wootton is the third of the Bears' five draft picks who have agreed to terms. Offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb (seventh round) signed on Sunday. Only third-round safety Major Wright and sixth-round quarterback Dan LeFevour remain unsigned.

— Restricted free agent safety Danieal Manning signed his one-year tender offer of $1.176 million Wednesday.

Manning, the last of the Bears' unrestricted free agents to agree to terms, was unhappy that he was tendered at the "original-round" level, and he skipped the first three weeks of voluntary team workouts in protest.

He has started 40 games in four years with the Bears, including 37 at free safety, but he will be competing for a starting job this season at a crowded position. In 2008, he led the NFL with a 29.7-yard kickoff-return average. Manning's 11 kickoff returns of 40-plus yards over the last two seasons (2008-09) are tops in the NFL.

— Protecting quarterback Jay Cutler will always be a priority, and the left guard spot is open since last year's starter, Frank Omiyale, has been moved to right tackle. Josh Beekman is the favorite to start but veteran tackle Kevin Shaffer could get a cursory look. Lance Louis, a seventh-round pick in 2009, could also figure in the equation sometime down the road, but he is, at present, still considered a bit of a project.

Detroit Lions


Matthew Stafford
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Lions plan to give quarterback Matthew Stafford more freedom at the line of scrimmage this fall. It's not because he couldn't handle it as a rookie and they feel he has picked up the playbook now. It's because they feel his supporting cast matches his abilities now.

"We sort of held Matt back last year," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Matt was a lot further along than we were offensively. There were things he could do that we didn't have other pieces around him to be able to do."

Stafford has new weapons like wide receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Tony Scheffler and running back Jahvid Best. He is past the knee and shoulder injuries he suffered last season, throwing the ball with full authority again. And he has been impressive during organized team activities.

Take one practice. Stafford pumped-faked to wide receiver Calvin Johnson, whom defenses smothered last season. The coverage shifted to Johnson. Stafford fired a rocket over the middle to Burleson, whom the Lions signed to make defenses pay for paying so much attention to Johnson. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had a huge smile on his face afterward.

"They were trying to zone us off, which creates small pockets," Burleson said. "Most defenses, they kind of bank on the fact that a lot of quarterbacks are scared to attack those small pockets. I'm probably thinking that Linehan was smiling because we have a quarterback that can fit anything into any small pocket."

Earlier that day, Stafford fired a pass through three defenders to tight end Will Heller, who dropped the ball apparently because he was surprised it got to him. Burleson said Stafford had noticed all the defenders' helmets were turned, and knowing they weren't looking at him, it was safe to take a shot.

"That's strength, confidence and also a little bit of moxie," Burleson said. "You've got to be cocky to make that throw, and I love it."

Stafford wasn't the popular pick when the Lions drafted him No. 1 overall last year. Fans chanted for linebacker Aaron Curry.

But Stafford has started to win over the city, especially after he threw the game-winning touchdown with no time left Nov. 22 against Cleveland one play after suffering an AC joint separation. And he has won over the locker room.

"Anytime a rookie comes in, particularly a guy that was drafted No. 1 overall and that's paid that kind of contract, there's going to be suspicion," Schwartz said. "There's going to be people in the locker room and fans and people in the media that are going to take a wait-and-see approach with it, and then after you go through it and they get more comfortable, then that dynamic is out the window.

"It's no longer about proving yourself. It's about improving."

Lions extra points

— Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, struggled in his first practice against an NFL starting guard, going against Stephen Peterman. "Peterman's definitely a vet, and he knows what he's doing and really knows this offense," Suh said. "He definitely has quick feet, strong guy, and he's more schooled in being able to pick up on things. You can't give off little tips like you did in college. You have to really disguise your stuff, because they start to pick up on those things and those tendencies that you do. So things of that sort, they're a lot more schooled in that area. Strength-wise, do I feel I can push him around? Not necessarily push him around, but I feel I'm strong enough to beat him to the quarterback or I wouldn't be at this level. So I did it a little bit, but he's still a great player. He's going to recover quickly if I beat him, if I don't make sure I close and get back to the quarterback and make sure it's no doubt that I don't give him any leeway or no air."

— Right tackle Gosder Cherilus returned to the field about a month after having arthroscopic surgery to remove debris from his right knee.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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