Sunday slant: He can jump, but Webb's a QB

Rookie Joe Webb was drafted as a receiver, but he caught the eyes of coaches when he started throwing in the spring. Despite a thinned receiver corps, the Vikings don't have any intention of testing him as a potential solution there. Plus, where are the Lions best and worst, how did Toby Gerhart react to his first action, and how long are the odds for the Vikings to make the Super Bowl?

Joe Webb was somewhat of an offseason sensation for Vikings fans.

Here's what most fans knew about him: He was drafted as a wide receiver, became famous for a YouTube video showing off his freakish jumping ability and then was switched to quarterback after the Vikings' rookie minicamp.

At 6-foot-5, Webb seems to have all the wide receiver tools … except for a little thing called experience. You see, Webb wasn't primarily a receiver at Alabama-Birmingham, so it's not as simple as just having certain athletic abilities and being able to immediately transfer them into receiver. If it were that simple, former collegiate track star Todd Lowber would be burning through defenses instead only having an offseason cup of coffee in Minnesota before discovering that – as Brad Childress likes to say – receivers by definition should receive.

So if hurdling was a major contributor to success at wide receiver, Webb might be a viable option for a team desperate for help at the position. As it stands, the team doesn't want to retard his progress as a quarterback by trying to make him Sidney Rice's temp worker.

"They haven't (asked) me yet. I'm just playing my role as a quarterback, trying to get better every day," Webb said this week when asked if the Vikings had requested him for another look at receiver. "If they come to me, then it's good. Of course I'd be willing to do anything that helps the team."

The only reason Webb entered the NFL scouting consciousness at receiver was because that's where he worked during Senior Bowl week in January when scouts requested his presence there. He couldn't have impressed them that much because he went five full rounds before being selected. Still, the Vikings had to have seen some potential for him there or they weren't have drafted him in the sixth round.

"I was getting comfortable. The more I worked at it, the more comfortable I would get," he said of his week-long experience in Mobile, Ala. "If it would take me to get more reps to get more confident (at receiver now), I'm all for it."

But with a big-time arm, great measurables for a quarterback and some poise in the pocket, Webb is being counted on to develop at quarterback, not become an immediate contributor at receiver.

Fans aren't likely to the see the dividends of his work over the next several months, but he's getting some quarterback seasoning behind the scenes.

"It's been coming along pretty good. It's different from training camp because they install different plays and do different things to each one of the plays to help us identify what the defense is giving us," he said. "It's been coming along pretty good. T-Jack (Tarvaris Jackson) and Brett Favre have been helping me out a lot."

GERHART GETS ACTION

After being inactive for Week 1, rookie running back Toby Gerhart got his first action of the season against the Miami Dolphins. He carried the ball four times for 10 yards and caught one pass for 5 yards.

"I definitely had some serious nerves going into it. After I got that first play and that first hit, it was just football again," Gerhart said Friday. "I think on my first carry, I was just like, ‘Alright, just hold onto the ball.' You don't want to start off your career with a fumble. After you get that first hit, it's just kind of relax and play."

Gerhart said there was one carry he could have bounced outside and he didn't have any issues with pass protection, which he said was required of him two or three times during the game. Overall, he was pretty satisfied with his first effort and hoping for more opportunities.

LIONS PROPENSITIES

Since the Lions are a fairly different team now than they were last year, we'll make the switch over to this year's statistics in looking at their strong suits. It's only two games, but so far the Lions look like a balanced team, rushing 27 times on first down and passing 30 times.

As a running team, Jahvid Best was markedly better in his second outing. In the opener against Chicago, he averaged only 1.4 yards on 14 carries, but against Philadelphia that improved to a 4.6-yard average on 17 carries. He also became a big-time receiving threat last week, averaging 17.1 yards on nine catches.

Not surprisingly, with Best's speed, the Lions are much more effective rushing outside than up the middle. They still try the middle, but their 1.33-yard average up the gut ranks 31st in the league. They have been especially effective running to their right, ranking first around right end with a 22-yard average on four carries, and they rank second with a 9.8-yard average on five carries around left end.

With Calvin Johnson, you might think the Lions would be more effective throwing the deep ball, but that's not the case. They rank 24th in average gain when targeting the deep left part of the field and 22nd in both deep middle and deep right. They are most effective throwing short, especially short middle and right, where they rank second and third, respectively.

Defensively, they rank at or near the bottom half of the league in average gain in six of the seven spots – outside left and right, up the middle, right and left guard, and left tackle. They have, however, limited teams to only 1.38 yards per carry on eight rushes over right tackle.

It appears their improved pass rush might be helping their ability to defend the deep pass. They've only been tested deep left twice and deep middle once, with none of those completed. It's the left side of their pass defense (the offense's right) that seems vulnerable, giving up an average of 12 yards when targeted deep right (ranking 24th).

THE DOGS OF BODOG

If you don't have much confidence in the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, you're not alone. The gambling site Bodog.com has lengthened the odds for the Vikings, moving them from 11/1 before the season to 28/1 after two losses.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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