Sunday slant: What is Webb?

The Vikings are giving Joe Webb every chance to focus on quarterback this year, but his performances in games and practices have to improve if that is the plan long-term. So far, there are enough qualifying statements to leave other options open.

With a full offseason dedicated to the quarterback position, there remains one big question with Joe Webb: Can he be a consistently effective quarterback?

Perhaps no quarterback has generated such a dichotomy of opinions in the last year. Webb gained almost a cult following during some of his relief appearances last year. His unquestioned athleticism was on full display when he escaped the pocket and took off running. Those traits remain this year, but it still appears Webb is too quick to turn and run backwards to escape pressure rather than step up in a designed pocket and find a receiver.

For now, the Vikings will continue to work with Webb at quarterback and seem insistent on finding out if he can develop there. His five series in Friday night's preseason opener, which produced only four first downs and no points, were testament to their commitment to the evaluation process while Christian Ponder and McLeod Bethel-Thompson received only series each.

"We wanted to continue to give him opportunities to continue to show that he's in the right spot playing quarterback and we'll do the same things next week, give him opportunities and continue to grow as a quarterback throughout this preseason," Frazier said after Friday night's game.

Webb finished the game 4-for-11 for 20 yards, two sacks and a 44.9 rating. Unlike Ponder, who had at least two (maybe three) drops by his receivers and another two of his incompletions from throwaways, Webb only had one pass dropped by his receivers.

The problem for him was he was simply being erratic. Some of that could be blamed on a second-team offensive line that didn't always give him adequate time, but Webb seemed impatient in the pocket and ran himself backwards and into trouble a couple of times.

When he did set up and throw, he came up short of Michael Jenkins on his first drive, overthrew Devin Aromashodu on his second possession, was behind Derrick Coleman on his fourth series and behind Aromadshodu on his final possession.

Certainly the Vikings were expecting more from him as they entered the preseason opener.

"Joe is always going to look better in the games than he will in practice at this stage in his career," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said during the second week of training camp. "He is not a real refined pure passer, but he does have touch. He demonstrated that against the Redskins last year. He does have the ability to exhibit anticipation also, throwing the ball early before the guy gets out of his break. Joe, like a lot of young players, just needs more and more turns so he can get comfortable and confident and execute more consistently."

Webb didn't look good, but he hasn't been all that impressive in training camp, either. It's during those practices that he should look better, but he hasn't demonstrated consistent enough accuracy to be certain he can be an effective backup.

While he has been intriguing fans with his Houdini-like ability to escape the pocket, there has always been a caution. The theory goes that if he is made a starter because of injury, opposing defenses would simply be able to game plan to stop his running ability, leaving him to prove it with an arm that is no doubt strong enough but not always accurate enough.

Unless his decision-making and mechanics improve quickly, it leaves the Vikings in much the same position they were after last season – wondering if he can be an effective quarterback or not. For now, the Blazer package has been scrapped, but it hasn't sounded like the coaches are necessarily committed to Webb at quarterback long-term.

"Joe has superior running ability, so any nuance plays would be after we get through this training and preparation period of our season," Musgrave said.

Frazier has also issued similarly qualifying statements about Webb at quarterback. In fairness, they are willing to give him a full-time opportunity during the offseason and preseason. After that, however, all bets are off.

Chances are the Vikings will keep Webb as one of their backup quarterbacks, but there could be an interesting option in which Sage Rosenfels and McLeod Bethel-Thompson are the backups and Webb goes back to a dual passer-receiver role during the regular season despite questions about his ability to be a consistent receiver, as well. Truth be told, Bethel-Thompson has looked better than Webb and Rosenfels in training camp, and was better than Webb in MBT's first action as a pro Friday night.

"That's the one thing about this level, everyone here deserves a chance to play in this league, otherwise they wouldn't get in the front door," Musgrave said when asked about Webb 10 days ago. But that statement could just as easily apply to Bethel-Thompson as Webb.

So what is Joe Webb? A quarterback? A receiver?

All we know now is that Webb is a very likeable athlete that coaches, teammates and fans want to see succeed. If and where that happens remains the question.


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"With a full offseason dedicated to the quarterback position, there remains one big question with Joe Webb: Can he be a consistently effective quarterback? Perhaps no quarterback has generated such a dichotomy of opinions in the last year. Webb gained almost a cult following during some of his relief appearances last year. His unquestioned athleticism was on full display when he escaped the pocket and took off running. Those traits remain this year, but it still appears Webb is too quick to turn and run backwards to escape pressure rather than step up in a designed pocket and find a receiver. For now, the Vikings will continue to work with Webb at quarterback and seem insistent on finding out if he can develop there. His five series in Friday night's preseason opener, which produced only four first downs and no points, were testament to their commitment to the evaluation process while Christian Ponder and McLeod Bethel-Thompson received only series each. \"We wanted to continue to give him opportunities to continue to show that he's in the right spot playing quarterback and we'll do the same things next week, give him opportunities and continue to grow as a quarterback throughout this preseason,\" Frazier said after Friday night's game. Webb finished the game 4-for-11 for 20 yards, two sacks and a 44.9 rating. Unlike Ponder, who had at least two (maybe three) drops by his receivers and another two of his incompletions from throwaways, Webb only had one pass dropped by his receivers. The problem for him was he was simply being erratic. Some of that could be blamed on a second-team offensive line that didn't always give him adequate time, but Webb seemed impatient in the pocket and ran himself backwards and into trouble a couple of times. When he did set up and throw, he came up short of Michael Jenkins on his first drive, overthrew Devin Aromashodu on his second possession, was behind Derrick Coleman on his fourth series and behind Aromadshodu on his final possession. Certainly the Vikings were expecting more from him as they entered the preseason opener. \"Joe is always going to look better in the games than he will in practice at this stage in his career,\" offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said during the second week of training camp. \"He is not a real refined pure passer, but he does have touch. He demonstrated that against the Redskins last year. He does have the ability to exhibit anticipation also, throwing the ball early before the guy gets out of his break. Joe, like a lot of young players, just needs more and more turns so he can get comfortable and confident and execute more consistently.\" Webb didn't look good, but he hasn't been all that impressive in training camp, either. It's during those practices that he should look better, but he hasn't demonstrated consistent enough accuracy to be certain he can be an effective backup. While he has been intriguing fans with his Houdini-like ability to escape the pocket, there has always been a caution. The theory goes that if he is made a starter because of injury, opposing defenses would simply be able to game plan to stop his running ability, leaving him to prove it with an arm that is no doubt strong enough but not always accurate enough. Unless his decision-making and mechanics improve quickly, it leaves the Vikings in much the same position they were after last season – wondering if he can be an effective quarterback or not. For now, the Blazer package has been scrapped, but it hasn't sounded like the coaches are necessarily committed to Webb at quarterback long-term. \"Joe has superior running ability, so any nuance plays would be after we get through this training and preparation period of our season,\" Musgrave said. Frazier has also issued similarly qualifying statements about Webb at quarterback. In fairness, they are willing to give him a full-time opportunity during the offseason and preseason. After that, however, all bets are off. Chances are the Vikings will keep Webb as one of their backup quarterbacks, but there could be an interesting option in which Sage Rosenfels and McLeod Bethel-Thompson are the backups and Webb goes back to a dual passer-receiver role during the regular season despite questions about his ability to be a consistent receiver, as well. Truth be told, Bethel-Thompson has looked better than Webb and Rosenfels in training camp, and was better than Webb in MBT's first action as a pro Friday night. \"That's the one thing about this level, everyone here deserves a chance to play in this league, otherwise they wouldn't get in the front door,\" Musgrave said when asked about Webb 10 days ago. But that statement could just as easily apply to Bethel-Thompson as Webb. So what is Joe Webb? A quarterback? A receiver? All we know now is that Webb is a very likeable athlete that coaches, teammates and fans want to see succeed. If and where that happens remains the question. 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