Webb's past with read option could be useful

The Vikings will face a few offenses that use the read option during the year and could use Joe Webb on the scout team in preparation. Webb knows that offense well after running it in college.

When the Vikings made their final cuts last weekend, one of the biggest questions was whether they would keep Joe Webb or Stephen Burton as their fifth wide receiver. The team opted to keep Webb. Whether it was because of his versatility with having a grasp of the Vikings offense after spending three years as a backup quarterback, having experience playing wide receiver early in college and/or his ability to be a return man, in the end, the Vikings viewed him the better option.

As the Labor Day weekend unfolded, however, Webb was unsure what the Vikings were going to do. He went into Cutdown Saturday not knowing if his NFL future was going to be in Minnesota or somewhere else – an unnerving feeling he tried his best to push to the back of his mind.

"I had no idea what was going to happen last weekend," Webb said. "I just tried to clear my mind. I tried to do things to keep my mind off it and whatever was going to happen would happen. I didn't get too stressed out about it and everything worked out good."

Perhaps the tipping point in his favor is the growing use of the read option offense that has become more popular given the success of players like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson – two of whom will be on the Vikings' 2013 schedule. It's likely Webb will run the scout team for those games in hopes of preparing the Vikings defense for what they will face against the Redskins and Seahawks, but along the way he might give the Vikings the idea to use it themselves in certain situations.

In the playoff debacle against the Packers last January, on the first series of the game, the Vikings let Webb run the read option and the Vikings drove down the field against Green Bay. When the team reverted to a more conventional pocket offense, things fell apart quickly.

When allowed to use his instinctive natural talents, Webb looked good in that scheme. Why not? He was running the read option before the read option was cool – and the flavor of the month.

"I've done a lot of that in my career," Webb said. "That's what we did a lot in college. If you've run it before, you learn how to protect yourself. As the quarterback, you learn how to read what the defensive end or linebacker is doing and when to hand it off and when to pull it in. You still have the slide rule that will protect quarterbacks, but I think it's a good offensive formation. You see a lot of guys running it in college and they're making the transition in the NFL. (Texas A&M's) Johnny Manziel does it. So does (Clemson's Tajh Boyd). It depends on the system, but it seems like it's spreading in college and, when those guys come to the pros, they bring it with them."

Will the Vikings design plays for Webb to run the read option? They've said nothing to indicate that they have the plan, but what made the Wildcat so successful early on when Ronnie Brown sliced and diced the Patriots and embarrassed Bill Belichick was the unexpected nature of it. Webb is open to the idea, but, then again, he's willing to do whatever he has to in order to keep his roster spot and help the Vikings be successful. Will the Vikes break out the read option at some point?

"I don't know," Webb said. "Right now, I'm just trying to learn my role as a wide receiver. I think playing quarterback has taught me how to read defenses, so I have a little bit of an advantage there. But if it's something down the line they want to look at, I've got experience at it. If it helps us win games, I'm willing to do whatever I can – do that, play wide receiver, help on special teams, whatever."

FRIDAY NOTES

  • In the 2013 season opener, Peyton Manning tied an NFL record with touchdown passes. He was first to throw seven TDs since Joe Kapp did it for the Vikings in 1969. In his postgame press conference, Manning acknowledged Kapp as a "Canadian quarterback out of Cal who kicked the crap out of a guy a couple of years ago on YouTube." The latter reference was to an altercation Kapp had with former CFL foe Angelo Mosca, who showed old rivalries run deep. After Mosca cold-cocked Kapp with a cane, Kapp laid the smack down in a battle of geriatrics rarely seen in the annals of pro football lore.

  • Thursday's game also pushed the Vikings deeper down the list of another record – the largest margin of defeat in the season opener for a defending Super Bowl champ. Baltimore's 22-point loss was the largest margin of defeat ever and pushed the Vikings to third on the all-time list. Dallas lost by 19 to Washington in 1993 and Vikings beat the Chiefs by 17 in 1970 opener following their humbling loss in Super Bowl III.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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