Webb could be valuable scout-team option

Joe Webb is a receiver, but as the Vikings' season progresses, he could provide valuable option looks on the scout team after the bye.

On a week when the NFL witnessed the most touchdowns scored in a single week in league history, differing versions of the read option have dominated the conversation. Chip Kelly's video game pace made its debut Monday night. The Jets and Bills rolled the dice with more success than non-New Yorkers thought possible. San Francisco won by teasing it and going old-school passing. Seattle found a way to win, but that was due more to the defense than Russell Wilson. It's spreading like a virus.

It's kind of like a fast-forward version of The Walking Dead. We don't have "walkers." We have "runners." Just as teams began to adopt the 3-4 defense as a way to success in the long term, the NFL is switching more and more to the pinball stylings of the college game and the read option approach to big plays and finishing drives.

What does that have to do with Joe Webb? The scout team.

Wait. What?

Just for a second, don the responsibilities of a coaching staff facing the Vikings with their 2013 schedule. In the first four games, they're facing conventional offenses and relatively glacial quarterbacks. Be honest. Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Brandon Weeden and Ben Roethlisberger run only in the name of self-preservation. They're not innovators when toe dancing 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. They never get that far barring a complete coverage b breakdown or injury.

After the bye week, that changes.

A lot.

In the 10 games the Vikings play after their Week 5 bye, four of them are against quarterbacks who run the read option – Cam Newton (Carolina), Robert Griffin III (Washington), Wilson (Seattle) and Michael Vick (Philadelphia). The Vikings' post-bye road will be difficult enough considering that in the eight games in which they don't play against read option-capable QBs they face Aaron Rodgers twice, El Manning, Tony Romo, Cutler, Stafford, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. That alone may be enough to have fans tempering 2013 predictions. But, as far as Webb is concerned, how can he help the 2013 Vikings the most?

He's not a viable, sustainable receiving option. Of the 55 offensive plays the Vikings ran Sunday, Webb was on the field for six of them – one less play than he was on the field for special teams duties. His value to the pass offense is marginal. His value to the defense and the coaching staff? Priceless.

With four games against teams that run versions of the read option, who would be the best choice to serve as scout team opposing QB? Can Matt Cassel replicate what Newton or Wilson can do? No. Can McLeod Bethel-Thompson replicate what RG3 or Vick can do? No. Can Webb come a lot closer? Uh, yeah.

In Week 1, Webb had very little to do with the Vikings losing to the Lions. By the time we got to late December, he could end up being a big reason why the Vikings hope to be finishing off a playoff run. And he may not see the field on game days for more than the 11 percent of offensive plays he did Sunday.

The value of a player to an organization can often be tied to one critical factor. With Webb, it might be that, even though he's been taken off the QB beat on Sundays, he can still be a QB from Wednesday to Saturday. The worst case scenario is that he shows the Vikings defense a B-list of version of what they're going to see. The best case scenario, he shows so many good things that the Vikings actually incorporate elements of the read option into their own offense – springing it on the Packers would be refreshing.

If you wonder why Webb made the cut over Stephen Burton, perhaps its his QB history and read option acumen that won the day.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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