Don’t Forget About Vikings QB Joe Webb As A Potential Starter
Joe Webb has gone from being a relief quarterback for Brett Favre last year into the middle of a competition for the starting job with rookie Christian Ponder and probably another veteran to be revealed after the lockout.
It speaks to Webb’s easy-going and likeable personality that he has talked and texted with Favre a few times this offseason and has nothing but glowing compliments for Ponder.
“Great all-around guy. Great all-around tools. Great athlete,” Webb said when asked for his assessment of Ponder. “He can toss the ball very well. Very smart guy. There is nothing you can pick that’s wrong with Christian. He’s a great all-around guy.”
So how does Webb know so much about Ponder? Interestingly, Webb was at the IMG Madden Football Academy a week before Ponder at the end of May and beginning of June. Ponder gets the credit for organizing the workouts – he called Webb and the Vikings’ third quarterback, Rhett Bomar – with more than a handful of Vikings in Florida, but Webb was going through the same routine and wanted to get an early start on learning new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s playbook.
“It’s a lot simpler,” Webb said, comparing the Brad Childress-Darrell Bevell West Coast offense of 2010 to Musgrave’s offense of mixed influences. “ I see that Coach Musgrave, he has the mentality that he wants us to play fast and not do a lot of thinking. He’s got the offense set up, it’s not that hard to learn, even though the last offense wasn’t that hard to learn with Coach Bevell. This offense allows you to do more playing and less thinking.”
The high-hurdling Webb had plenty of obstacles to clear last year, making his way from the University of Alabama-Birmingham to Childress’ offense. At UAB , Webb was running a spread offense that concerns some analysts when trying to project college players to the NFL game. In fact, the Vikings had Webb tabbed as a converted receiver in the NFL because of the athleticism that can be seen in a predraft video that shows him clearing seven bags stacked more than five feet high while preparing for the draft.
But after seeing him throw the ball instead of catching it on the final day of minicamp in 2010, Childress decided to take an extended look at Webb at quarterback.
Ever since, Webb has been making the transition from UAB to the NFL.
“I was in the shotgun pretty much the whole time [at UAB]. When I entered the league last year, I had to learn how to come up from under the center, say the cadence – I pretty much didn’t say no cadence at UAB. We do things in the huddle because we didn’t huddle at UAB, so it was pretty much a whole different mindset.”
Quarterback was the position he played most in college, winning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 with 2,299 yards and 21 touchdown passes to go with 1,427 more yards and 11 more touchdowns. In fact, he was the first player in NCAA history to throw for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons after catching 30 passes for 459 yards and three touchdowns in 2007.
But all that collegiate success didn’t automatically put him on the fast track in the NFL. It took months of repetition in the Vikings offense before he finally started to feel comfortable only weeks before he was forced into meaningful action.
“OTAs [organized team activities] helped me out a lot. All through the OTAs I would get more and more comfortable,” Webb said. “By the time training camp rolled around, things where still a little bit fast for me, so I was still working. I would say about midseason or a little bit before … I started to get a little more comfortable with the offense or started to understand exactly what the coaches were trying to do.”
Now it’s a whole new offense for Webb to learn and he’s taking the task seriously. He is working on his speed and strength in morning sessions at IMG, then into the classroom and throwing sessions in the afternoon.
“Coming on the field, the workouts, getting together with the guys, the formations, visualizing everything on the field, that’s a lot different than sitting in the classroom and looking at stuff on the board,” he said. “The more reps, the better you’ll get.”
And the better chance he’ll have to at least make an impression in the Vikings’ quest to find their next starting quarterback.
With the drafting of Christian Ponder in the first round and the slew of quarterbacks available via free agency at some point Joe Webb has become a forgotten guy. Assuming the Vikings don’t pursue McNabb and choose to pass on trading for Kobb or Ortan he very much could be an option to start this season. Throwing Ponder into the starting role with the lack of organized practices might not be in the Vikings best interests.
What do you think? With everything the way it is right now who should start for the Vikings at the beginning of the season?