Quarterback Joe Webb has long been a tantalizing figure for Minnesota Vikings fans. Big and athletic, he has certainly done well given the opportunity during mop-up situations in his first two seasons.
Now entrenched as the backup to Christian Ponder, the question arises: Is Webb good enough to lead the way if Ponder should go down to injury?
While Vikings fans obviously hope they don't have to find out the answer to that question, the guess here is a pretty solid "no". While proving he's a great change of pace player, a guy who can certainly make things happen in spot duty, Webb just isn't a good enough passer to be counted on as an every snap starter in the NFL.
Yes, Webb entered the Lions game late last season and rushed for 109 yards and led a spirited comeback. Yes, he's a dual threat that forces defenses to specifically game plan to stop him. The deal with Joe Webb is that if the defenses indeed see him coming, (he's starting), he's pretty easy to stop.
Where the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world pick up defensive schemes throughout the course of a ball game, it kind of works the opposite with Webb and players like him.
Instead of figuring out the defense, the defense tends to figure him out instead.
The Bears had a week to prepare for Webb as a starter for the last game of 2011 and they had no problem shutting him down. The Bears figured out very quickly that the longer a play goes, the more effective Webb becomes.
They didn't give him that time.
Should Christian Ponder Go Down, Should Joe Webb Start?
Webb excels when things break down and a play is drawn out. With the receivers and defensive backs and linebackers spread all over the field, Webb becomes dangerous as a guy who can take advantage of open spaces either by running, or by just the thought of him running, which will ultimately leave a receiver open.
You just can't have an offense that relies on that type of helter skelter action to be effective. What Webb hasn't proved he can do is run an offense efficiently and make quick, accurate throws that keep a defense honest.
At this point, all opponents have to do is simply say to Webb, "you're not beating us with your legs, we're taking that away from you, prove you can beat us with your arm."
Drafted out of Alabama Birmingham in 2010, the Vikings selected Webb with the thought of turning him into a wide receiver. Webb wanted, and got, the chance to prove himself as a quarterback and he did well enough to stay behind center. While Webb has proved he has a strong arm and is a phenomenal athlete, he just doesn't have the quick arm and decision making necessary to thrive at the highest level.
While no smart person would pass judgement after one preseason game, what Webb showed last week against the 49'ers is pretty typical of what you could expect of Webb as a starter. In five possessions, he completed just four of eleven passes for 20 yards and was sacked twice.
He leaves the pocket too early because the pocket is not his comfort zone.
It's easy to see that Webb could be a dominant player at a lower level university, but it's just as easy to see that he just doesn't throw the football like an NFL starter has to.
None of this is to say that Webb is not a valuable backup quarterback—he is. When Webb has entered ball games, he completely changes the pace and tempo of the game. He makes it a hurried, frantic pace and that can derail a defense for short periods of time.
Webb is a good backup to Ponder, but should Ponder go down, Webb should stay a backup.