Minnesota Vikings: Why Joe Webb Needs to Play Wide Receiver
After losing for a second time in a three-game span, Vikings fans are quick to blame quarterback Christian Ponder for the team's struggles.
It is no doubt that soon fans will be calling for backup QB Joe Webb to overtake our second-year starter.
It is quite obvious that Minnesota's front office have no plans to take Ponder out of the starting lineup. I have a better idea of what to do with our former sixth-round pick from UAB: play him at wide receiver as we had originally planned when we drafted him.
I have three reasons on why this will help the Vikings:
Some of the top wide receiver prospects entering the 2010 NFL draft with Webb were Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Arrelious Benn. Since Webb played mainly quarterback for the last two seasons of his college career, the UAB product was not a highly touted prospect at WR.
Despite that, he has all the athletic tools to potentially play the position in the NFL
Joe, standing at 6'3" and weighing 223 pounds coming into the draft, has great size for playing wideout. His size is very similar to that of 2010 first-round picks Demaryius Thomas (6'3", 224 lbs) and Dez Bryant (6'2", 225 lbs).
What stands out most about the size that Webb possesses is the athleticism that comes with it.
It all starts with the speed that Joe has shown off many times in college and during his limited playing time with the Vikings. According to nfldraftscout.com, Webb's pro day 40-yard dash time was 4.44.
If that time is compared with the other wideouts of his class at the NFL combine, he would rank seventh overall and would trail only Jacoby Ford (4.28 sec), Emmanuel Sanders (4.41) and Golden Tate (4.42) of players drafted in the fourth round or sooner.
Now, I am sure that most people have seen the video of Webb jumping over seven bags while he was training for his pro day. This was just a preview of his otherworldly jumping ability and overall strength that he would eventually showcase.
At his pro day, Webb had a vertical jump of 42.5 inches and 21 reps of the 225-pound bench press. Both of those totals were tops among all wide receivers at the combine that year, as well as above how Bryant performed in those areas (14 bench press reps, 38 inch vertical).
The combination of those numbers show that the current Vikings QB not only has the size and speed to play outside but also the strength.
Anybody who has watched the Vikings in the past few weeks have noticed the increasing struggles by Christian Ponder. Many people want to blame Ponder for his woes, but aside from Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, he does not have any other weapons to work with.
In the most recent loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night, it seemed as if on almost every first and second down for the Vikings, they had only two wide receivers on the field. With John Carlson sidelined by a concussion, it meant that on most of those first- and second-down plays, either Jerome Felton or Rhett Ellison was on the field, who are not threatening players with the football.
Obviously, Minnesota's offense is built on the run, but having another receiving threat could possibly spread the defense and help open some holes for Peterson.
Unfortunately, the Vikings' current receivers, Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Stephen Burton have not been consistent weapons either.
Having one of our top three most explosive players, along with AP and Harvin, line up outside could only be beneficial over the team's other options.
Past Production at the Position
Before moving almost exclusively to quarterback at UAB, Webb was an opening-game starter at WR in his sophomore season.
Webb played six games in which he had more plays at wideout than quarterback in that season.
In three of those six games, he had over five catches and over 85 yards. Most impressively, two of the games were against top BCS schools. In Week 1, Webb caught six balls for 98 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State.
He followed up that performance with another six-reception game in which he totaled 89 yards and another touchdown in a 24-34 defeat at the hands of Florida State.
Over the course of the season, he caught 30 passes for 459 yards and three touchdowns. Also, 16 of his 30 catches were big gainers of 15 yards or more.
In conclusion, Webb is obviously an athletic specimen with all the physical tools to succeed at the wide receiver position for a team that desperately needs another outside weapon.
This would not be his first time playing the position, and it is a waste to keep someone with this much ability buried on the bench.
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