It is not outside the realm of possibility that Joe Webb could wind up #2 on the Vikings‘ QB depth chart once the season rolls around. Christian Ponder was more-or-less handed the back-up spot by everyone outside the Vikings organization after Donovan McNabb‘s arrival, but Leslie Frazier has kept an open mind about things, and now it appears Webb and Ponder are at least running neck-and-neck in camp.
There are actually some fairly good logical reasons to install Webb as the back-up at least initially. Unlike Ponder, Webb actually has NFL experience, having started a couple games in 2010, most notably the Tuesday night Philadelphia game, in which Webb led the Vikings to an improbable victory. If the Vikings really mean to make a run in 2011, it probably makes more sense to use the relatively experienced guy – and “experience” truly is relative in this case – behind McNabb, a quarterback who has been injury-prone at times during his career.
Let’s say McNabb suffers an injury early in the season when the Vikings are still full of hope about making a playoff run. Who would you rather have out there in McNabb’s place under such dire circumstances: The guy who hasn’t played a single down or the guy who at least has a couple games in his back pocket? If Webb struggles you can always go to Ponder. In a pinch, I would have somewhat more confidence in Webb’s ability to come in and win a game than Ponder.
There’s another argument in favor of making Webb the #2 to start off. We know Christian Ponder is probably the long-term solution at quarterback, meaning the Vikings have a special interest in preserving his confidence and health at all costs. If McNabb were to get hurt, it would be awfully rough on Ponder to just throw him into the fray, especially considering our offensive line and receiver issues. This may sound harsh but it’s true: Webb, in the long-run, is more expendable than Ponder. He’s a low-round pick, not a #12 overall like Ponder. So you can better afford to have Webb take a mental and physical beating than Ponder, a man you’re counting on to eventually take over the team.
It’s clear that Leslie Frazier is at least considering starting the year with Webb as the #2 QB. This is reflected in Frazier’s unwillingness to consider switching Webb back to wide receiver, a move many fans have advocated as a way of potentially adding an athletic (if very raw) weapon to what right now looks like a thin receiver corps.
“No, we really want to see Joe as a quarterback,” Frazier said in response to questions about moving Webb back to receiver, the position he was drafted to play in 2010 before being switched to his college position of QB. “He’s a tremendous athlete, and he can do some other things, but to be fair to Joe and our team, we need to let him concentrate on quarterback, not having it in the back of his mind, ‘Am I going to be moved to receiver?’”
Frazier went on, “Who knows? He may end up being our No. 2 quarterback, and now you’re one injury away from that guy being in the game. So we want to have the best guy in the No. 2 spot. If it’s Joe, it’s Joe. If it’s Christian, it’s Christian.”
The idea has also been floated that Webb could be employed as a QB/receiver in special packages, now that the NFL has dropped its silly “emergency quarterback” rule, allowing teams more flexibility in how they use the QBs on their roster. This is still certainly a possibility. However, right now it sounds like Webb will remain exclusively a QB, giving him a full chance to win the #2 job over Ponder. If nothing else the Ponder/Webb competition will give us a compelling storyline to follow during preseason, which kicks off for the Vikings Saturday in Nashville.