Vikings Preseason: An Interesting Night For Joe Webb and McLeod Bethel-Thompson


We’ve already briefly discussed Christian Ponder’s performance in Friday night’s preseason opener. Ponder played well, completing 4-of-9 passes including a 52-yard bomb to Stephen Burton. The percentage doesn’t look good but there were three drops and two throwaways, one forced by pressure from Matt Kalil’s side. All-in-all, it was a worthy opening performance for Ponder, who looked much more sure of himself than when last we saw him.

Suffice it to say, the level of quarterback play dropped off glaringly after Ponder. Joe Webb was next up in the rotation and he was flat-out brutal. Reports on Webb from training camp have not been positive and last night’s performance showed us why. Webb seemed completely lost in the offense, spraying throws all over the place and basically looking like a guy who doesn’t belong on a football field as a professional quarterback. Obviously, Webb needs a gimmick offense designed specifically for him if he is going to succeed (much like Tim Tebow). Trying to run the Vikings’ basic offense, even in its vanilla preseason form, he just looks helpless and confused.

Webb’s only highlights were the usual Webb highlights: he scrambles, you think he’s going to go down, he somehow gets away, he manages to get the ball off before losing yardage. If Webb occasionally completed a big play down the field after one of his crazy scrambles, he’d be the stuff of legend. But running all over the place just to throw it out of bounds will not make you Fran Tarkenton. It won’t even make you Christian Ponder. On the basis of last night, Webb isn’t even the #3 QB on this squad, much less the #2.

So who is the #2 QB if not Webb? Some would like to anoint McLeod Bethel-Thompson. I personally am not ready to go that far. I get the appeal of Bethel-Thompson for those who want to crown him – he has a big arm and the swagger to go with it – but we’re a long, long way from knowing if this guy has any real potential as a pro quarterback. He made a couple nice throws in his stint Friday evening, but also threw a pick and got sacked several times. The sacks weren’t entirely his fault of course – he was working behind a fourth-strong offensive line – but at times he did seem to lack pocket awareness.

MBT does appear to have confidence, but it’s that gunslinger “I can throw a ball into any window” confidence. That’s not really confidence built on experience, it’s more the cockiness of youth. Ponder, by contrast, seems to be developing a business-like aplomb. Based on last night’s performances, Ponder isn’t just the #1 QB, he’s the #1 QB by a wide margin.

Sage Rosenfels didn’t get to work but at this point I’d say he’s the obvious choice for #2. He’s got the veteran presence you like behind a young developing QB. Between MBT and Webb, at this point I’d take MBT only because he looks more like a real QB, though he still has a long way to go in his development. On the basis of the evidence put forth so far this preseason, Joe Webb is ready for the scrap heap. Unless you plan on putting in a whole read-option offense for him. But that’s not really worth the effort.

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