Joe Webb (Paul Sancya/AP)
Joe Webb had a rough baptism by fire (and ice) on Monday night, but he took away some lessons from that game that he hopes to incorporate in his first NFL start, which is expected to come Sunday in Philadelphia.
Rookie Joe Webb got his first extensive experience as an NFL quarterback in less-than-ideal conditions.
There was the weather – mid-20s with light snow (the coldest weather he had played in before was in the 40s, he said). There were the field conditions – wet in some areas, icy in others. And there was the defense – the Bears saw an opportunity to blitz an inexperienced rookie and relished it.
It added up to a big learning experience in front of 40,000 fans in attendance and another 17 million watching on national television.
“I’ve got to continue to read the defense, my pocket process,” Webb said. “If one guy breaks free, don’t panic. Be able to make one move and still keep my eyes downfield. Sometimes I’m going to get those runs and break those runs, but the main part is just keep my eyes down the field and find those receivers.”
Webb looked hesitant in his first few series in relief of the concussed Brett Favre. He held onto the ball too long at times and allowed the pressure to reach him, and he looked uncertain about releasing the ball to open receivers.
“The first and second series, things were moving kind of fast and I was just trying to find my pace in the game,” Webb said. “It started slowing up as the game went along. I’ll just try to come back next week and learn from this game.”
In the first half, Webb was 2-for-4 for 18 yards in his two series of work. He also took a sack on each of those series.
“He was kind of put in a difficult situation,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “During the whole week he did get a bunch of reps thinking that he was going to start, and then Brett came in and said he could play. All of a sudden he’s thrust right back in there. I thought he played pretty decent.”
Webb took another sack on his first series of the second half and fumbled, a loose ball that fellow rookie Chris DeGeare recovered. His second series of the second half was his most successful, thanks to the aid of a pass interference call on Major Wright, who was defending Sidney Rice, that moved the ball 42 yards downfield. Two plays later, Webb’s athleticism allowed him to scramble out of the pocket and dive for the end zone at the end of a 13-yard play.
Webb is clearly in the infant stages of his professional development. While his style is far different from Favre’s, there is something he learned from the 20-year veteran of the league.
“He’s just a tough warrior and I need to put that into my game. No matter what aches and pains, he just still steps on the field,” Webb said.
Once again, Webb is expected to be the starter, and this time Favre won’t have a say in it if he can’t pass the league-mandated concussion test. And, once again, Webb is sure to face a team set on blitzing him at every realistic opportunity.
“(The Bears) changed it up a little bit when Brett was out of the game. They did send a little more pressure, more than usual and more than what I saw on film, just to change it up a little bit,” Webb said. “In the long, I’ve just got to execute.”
BOOKER FINDS A NICHE
If Adrian Peterson plays on Sunday night, running back Lorenzo Booker would likely have a curtailed role on offense. But the former Philadelphia Eagle should continue to be the Vikings’ main kick returner for the rest of the season.
Booker, who has been with the team for only two games after starring in the United Football League, has the exact same kick-return average as Percy Harvin had, and Booker’s opportunities for big yardage were limited because of shorter kickoffs at TCF Bank Stadium. Booker is averaging 23.3 yards on 12 returns.
“The way Lorenzo has been doing, he’s been doing a great job for us. We’d like to continue to let him do it and let Percy continue to concentrate on the receiver position for now,” interim head coach Leslie Frazier said. “But not that you may not see Percy back there. But right now, the way Lorenzo is hitting that ball up in there, let him continue. And he’s been so close. Matter of fact, the Giants game, that was a great return and he had some good returns against Chicago and hopefully he’ll have some good returns on Sunday night.”
Frazier said Adrian Peterson (knee/thigh) made “dramatic improvement” this week and he began practicing on Thursday.
While Peterson improved, quarterback Brett Favre and safety Madieu Williams didn’t show much improvement from Wednesday with their concussion tests.
“(Favre) didn’t fare as well, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow. Madieu is about the same, he didn’t do as well, he still has some symptoms,” Frazier said.
Likewise, Tyrell Johnson didn’t practice and didn’t show any improvement with his knee injury, leaving the Vikings thin at safety with only a few days to go until Sunday night’s game against an explosive Philadelphia offense.
Kevin Williams missed practice to attend to a personal matter, but Frazier expects him back on Friday.
For the Eagles, CB/KR Jorrick Calvin was placed on injured reserve and LB Stewart Bradley has been ruled out of Sunday’s game.
LB Keenan Clayton (hamstring) didn’t practice Thursday, but RB Jerome Harrison returned to practice after an absence for undisclosed reasons on Wednesday. DT Mike Patterson (knee) and WR DeSean Jackson (foot) were limited.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.