What in the world to do with Webb

Joe Webb (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)

The Vikings aren't exactly sure how to best use Joe Webb, the quarterback/receiver that is best described as an athlete. He has thrown the ball, rushed it, caught it and even returned it in his two-year career with the Vikings.

What in the world does one do with a quarterback that's as athletically gifted as Joe Webb?

That's what the Vikings have been asking themselves for two years.

"He is for sure one of our playmakers," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We have some packages that we use sporadically. Maybe we got a little bit deeper with some of those packages."

Originally drafted in the sixth round as a long-term project at receiver last season, the Alabama-Birmingham QB was switched back to his natural position after then-coach Brad Childress saw Webb throw the ball in his first minicamp.

At the time, the Vikings had Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson. So Webb stood on the sideline until December. Then, two games into Frazier's stint as interim coach, Webb returned a kickoff 30 yards in a win over Buffalo. It was the first time in Vikings history that a quarterback returned a kickoff.

Webb hurt his hamstring on the play, likely ending his career as a returner.

But he began to play sparingly at receiver and in a Wildcat formation that the Vikings call their "Blazer" package in honor of Webb's alma mater.

When injuries sidelined Favre and Jackson, Webb started the final two games of the season. He was electric in beating the playoff-bound Eagles in Philadelphia before looking like a raw rookie in a loss at Detroit.

The offseason came and the Vikings drafted quarterback Christian Ponder 12th overall and signed veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb to a one-year deal. The McNabb experiment failed miserably, ultimately leading to McNabb's release and Webb's promotion to No. 2.

Then came last Sunday. Ponder, playing with a hip pointer, turned the ball over four times and was benched after his third horrendous interception. With 8 minutes left in the third quarter and the Vikings trailing 31-14, Webb took over and reminded everyone just how unusually talented he is.

In 23 minutes, he broke Fran Tarkenton's 50-year-old single-game team record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Tarkenton had 99. Webb had 109 on seven carries, including a 65-yard touchdown that capped his first series.

Webb's second series ended with him throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Toby Gerhart.

On his third and final series, Webb marched the Vikings 79 yards in 17 plays. He completed eight passes to six different receivers. He ran for two first downs, including once on fourth-and-6.

But the magic ended with the Vikings trailing 34-28 and holding the ball at the Detroit 1-yard line with 9 seconds left. Rather than quickly throw the ball away against an all-out blitz, Webb had the ball knocked away by linebacker DeAndre Levy, who also grabbed Webb's facemask, but wasn't flagged for it.

The ball squirted past midfield and was recovered by the Lions at the Vikings' 43-yard line. Moments later, Frazier, to no one's surprise, declared Ponder his starter next week against New Orleans.

"I've always respected Joe's abilities," Frazier said. "His ability to get out of trouble, make plays, just create things when there's nothing else there. He makes things happen."

The key now is providing him with enough opportunities to do so.

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