Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Blog Page 195

Well, I hate to keep throwing fuel onto this particular fire (I honestly do), but Joe Webb playing wide receiver seems to be as juicy of a storyline we’re going to find during an otherwise boring portion of the offseason.  So, I figure this is as good of a reason as any to resurrect our “Question of the Week” feature and give those a chance to voice their opinion, in the poll below, if they didn’t want to do it in the comments section of our recent post on the matter.

Here’s the question:  Does Joe Weebb make it as a wide receiver or will this latest attempt to establish himself finally see him out the door?

Optimists would tell you that the Vikings are stacked at the defensive tackle position, so much so that some surprising names might be on their list of final cuts, and that it is very difficult to predict who will start next to Kevin Williams this season.

Skeptics, on the other hand, may have a bit of a different outlook on the situation.  They may look at the positional depth chart and say the Vikings have a whole lot of question marks with no sure-fire answers.  An aging veteran forced to take a pay cut in Williams.  A first round selection that might look promising, but is still a mere rookie, in Sharrif Floyd.  An underperforming nose tackle Letroy Guion.  An unproven and inexperienced player in Christian Ballard.  A late round rookie in Everett Dawkins.  The quantity is undoubtedly there, but no we must wait to see if quality emerges from the pack.

One name that should not be dismissed as a possible starter on day one is veteran Fred Evans.

“The coaches keep telling me that, hey, we need to give Fred a shot to compete for the No. 1 job,” Leslie Frazier told 1500 ESPN on Sunday.

The reason that Evans is suddenly getting serious attention, after six seasons with the team, are a direct result of how much better he looked than Guion down the stretch last season despite playing fewer snaps.  What really separates him was his ability to come up with a pair of big plays that included a crucial sack against Houston and a big-time third down stop against Green Bay.

“Based on (what Evans) did coming down the stretch — he played some lights-out football for us,” Frazier said. “He really stepped up. And we’ve been harping on that with him, his consistency, and he showed that late in the season. So, we’ll see. We’ll just see if he can continue to elevate his play, and if he does, he’ll be in line for more snaps with the first unit.”

Frazier says “more snaps” with the first team because that is the role Evans played when the Vikings opened up OTAs last week.  That is a pretty good sign for a player that has never been much more than a rotational guy in his seven NFL seasons.  The previously mentioned depth at the position means Evans, and the rest of the defensive tackles, is still sure to be a part of a rotation this season, but becoming a starter would be a huge step forward for the 29 year old Evans.

If he does become a starter, then the Vikings will be facing even more drama next offseason, as he joins the rest of the starting line as a 2014 free agent.  Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Lawrence Jackson, and George Johnson are all entering contract years in 2013 along with Evans.

Jerry Jones is known for being a business guru and one of the most tenacious, and invasive, owners the NFL has ever seen.  For some reason, though, the Dallas Cowboys have become somewhat of a joke (loving this sentence so far) and the latest episode involves yet another leak of their draft board.  The folks at Blogging The Boys managed to decrypt the background of some photos and reveal a full seven-round draft board in the Cowboys war room.

The results show, among other things, that the selection of center Travis Frederick was indeed a reach by their own assessment which solidifies reports that the pick was a contentious one between various members of the team’s brass.  The Cowboys have Frederick with a second round grade, according to the report, and the Cowboys selected him at #31 after trading backwards with the Niners.  Five players that they graded as first round prospects were available to them at #18 and they could have had their pick of the bunch had they not traded down.

The other items you might find most interesting about this revelation are where the Vikings selections stacked up on the Dallas board.  Sharrif Floyd was not only their highest ranked defensive tackle, but he was ranked as the fifth best player in this class.  Wide out Cordarrelle Patterson was also the highest ranked at his position and came in at 13th overall for the ‘Boys.  Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was their second highest cornerback and they had him at 11th overall.

That means that the Vikings, who never owned a pick higher than 23rd this year, managed to get three prospects on their roster that were in the top 13 on the Dallas draft board.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys went into the event with the 18th selection, and managed to get zero players that they had graded out as first rounders.

To top it off, the Cowboys had third round grades on both linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, whom the Vikings nabbed in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively.

The Vikings and Cowboys have a long and bitter history, with the Vikings a lot more bitter than the Cowboys, so these are the little pleasures we have to enjoy from time to time.  According to Jerry Jones’ draft board itself, we got ourselves three franchise players in the Draft, and unlike the Cowboys of the 90’s we didn’t have to deal away our star running back to do it.

At 6′ 4″ and 220 pounds, Joe Webb is an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier than first round rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.  In fact, outside of long shots Rodney Smith and Chris Summers, Webb is the biggest wideout on the roster.  Both Webb and Patterson are considered raw, each potentially having the “project” label applied to them at Winter Park, and both could be competing for the same reps heading into 2013.

After failing miserably to get the Vikings a playoff victory last season, the Vikings have moved Webb to wideout, but the depth chart is suddenly very crowded.  Greg Jennings, when healthy, is sure to occupy a starters position considering his talent, experience, and the investment made to put him in purple.  Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright both have more experience than the young pair and seem to be locks to eat up roster spots heading into this season.  Stephen Burton is someone the Vikings haven’t given up on yet and Greg Childs could throw a wrinkle into things if he is deemed healthy enough to contribute in the preseason.

As of today, the Vikings have 12 wideouts on the roster, and it is safe to say that total will be cut in half by the time the regular season rolls around.  Jennings, Simpson, Wright, and Patterson will surely eat up four of those spots leaving Webb to compete for one or two of the possible spots that would remain.

Last season, when Webb was made to be the backup quarterback only, reports surfaced from beat writers that he was having trouble catching the ball and running routes in practice.  According to multiple reports from this week’s sessions that were open to the media, however, Webb displayed excellent hands and was consistently snatching the ball with the proper away-from-the-body technique.  According to Kevin Seifert, he even was helping rookies learn where they were supposed to line up, suggesting he has a solid grasp of the playbook at this point.

“He has very good hands. He knows the offense very well. He’s actually helping some of the young guys in where to line up at,” Leslie Frazier said of Webb. “Knowing how hard he works and knowing how much he wants to succeed as a receiver, he’ll have a very good chance of getting that done.”

Webb recently talked about how often he has had to change positions throughout his football career, including in high school and college, but he isn’t looking for any sort of sympathy.

“I just like football. I have a passion for the game. I’ve been playing it since I was a little kid. It’s a blessing to be out here on the field. Some guys graduate from college and don’t get a chance to come out here on an NFL field,” Webb said. “I’m just happy for the moment and just trying to take advantage of it.”

Patterson has already laid claim to one of the areas where Webb could potentially help the Vikings, as he has been named the go-to kick returner, and the nature of the NFL business means Patterson is likely to enjoy more chances to succeed at wideout than Webb because of where they were drafted.  Webb and Patterson, and Jarius Wright too for that matter, are essentially competing for the same reps within the offense.

Each possesses similar skills in the open field to Percy Harvin, and could be used the same way Harvin was on manufactured touches like bubble screens, but having three guys to fill this role would seem a little excessive despite the loss of Harvin to Seattle.  Webb is going to have to establish himself in some other fashion, perhaps as a redzone threat where he capitalizes on his height, in order to earn one of the few remaining spots on the depth chart.

Back in January, I suggested that Webb had value to the Vikings as a practice team quarterback capable of emulating any of the many mobile quarterbacks on their 2013 schedule, but using him in this fashion could also prevent him from focusing on being a polished receiver.  I still think Webb is an excellent option to run the practice team, and get the Vikings defense used to chasing down the likes of RGIII and Russell Wilson, but I am now less convinced that this will be enough reason to keep him on the roster.

The Vikings coaching staff, mainly receivers coach George Stewart, must really devote the time needed to find out just what they have in Webb.  It seems fair to say that we know he isn’t an NFL quarterback, so this preseason they need to give him all possible reasons to succeed as a wideout, or else it might be time to cut ties with one of the most popular players on the roster.

The Vikings added linebacker Stanford Keglar to their roster on Wednesday and, despite the team’s lack of a settled depth chart at the position, seems like an unlikely candidate for the final 53-man roster.  According to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN, Keglar’s contract is a one year deal worth $630,000 and has no guarantees, which is perhaps the best indicator that the front office sees him as a long shot.

Keglar, listed at 6′ 2″ and 250 pounds, was a fourth round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008 after being a standout at Purdue.  He played two seasons with the Titans, then signed with Houston in 2010 who cut him in September of 2011.  Keglar has not appeared in an NFL game since then, with a brief stint playing for Las Vegas in the UFL, and just simply appears like an odd choice for the Vikings to bring in.

He has experience as an outside linebacker in the 4-3 defense, but has no experience as a starter, and has “training camp fodder” written all over him.

If he makes it to training camp before the team decides to move on.

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