Watch for rabbit tracks in preseason finale

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2012 - 6:36 PM

Nimble backup QB Joe Webb will get the start tonight as the Vikings continue to groom him for special packages.

Vikings defenders usually hear the same five words whenever backup quarterback Joe Webb steps into the huddle during an 11-on-11 team practice session.

"The Rabbit's in the Ballgame!" said cornerback Antoine Winfield.

It's a saying that comes from Fred Pagac, the team's linebackers coach and former defensive coordinator. "Pug," as he's known, has been hunting those wascally wabbits since Woody Hayes gave him his first coaching job at Ohio State in 1978.

"You play a Michael Vick or a quarterback like that and Pug is saying, 'There's a rabbit out there, there's a rabbit out there!'" Winfield said. "The rabbit is going to run. And you know how tough it is to catch a rabbit."

Yeah. Especially one that's 6-4 and 220 pounds.

Webb will start at quarterback in the Vikings' final preseason game at Houston on Thursday night. If all goes as planned, this will be his one and only start in place of Christian Ponder. But that doesn't mean offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave hasn't spent hours scheming of ways to use that big young rabbit every now and then once the regular season starts.

"I think we have a good feel for what we want to feature when Joe is on the field this year," Musgrave said. "There's a balancing act with how much we use him and how many plays [in a row] we use him. We're trying to get Joe in there without disturbing the system for Christian."

Package plan

Don't expect Thursday's game to be any sort of dress rehearsal for exactly how Musgrave plans to expand on Webb's so-called "Blazer" package during the regular season. For starters, NFL coaches don't show much in the preseason. Second, the Vikings play the Texans again in three months.

Look for Webb to be given a package of plays designed to further develop his pocket-passing skills. That was the plan last Friday, when he completed six of eight passes for 59 yards and a 95.3 passer rating in a 12-10 loss to the Chargers. Webb's only run -- a 3-yard scramble on third-and-2 -- was negated by a defensive holding penalty.

"Joe is working really hard to become a better passer," Musgrave said. "And I think he made strides with that against San Diego. He threw the ball as well as I've seen him throw it."

Webb completed his first six passes. Four of them went for first downs as the Vikings moved from their 10-yard line to the San Diego 19 before running back Derrick Coleman fumbled the ball away.

Musgrave is hoping for more of the same Thursday night. However, if the designed plays break down, the rabbit will do what he does best, which is improvise at high speed.

"I consider myself a pass-first quarterback," Webb said. "I go through my [route] progressions first. But if something breaks down, God blessed me with running ability. Why not use it?"

Success in spurts

It's Webb's ability to collect first downs and spring big plays with his legs that makes him an attractive backup and an ideal candidate for unconventional surprise packages such as the "Blazer."

A year ago, he relieved Ponder with the Vikings trailing in the third quarter against the Lions in Week 14 and the Redskins in Week 17. Against Detroit, Webb led the Vikings back from a 31-14 deficit to the Lions' 1-yard line before fumbling as time expired in a 34-28 loss. Webb ran 65 yards for a touchdown and passed for another TD. Against Washington, he replaced an injured Ponder early in the third quarter and rallied the Vikings from a 13-10 deficit to a 33-26 victory. He ran for a touchdown and completed four of five passes for 84 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

"I can do a lot of things," said Webb, who's 1-1 as a starter with both games coming as a rookie in 2010. "I definitely have a lot of talent. I think [developing] it helps if you have a positive attitude. It's not just for yourself, but for your teammates. And besides, I know my opportunity will come one day."

Webb is an interesting player to watch in practice. That's because all the things that make him so dangerous on game day aren't allowed to develop in practice because QBs are off-limits.

"It's real tough for me to hear that whistle stop a play in practice," Webb said. "Guys out here, they play pitter-pat. They touch me and call it a sack. That's no sack. Good thing they don't make me wear that red jersey on game day."

Unique skills

The Bills probably wished he had one on midway through the second quarter of their 36-14 loss to the Vikings at Mall of America Field. On third-and-8 from the Vikings 22-yard line, Webb lined up in the shotgun with tight end Rhett Ellison and receiver Stephen Burton bunched near the right tackle and receivers Jarius Wright and Devin Aromoshodu bunched near the left tackle. Ellison and Wright ran deep seam routes while Burton and Aromoshodu ran short out routes. Both deep targets were double-covered by a linebacker and a safety. The two out routes were single-covered by cornerbacks and the middle linebacker covered running back Lex Hilliard into the left flat.

"When I see that, I know the defense doesn't have anyone accounting for the quarterback," Webb said. "I go through my reads, but I know the field is going to be wide-open for me to run."

And that's what Webb did. He juked right, slipped left and broke free up the middle for a 41-yard gain.

Webb was asked how he would use Joe Webb if he could be a coach for one game day.

"I don't know how to answer that question," Webb said. "I would just say that I'd find ways to get me on the field. But that's a hard question to answer."

Sometimes knowing how and when to use the rabbit can be almost as difficult as catching him.

  • related content

  • Video: Preview: Vikings vs. Texans, roster decisions

    Wednesday August 29, 2012

    The Vikings have receiver issues going into their preseason finale and will have major roster decisions to make...

  • Poll: How should the Vikings use Joe Webb?

    Thursday August 30, 2012

  • Vikings-Houston preseason game preview

    Thursday August 30, 2012

    Keep an eye on the production from the Vikings running backs with Lex Hilliard, Matt Asiata and Jordan Todman, all trying to make a case to stick around as the...

  • Minnesota fullback Matt Asiata (48) was tackled by Houston safety Troy Nolan (33).

  • Vikings backup quarterback Joe Webb is 17-for-34 for 152 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions in three preseason games. He also has rushed for 73 yards.

  • VIKINGS PRESEASON • 6 p.m. today at Houston • TV: Ch. 11 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Golden State 99 FINAL
Cleveland 110
Oklahoma City 113 FINAL
Phoenix 117
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Arizona 3 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Montreal 5 FINAL
Columbus 2
Philadelphia 2 FINAL
Toronto 3
Chicago 3 FINAL
Florida 0
St. Louis 2 FINAL(SO)
Winnipeg 1
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Nashville 2
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 0
Detroit 3 FINAL
San Jose 2
Northern Ky 78 FINAL
Kennesaw St 53
East Tenn St 73 FINAL
Citadel 74
Winthrop 50 FINAL
Campbell 65
Delaware 58 FINAL
Drexel 44
Jacksonville St 57 FINAL
Eastern Ky 63
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Elon 72
Sacred Heart 90 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 85
Western Carolina 49 FINAL
Furman 53
Char Southern 81 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Western Ill 66 FINAL
IUPUI 71
Nebraska Omaha 73 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 67
Radford 69 FINAL
Liberty 80
St Francis-NY 74 FINAL
Long Island 69
Wofford 76 FINAL
Mercer 72
Minnesota 96 FINAL
Michigan State 90
High Point 75 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 71
Samford 67 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Ohio State 81
Wagner 59 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Mount St Marys 60 FINAL
St Francis-PA 63
Houston 54 FINAL
Temple 66
Vanderbilt 73 FINAL
Tennessee 65
Chattanooga 86 FINAL
Va Military 82
Milwaukee 61 FINAL
Wright State 58
Coastal Carolina 69 FINAL
Presbyterian 80
Central Conn St 69 FINAL
Bryant 77
Ga Southern 77 FINAL
Appalachian St 58
SIU Edwardsville 61 FINAL
Austin Peay 64
Green Bay 72 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 67
Texas-El Paso 60 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 77
FIU 69 FINAL
Marshall 87
Rider 63 FINAL
Monmouth 60
Eastern Ill 57 FINAL
Murray State 65
Charlotte 65 FINAL
North Texas 81
North Dakota St 58 FINAL
Oral Roberts 74
Old Dominion 63 FINAL
Rice 54
TX-San Antonio 66 FINAL
Southern Miss 70
UT Martin 69 FINAL
Tennessee St 52
Fla Atlantic 68 FINAL
Western Ky 71
Northern Ariz 85 FINAL
North Dakota 75
Grand Canyon 70 FINAL
Chicago State 74
Utah Valley U 50 FINAL
UMKC 69
ULM 75 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Texas-Arlington 80 FINAL
Arkansas State 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 92
Troy 61 FINAL
Texas State 67
Arizona 82 FINAL
Colorado 54
SMU 66 FINAL
Memphis 57
Tenn Tech 73 FINAL
Morehead State 86
Rutgers 85 FINAL
Purdue 92
Southern Utah 67 FINAL
Northern Colorado 77
Montana State 68 FINAL
Eastern Wash 92
UC Davis 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 74
UC Irvine 63 FINAL
Cal Poly 56
Cal State Fullerton 72 FINAL
CS-Northridge 82
Montana 87 FINAL
Idaho 92
BYU 82 FINAL
Portland 69
Pacific 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 57
Arizona State 41 FINAL
Utah 83
San Diego 39 FINAL
Gonzaga 59
St Marys-CA 84 FINAL
San Francisco 53
Oregon State 48 FINAL
Stanford 75
Long Beach State 59 FINAL
Hawaii 78
Rice 68 FINAL
Old Dominion 83
Manhattan 67 FINAL
Monmouth 84
Georgia Southern 39 FINAL
Appalachian St 66
Marshall 74 FINAL
FIU 50
TX-Arlington 62 FINAL
Arkansas State 67
ULM 45 FINAL
South Alabama 38
Troy 75 FINAL
Texas State 59
Georgia State 39 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 56
William & Mary 84 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 55
Delaware 68 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
UMBC 41 FINAL
Maine 61
UMass Lowell 72 FINAL
Vermont 64
Albany 65 FINAL
Hartford 50
Stony Brook 68 FINAL
Binghamton 59
Boston College 60 FINAL
(8) Louisville 77
(23) Syracuse 60 FINAL
Clemson 55
(16) Duke 62 FINAL
Georgia Tech 71
Florida 53 FINAL
Alabama 49
NC State 52 FINAL
(9) Florida State 72
Miami-Florida 59 FINAL
Wake Forest 60
LSU 57 FINAL
Ole Miss 58
(11) Miss State 50 FINAL
(2) South Carolina 69
Fairfield 74 FINAL
Iona 62
Marist 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 66
Quinnipiac 91 FINAL
Rider 53
Virginia 70 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 72
Pittsburgh 59 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 87
Ohio State 88 FINAL
Penn State 70
Massachusetts 60 FINAL
Dayton 69
(22) George Washington 81 FINAL
Richmond 69
Saint Louis 53 FINAL
Rhode Island 68
Wright State 74 FINAL
Detroit 59
Green Bay 70 FINAL
Oakland 55
Western Ky 85 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 74
Indiana 72 FINAL
(5) Maryland 83
North Texas 46 FINAL
Charlotte 71
Central Arkansas 64 FINAL
Sam Houston St 56
SE Louisiana 60 FINAL
Northwestern St 71
Nicholls 63 FINAL
New Orleans 68
Incarnate Word 44 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 58
Denver 68 FINAL
No Dakota State 87
IUPU-Ft Wayne 61 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 70
IUPUI 53 FINAL
South Dakota 69
Lamar 77 FINAL
McNeese State 98
Western Ill 49 FINAL
South Dakota St 69
Missouri 70 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 69
(13) Kentucky 56 FINAL
Arkansas 51
(20) Rutgers 60 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 80
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 59
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
(17) Iowa 78
North Dakota 68 FINAL
Northern Ariz 72
Northern Colorado 88 FINAL
Southern Utah 66
Louisiana Tech 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Eastern Washington 53 FINAL
Montana State 63
Idaho 68 FINAL
Montana 81
Auburn 70 FINAL
Vanderbilt 58
(6) Tennessee 70 FINAL
Georgia 59
Gonzaga 62 FINAL
San Diego 75
USC 48 FINAL
Washington 60
Portland 63 FINAL
BYU 65
(24) California 74 FINAL
Oregon 59
(19) Stanford 69 FINAL
(7) Oregon State 58
Chicago State 49 FINAL
Grand Canyon 73
UMKC 51 FINAL
Utah Valley U 61
San Francisco 65 FINAL
St Marys-CA 62
UCLA 74 FINAL
Washington St 69
Santa Clara 75 FINAL
Pacific 87
CS-Northridge 65 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 53
UC Santa Barbara 47 FINAL
Cal-Irvine 57
Hawaii 47 FINAL
Long Beach St 46
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
UC Davis 50

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close