Musgrave praises QBs' latest progress

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2011 - 10:33 PM

Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder and Joe Webb all made good decisions and created plays on the move.

Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave thought all three quarterbacks -- Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder and Joe Webb -- performed well in Saturday's 20-7 preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

"Donovan took us on that drive as we were in the shadow of our own goal posts, starting on the 1, and got us down to the Seahawks 13 before we stalled out, but he did a fantastic job," Musgrave said. "The other two guys ran around and made some plays. They were very smart in their decision-making and that helped us to play sound football."

Musgrave said McNabb, listed at 6-2 and 240 pounds, has kept himself in good shape and he sees the former All-Pro quarterback still can move around well.

"That naked bootleg pass that we did to his left-hand side where he hit Jim Kleinsasser, that was a good example of how he still has his movement skills left in him," Musgrave said of one second-quarter play, which went for 23 yards. "He has good pocket presence. He has a sixth sense, which all the great ones have, for when the pocket collapses, when to move forward, when to make a guy miss and when to ditch it."

Musgrave said McNabb has a good sense for finding visual lanes around linemen and knowing where defenders will be. He added that there will be plays where McNabb will run.

"We're going to look into that, he definitely still has a lot of those skills left in his tank," Musgrave said. "As you remember early in his career, he used to hurt defenses terribly about three, four, five times a game of running for first downs. That's tough for defenses to account for when a quarterback pulls it down and runs, a little bit like Joe Webb did on that third down last night."

On Ponder and Webb

Musgrave said Ponder moved around well at times when guys weren't open and tried to get as much yardage as he could with his legs and then get safely out of bounds.

"[Ponder] does a good job at the line of scrimmage for us, as a rookie," Musgrave said. "He has a good grasp of defenses, and we have a number of 'check with me' plays that we ask the quarterback to do their job at the line of scrimmage for us, to make us look good, and he excels at that job."

When Ponder scrambles, Musgrave said, "He's just looking for open space and green grass. All of our quarterbacks have pretty good instincts in that department."

As for Webb, Musgrave said: "He made good decisions about when to throw it and who to throw it to. We were happy to see a little progress from all three quarterbacks, and we moved on from last week in Nashville."

Musgrave had good words to say about the offensive line that gave up only one sack Saturday, which was on the Vikings' second snap of the game.

"We had a bust up front where we let a free runner come in on our quarterback," Musgrave said. "We don't want to major in that, for sure, but that was our only sack in 28 passes. They did a fine job, especially on the road, which is always tough with that noise factor."

Freshmen impressed

Two freshmen on the Gophers football team who aren't likely to be redshirted are running back David Cobb and tackle Foster Bush.

Coach Jerry Kill describes Cobb, from Killeen, Texas, "as having a thick body. He's a lot bigger than what people think. He's a 217-, 218-pound tailback that's got good speed. He's learning the hard way. I've been on him pretty hard, but I think he's done a good job."

The 6-5, 270-pound Bush, of Menasha, Wis., was described by Kill like this: "We threw a lot at him and he'd really been practicing well, and [Saturday] he got in there in the scrimmage and had a lot of plays and did some good things and struggled with some. But he's the type of kid that he's going to do whatever he can to correct it, and he's a freshman. But he's a big, athletic freshman with great core strength in his lower body, and it gives him a chance to maybe help us if we need that help this year."

Jottings

• Marcel Sherels, the former Gopher who made up for losing a first-quarter fumble by intercepting a pass three plays later and returning it 64 yards for a touchdown, was signed by the Vikings after a tryout camp. He spent all of the 2010 season, except the last game of the year, on the practice squad, but according to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, he has been one of the big surprises of the preseason so far and could play a lot at cornerback.

• Musgrave said Tristan Davis, who made a 35-yard run toward the end of the Seattle game, was recommended to the Vikings by running backs coach James Saxon.

"Saxon coached Davis," Musgrave said. "He went to bat to get him on the Vikings team this summer. [Davis] got hurt a week or 10 days ago in camp and he's battled back to get healthy and did a fantastic job for the Vikings in what they call the four-minute drill."

• The Twins-Yankees series set a Target Field record for attendance over a four-game series with 164,950 in attendance.

• Kenechi Udeze, a 2004 first-round draft choice by the Vikings whose football career ended when he contracted leukemia, is now healthy and renewed acquaintances with several former teammates in Seattle on Saturday. The former defensive end is now the assistant strength coach for the University of Washington football team.

• Tarvaris Jackson still is the Seahawks' No. 1 quarterback even though he completed only 11 passes for 75 yards against the Vikings. His replacement, Charlie Whitehurst, was 14-for-19 for 97 yards. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that he "is not in anyway disappointed with the way Jackson performed. We need to help him. We need to protect better."

• Defending Class 5A football champion Wayzata and runner-up Eden Prairie have added transfers who will make them better this year. Wayzata added running back Antonio Ford of Coon Rapids and Chandler Wright, a 260-pound transfer from Louisiana. Eden Prairie has added two pretty good offensive tackles in Nick Davidson, son of Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, and Dan Urquart from Allen, Texas. ... Both schools had trouble filling their schedules in 2010 with Eden Prairie going to Winnipeg for two games. This year the Eagles scheduled games against Minneapolis South, Champlin Park and Maple Grove. Wayzata will play Carmel Catholic (Ill.) High School at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) on Sept. 23, and also will play Prior Lake and Anoka.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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