COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Vikings made a bold move converting Joe Webb from quarterback back to wide receiver, the position he was initially drafted as by Brad Childress and the Vikings' front office back in 2010.
As the transformation to wide receiver continues for the 6-foot-4-inch athlete from UAB, the Vikings' depth at wide receiver is the best it has been in a number of years.
The Vikings had one goal in mind for the offseason: improve the receiving core. Improve they did. The Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for draft picks and signed Greg Jennings to a five-year, $45 million contract. After re-signing Jerome Simpson, the Vikings traded up in the 2013 NFL draft to select Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee with the 29th overall pick.
Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson are locks to make the Vikings' roster, assuming they remain injury-free the rest of preseason. That leaves the Vikings with major decisions to be made. Most important, how many receivers will the Vikings carry on the 2013 roster?
If the Vikings elect to stick with the usual five receivers -- six assuming Greg Childs starts the year on the PUP -- it will likely be a battle between former seventh-round pick Stephen Burton and former sixth-round pick Joe Webb for the fifth receiver spot.
Stephen Burton had an outstanding training camp down in Mankato, Minnesota, and has proved to be a valuable all-around player in preseason. He has been an active blocker, catcher, and special-teams participant. His highlights include a 56-yard pitch-and-catch from Matt Cassel as well as an impressive down-field block, springing Zach Line for a touchdown -- both happening during the Vikings' first preseason game against the Texans.
For Joe Webb to make the Vikings' 2013 roster, he will need to have standout performances in the Vikings' final two preseason games against the 49ers and Titans. The biggest problem for Webb is generally fifth or sixth receivers make the team based on special teams, but Webb plays little to no special teams in comparison to Burton.
"I don't know if he is comfortable in anything yet," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "But I think that he is becoming more comfortable with all the techniques that we teach him at the gunner position."
Although Webb isn't natural at playing special teams, he is still working hard to wiggle his way on to the 53-man roster, doing whatever it takes.
"Athletically he can do a lot of these things, and it is still a work in progress for him to be quite honest," Frazier said during his Tuesday presser. "I like the direction that he is going, and he has worked very hard."
Joe Webb does one thing on his side -- he is dedicated and determined.
"We know him and we know what type of man he is," Mike Priefer said during his Wednesday presser. "High character, his high work ethic, and we know that he is willing to improve. I think we need to keep that in mind as we go down the stretch here."
Can the Vikings squeeze a sixth receiver on the roster? If they can, Joe Webb should be guaranteed a roster spot. The Vikings cannot put Webb on their practice squad as he is ineligible based on NFL rules. If Webb is cut from the Vikings' roster, he will surely land on another NFL 53-man roster.
Notes: Joe Webb has the ability to make the team in more than one way. If for some reason third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson regresses over the following weeks, Webb could technically make the team as the sixth wide receiver and emergency quarterback -- possible, yet unlikely. With the recent news of Christian Ballard, Webb has potential to take Ballard's spot on the roster, despite a major difference in positions. It is more likely the Vikings would fill Ballard's spot with another player within that position.
Dennis Parsons is a Minnesota-area sportswriter covering the Minnesota Vikings for Vikings Central. He previously covered all Minnesota professional sports teams for Minnesota Sports News Nightly. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @Parsons_VC.
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