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Updated: August 14th, 2012 10:15pm
Notebook: Vikings remain committed to developing Joe Webb in pocket

Notebook: Vikings remain committed to developing Joe Webb in pocket

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings want to test Joe Webb in the preseason. Just not by putting him behind a line that plays like the second string did on Friday night.

Webb completed only 4 of 11 passes for 20 yards over five drives that generated five punts and four first downs in a 17-6 loss at San Francisco. But he was under siege on many of his dropbacks, taking two sacks and having several passes altered.

"Joe had a couple plays where our guards got walked back right into his lap where he couldn't step into it," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We know as quarterbacks, sometimes, you've got to throw when you can't step into it. We're doing a bunch of drills this week to help Joe in that regard."

In essence, the Vikings are putting Webb through a quarterback boot camp after two seasons of trying to fit him in elsewhere.

That means dropback, rhythm passing, rather than waiting for play to break down and then letting his superior athleticism take over.

"We fully expect him to keep progressing at the quarterback position," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's probably the least-experienced of all of our quarterbacks as far as playing the position over a long period of time.We've just got to continue to let him get reps, continue to let him develop and Joe's a big-play guy as we all know, so he'll make his share of plays."

He didn't make any on Friday, though, with a long completion of 12 yards and an uncharacteristic 9 yards on two carries.

It's not that the Vikings want to take away what Webb does well. They're simply trying to develop the other aspects of his game, and that takes time.

"We know what Joe can do," Musgrave said. "We've got to make sure we can enhance Joe's limitations in the pocket. He doesn't have a lot of time on task playing quarterback in the pocket and we want to make sure that we don't just paint him into a corner where he can only do this.

"Joe's tall (6-foot-4), he has a good release. We think he can be more effective in the pocket than he has been in the past."

That means he'll keep being asked to function within the offense while playing with the No. 2 unit whenever he enters the second preseason game on Friday against Buffalo.

"It's always going to be difficult," Webb said. "But you've got to keep giving your guys confidence, let the offensive line know I have trust in them and I know they're going to do their job and come out and get better this week, and hopefully, next game it'll be a lot better."

The plan is for Sage Rosenfels to be the third quarterback against the Bills after McLeod Bethel-Thompson handled those duties in San Francisco.

Going young

Two fourth-round draft picks, receiver Jarius Wright and tight end Rhett Ellison, got time with the starting offense against the 49ers -- and that was more than an experiment.

"All along, we know that Rhett, that Jarius, a few other guys on offense, young guys, are going to have to step up and play quite a bit for us," Frazier said.

"So, not only this week but even in that third preseason game, we're going to play those guys quite a bit and try to get them acclimated to the speed of the game, although it's going to ratchet up a little bit when we get to that first regular-season game.

"But we're going to continue to throw them in there and they've got to play early for us. This is not a redshirt deal. We've got some young guys that we're counting on to help us this season."

Wright played eight snaps while Christian Ponder and the No. 1 offense were on the field. Ellison played five. That Percy Harvin (healthy scratch) and John Carlson (knee) sat out probably played into the decision, too.

"It was a good first outing for both of those rookies," Musgrave said. "Neither of them were wide-eyed or intimidated in any regard. That was good for us to see. We're going to continue to put them in those spots early and often to help their growth."

Scaling back Simpson?

The Vikings said from the start of camp they'd scale back starting split end Jerome Simpson's reps as camp goes along to prepare for his three-game suspension.

That process apparently could begin in earnest next week, although Simpson still will play in the third preseason game against San Diego -- just maybe not all with the starters.

"We're about to get to that point," Musgrave said. "We wanted to get Jerome up to speed, but you're right, we're going to get to the point real soon where we start to prepare somebody else to play that split end for the first three games."

Health watch

Halfback Jordan Todman (ankle) tried to practice again but came up limping after a catch in a team drill. He's a long shot to play on Friday.

Left tackle Matt Kalil (thumb) practiced after dropping out briefly on Monday to have an MRI. End Jeff Charleston (headaches) also returned.

Continuing to sit out were: Carlson, guard Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery), receiver Kamar Jorden (hand) and tackle DeMarcus Love (pectoral).

Quick hits

• The offense struggled badly in the early stages of practice before coming on in the red zone, with TE Kyle Rudolph leaping over LB Tyrone McKenzie for a tough touchdown grab from Webb and WR Percy Harvin making a sprawling grab on a throw from Ponder in the back of the end zone.

• Ponder was 9-of-20 passing in team (11-on-11) drills. Webb was 12-of-18, Rosenfels 10-of-12 and Bethel-Thompson 1-of-4.

• The final open practices of camp are on Wednesday. The team will hold a closed walkthrough on Thursday morning before breaking camp and returning to the Twin Cities.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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