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Updated: December 24th, 2010 1:42am
Pelissero: Against attacking Eagles, Patrick Ramsey better stay ready

Pelissero: Against attacking Eagles, Patrick Ramsey better stay ready

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings are about to throw 220 pounds of supremely athletic chum into a shark tank.

They're going to tell Joe Webb to sink or swim on Sunday night at Philadelphia, knowing full well he'll probably get eaten alive.

Webb showed in Monday's 40-14 loss to Chicago that he has legs and an arm, but his raw physical tools never were in doubt.

He also showed why a shotgun, no-huddle, spread-offense Conference USA quarterback has no business directing a West Coast attack against a solid NFL defense only eight months after being drafted in the sixth round as a wide receiver.

Time and again, the Bears disguised their blitzes and morphed their coverages, confusing Webb into dicey decisions and one-read bailouts. He threw two interceptions, took three sacks and boosted his completion rate to 57.7% at 4.96 yards per attempt only when Rod Marinelli called off the dogs.

"It's going to happen," Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Thursday. "That's the inexperience of a guy that hasn't played in the games and doesn't really have much experience, just to be able to see the rotation of the secondary, to see the pressures, where they might come from."

Yet now the Vikings expect Webb -- 3½ weeks removed from impersonating opposing quarterbacks on the scout team -- to function on the road against the zone-blitzing Eagles behind a patchwork offensive line in his first NFL start?

Granted, the Vikings are in an unenviable spot, down to their No. 3 player at the most important position after consecutive blowout losses late in a miserable season. Playoff hopes are long dead at 5-9, and the organization may want a little more evidence to decide if Webb remains a quarterback going forward.

But with all due respect to the decision-makers within Winter Park -- including coaches who know that one more embarrassment might erase whatever chances they have left to keep their jobs -- does Webb even give the Vikings the best chance to win, if they have any chance at all?

Turning to veteran Patrick Ramsey less than two weeks after signing him off the street sure wouldn't be a sexy move, but a situation like this is precisely the reason he was on short lists around the NFL in the first place.

"I don't think we'd be afraid if he had to go in there," interim coach Leslie Frazier said of Ramsey, a first-round draft pick (32nd overall) by Washington in 2002 who last saw game action with the West Coast-oriented Denver Broncos in 2007 and '08.

"He is a very bright guy, and the fact that he's been in this system in the past, it shows up. He's even helping Joe with some of the things that Joe has to get done, some of the nuances of playing quarterback, because of his experience."

What would be worse on Webb? Telling him this isn't even a fair evaluation opportunity and he's not getting the start, or dangling him off the side of the Titanic with a spare tire?

And really, what would be worse on the Vikings? Praying that Webb can scramble his way out of drowning in the Eagles' exotic pressures, or ceding the job to a 31-year-old journeyman with enough experience and recent transaction history to suggest he at least could keep his head above water?

"He still can be a resourceful, efficient player at the position," said a high-ranking NFL personnel man who has seen Ramsey work out this year. "He's not necessarily going to elevate the play or the performance of those around him. But what he will be able to do is run and manage your offense if he needs to go into the game."

Frazier said the team's only concern with Ramsey is his layoff from competitive situations. He hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2005, when he finished a four-year, 24-start stint with the Redskins.

Is that necessarily a downgrade from Webb, who has been with the Vikings since April -- "he's heard the calls," Bevell said, "he knows the names of the plays, he can spit it back out to you" -- but didn't even take snaps with the No. 1 offense until last week?

The greater concern may be Ramsey's lack of mobility behind a line that's lost starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera to injuries and is coming off perhaps its worst game this season.

Then again, what successful game plan ever has been built around picking the quarterback who can better run for his life?

"(Ramsey) does have some pocket awareness, to move in and around the pocket," the personnel man said. "He's not going to be a flusher. He's not going to be a scrambler. He's not going to be a runner. I think the protection's going to have to be pretty good for him to stay clean. He's a pocket passer. He's not an extender. He'll just try to put the ball in the hands of the guys who can make plays for him."

It appears, of course, that Ramsey only will have that opportunity if Webb goes under -- and assuming starting quarterback Brett Favre, who suffered a concussion on Monday, doesn't force another last-second starter change.

To Webb's credit, he admitted on Thursday he was overwhelmed against Chicago for "the first couple of series. Once I saw things started slowing down, I started coming to my senses and started thinking more clearly."

What he'll see on Sunday night is a Philadelphia defense that sends blitzers from all angles, drops its athletic linemen and run a wide range of coverages on the back end. The confusion that ensues is the reason the Eagles lead the NFL in interceptions (23), rank second in takeaways (32) and are in the top 10 in sacks (35).

Once there's blood in the water, the pressure on Webb only will increase. And when that happens, Ramsey should clutch his helmet like a life vest and prepare for coaches to abandon ship.

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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