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Lunchbreak: Examining Joshua Dobbs' Athleticism in Red Zone

EAGAN, Minn. — In consecutive three games, no Vikings quarterback in franchise history has accomplished what Joshua Dobbs has.

Dobbs rushed for a score and passed for a touchdown on Sunday in the team's 21-20 loss at Denver. He's on a four-game streak of at least one passing touchdown and one rushing TD (including his final game with the Cardinals). The NFL record in the Super Bowl era is five games, held by Justin Fields (2022), Kyler Murray (2020) and Michael Vick (2010).

The Athletic's Alec Lewis analyzed Dobbs' the runner in his most recent feature.

For a time, Kevin Colbert, the former Pittsburgh Steelers general manager, worried while watching Josh Dobbs.

Colbert had drafted the quarterback in the fourth round of the 2017 draft to be an understudy to Ben Roethlisberger. Dobbs played sparingly, but during spot snaps or preseason games, he'd often dip and rip his way through the pocket, then scramble out into the open field.

The GM's concern centered around Dobbs' health.

"He's not the biggest person," Colbert said of the slender 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, "and he was subject to big hits. But it never seemed to bother him at all."

Over the years, Dobbs' avoidance of serious injury eased Colbert's anxieties. So the GM began to embrace Dobbs' athleticism as a weapon.

"To have that creative ability in addition to the pocket-passing ability," Colbert said, "that's a great bonus to have."

The Minnesota Vikings discovered this in Dobbs' first two appearances with the team. In Week 9 in Atlanta, Dobbs' creativity was responsible for multiple touchdowns in the red zone. He performed similarly the following week against New Orleans.

Lewis noted Dobbs' shedding outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper to reset and find Josh Oliver for a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter at Denver and his 10-yard touchdown run on third-and-8 in the third quarter as the latest examples.

Lewis noted the Vikings want to find a balance between Dobbs the runner and maximizing their throwing opportunities.

The challenge now, it would seem, is finding the correct balance. When should Dobbs scramble, and when shouldn't he? When should he carefully go through his progressions? And when should he just take off and run?

Straddling the line between the scripted and the unscripted defines who Dobbs is as a player. How far he ultimately takes these 6-5 Vikings may depend on [Vikings Head Coach Kevin] O'Connell, Dobbs and the offense's pursuit of harmony.

Lewis cited Dobbs ranking first among 40 quarterbacks in Expected Points Added on Scrambles from TruMedia.

The value of Dobbs' scrambling ability is undeniable, even for the opposition.

His EPA per dropback on scrambles is eight times more valuable than Mahomes' EPA per dropback on pass plays. He has rushed for more yards over expected on scrambles this season (plus 139) than any other quarterback in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats.

Click here to read the Athletic's full story.

Star Tribune Backtracks with Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips

Star Tribune writer Mark Craig recently talked to Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips about his life and football that have been intertwined from an early age.

Any story on Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips, what football means to this third-generation NFL coach, and what that, in turn, means to O'Connell must include the tale of a retired Marine Corps sniper named Lee Hays waking up in the desert in 2004 in the passenger's seat of an old state police car that had been donated to West Texas A&M's Division II football team.

Hays was the school's second-year offensive coordinator. Phillips, 25, (and 12 years younger), was the first-year quarterbacks coach.

"We're on a recruiting trip from Amarillo, Texas, to San Francisco, down to San Diego and back to Amarillo," Hays said. "The car's so old, we're carrying a jug of water because the radiator has a leak. Wes is barely making two pennies to rub together, stuck working for an old Marine. Buddy, if you can survive that, you really want to coach."

In his second year in Minnesota – and fourth total on a staff with O'Connell – Phillips is the trusted eye-in-the-sky for the 38-year-old Vikings head coach.

O'Connell calls his own plays, but he was searching for one during a change of possession midway through the second quarter of Minnesota's win over the Saints.

"Wes is upstairs, seeing the game from five levels up," O'Connell said. "I trust him. He not only understands the game, but I know how well he knows me as a play-caller and what I'm setting up."

Phillips suggested a play based on how the defense was flowing and the relative ease of the read required by Dobbs, who was making his Vikings starting debut and second appearance in his 13th day with the team.

"During that TV timeout, Wes said, 'Have you thought about this play?' " O'Connell said. "I said, 'Great call.' "

From his own 18-yard line, Dobbs faked a pitch to the left and ran a keeper to the right. With his reads cut down to half the field, Dobbs had Brandon Powell at 5 yards, Jordan Addison at 15 and Jalen Nailor at 25.

Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu's hard reaction to Powell left Addison open for a 29-yard completion, the longest play of the game. Eight snaps later, the Vikings led 17-3.