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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Nov 26, 2012

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the season we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

Do you think we can bounce back against Green Bay? Or is our record a product of playing the easiest part of our schedule, and now we are going to be exposed as frauds who have absolutely no passing game. Percy Harvin or no Percy Harvin, I don't think he would have made much of a difference this week. Is it time to say, “Okay, we exceeded expectations, but the playoffs may be slipping away with a few teams at eight wins and us now dropping to 6-5?
-- Anthony A.
Connecticut

I know this team can bounce back against Green Bay, and I’m very much looking forward to the game at Lambeau Field next Sunday. The NFL is a week-to-week business, and they hyper-analysis of teams and players reflects that. One week Team A is hot and is on the way to the playoffs, and then the next week it’s Team B that everyone loves. The key to it all for the teams is to take it one week at a time and only worry about controlling what they can control. For the Vikings this week, they can only control how they prepare for the Packers. I believe the Vikings have high character coaches and players who will compete and work this week to give themselves a chance to win this upcoming Sunday and continue their push to the playoffs.

Also keep in mind, the Vikings are very much in the thick of the Wild Card race. Only one non-division leading team (Green Bay) has more wins than the Vikings. On top of that, there’s no reason the Vikings should give up on their quest to win the NFC North. There is a lot of football to be played, and the Vikings have another shot at Chicago in a few weeks in addition to two contests against the Packers.

Is it now time for the Vikings to think about sitting Christian Ponder?
-- Jason F.
Tempe, AZ

No. The Vikings are invested in Ponder as their franchise quarterback and I believe they need to continue to invest in him. He has not even finished his first full season as a starter; it’s much too early to draw a water-tight conclusion on him.

Ponder has certainly had poor performances this season, and Sunday in Chicago was one of them. I understand that we have become an “instant gratification” society, but that is just not how it rolls most of the time when you are looking at developing a franchise quarterback. Yes, some quarterbacks can come into the NFL and produce right away, but most cannot. In fact, some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks right now (Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers) weren’t instant impact players. Had their teams demonstrated the kind of impatience with those quarterbacks that many Vikings fans currently have with Ponder, those quarterbacks would never have become the great players they are today.

Fans want – and deserve – that instant gratification, so they are more than willing to give up on a player for the next flavor of the month. But NFL franchises don’t have that same luxury. Franchises have to invest in players, most importantly the individual they peg to be their franchise quarterback. That investment requires more than 20 games of observation before a final judgment can be made.

I will be the first to acknowledge that Ponder still has a ways to go in his development, but I'm okay with that. I'm willing to be patient and let him continue to learn and improve. I believe in him, and I believe in the people who hand-picked him to be our quarterback.

You never seem willing to blame coaching for what happens on the field. Are you once again going to give Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave a break for the playcalling and how the offense looked overall?
-- Sandy A.

In football, you win and lose as a team. I don’t think anyone in the Vikings locker room will look into the mirror this week and absolve themselves from blame in the loss to Chicago. When the Vikings win, I don’t give all the credit to one individual. Just the same, I will not place all of the blame at one person’s feet when the Vikings lose.

Playcalling is one of the biggest complaints fans have after a loss. But I hesitate to put much emphasis on playcalling because there is so much that goes into it. Many plays have a run/pass option that requires the quarterback to make the right call based on what look the defense gives. Receivers have to convert their routes from man-to-zone routes (or vice versa) based on a pre-snap look. The offensive line may have to adjust its protection based on a pre-snap look. There are so many things that go into calling a play that to sit here on Monday morning and second-guess it is a bit unfair.

Are there playcalls that Musgrave would like back? Maybe, only he can answer that. But can we honestly sit here on Monday morning and blame coaches for lost fumbles, dropped passes, personal foul penalties and missed blocks? I don’t think so. Everyone shares in the blame for the Vikings loss to Chicago, and everyone will be working this week to turn it around against Green Bay.

Why hasn't WR Jarius Wright been playing all year? Aside from recovering from his injury, that is. He's been impressive thus far.
-- Aaron D.
Texarkana, TX

As Aaron stated in his question, Wright spent the early part of the season recovering from an ankle injury. It was more severe than your garden-variety sprained ankle, and it happened in the final preseason game. Aside from that, Wright is of course in the process of learning his first NFL offense. Wide receiver is one of the toughest positions to learn as a rookie, so it’s naturally taken him some time to become comfortable in the offense I’m sure. Throw in the fact that he missed time with that ankle injury, and you can see why it's taken him this long to play and contribute. You can't assume that because he's producing right now, he also would've produced earlier in the season.

The bottom line is Wright is producing right now. He had seven receptions on Sunday in Chicago, which gives him 10 receptions and one touchdown in his first two games – that’s pretty good production. I think the Vikings have a nice player in Wright.

Tough, tough game to watch. I need to bring up the dropped passes. It was hard to watch so many passes hit players in both hands and simply bounce off. Any way to fix this?
-- Chaz H.

Dropped passes were an issue for the Vikings on Sunday, and those drops are part of the reason I refuse to point to playcalling or quarterback performance as sole reasons for the passing game’s struggles.

It’s the responsibility of the receivers to be in the right place mentally and physically to fix any issues they’re having with drops. It’s not the quarterback, the playcaller or the receiver coach’s fault that drops happen. These guys are professionals, and it’s their responsibility to concentrate and handle their business. We know they can catch the ball – they wouldn’t be in the NFL if they couldn’t catch.

The Vikings group of receivers is a prideful bunch, and I know they’ll come to play next Sunday in Lambeau Field. I expect them to bounce back in a big way.

The Viking defense was like a sieve all game long on 3rd down. Why do you think that they struggle so much on those downs?
-- Brandan L.
Fargo, ND

It’s hard from my chair to pinpoint with precision what the specific problems were on 3rd downs, but Brandan is right that the Vikings defense struggled on that down. The Bears converted 11 of 19 (58%) 3rd-down tries, which is an impressive success rate. As look at the numbers, I see the problem for the Vikings defense on 3rd down actually being their deficiencies on 1st and 2nd down. On their 19 3rd-down attempts, the Bears averaged 5.5 yards to go – a very manageable distance for an NFL offense to face on 3rd down.

There’s no question the Vikings defense needs to be better on 3rd down, but I think the downfall on Sunday in Chicago was their performance on the earlier downs.

We seem to have trouble applying pressure to the quarterback with our front four. Why don't the Vikings bring a linebacker up to help apply more pressure? We had one sack yesterday. Secondly, what is the status of S Harrison Smith and TE Kyle Rudolph? And do you think we will get Percy Harvin back this week?
-- Matt
Santa Rosa

The Vikings defense is predicated largely on generating quarterback pressure with the front four and then dropping seven defenders in coverage. This has been the bread-and-butter of the Vikings defense for years and, generally, the Vikings have had success doing it. When the front four doesn’t generate pressure, though, opposing quarterbacks have too much time to sit in the pocket and find an open receiver. It doesn’t matter how many guys you have in coverage, if you give a NFL quarterback enough time, he’ll complete a pass.

When the front four isn’t generating pressure, the urge many feel is to call for extra defenders to start rushing the passer. What that does, though, is put more pressure on the defenders in coverage. I’m all for being aggressive and pressuring/blitzing opposing quarterbacks, but with the talent the Vikings have on the defensive line I think they are better off sticking with a four-man pass rush. It should be enough to get the job done, and hopefully the Vikings front four can get back on track in Green Bay on Sunday.

The status of Harvin, Rudolph and Smith will be updated as the week goes along. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will hold his typical day-after-the-game press conference on Monday and will likely provide an update on all three of them. I’m optimistic the Vikings will have each of them on the field this Sunday.

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