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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Dec 19, 2011

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the offseason 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.

 

I asked last week about Joe Webb and Christian Ponder starting over one another. Ponder had two touchdowns in the Saints game, but one interception, many poorly thrown balls, a passer rating of 63.9 and only 120 yards passing (21 in the 1st Half). My question is, are the Vikings at all concerned with him and his consistency? Two weeks ago he had a great game for any quarterback (381 yards), and after that game he has only 235 yards in the air.
-- Zach W.

There are aspects in each of Ponder’s individual performances that I’m sure the coaching staff found concerning, but I don’t sense that there is a general concern among the coaching staff in Ponder’s development or his potential. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated after the game that Ponder is still the future of the quarterback position, and he also said it’s important that the team improves its play around Ponder as much as it’s important that Ponder improve his own play.

Ultimately, ups and downs are going to happen when a team grooms a rookie quarterback. As I pointed out in last week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, even the NFL’s best current quarterbacks went through rough stretches in the early going. This is a hard game to master, and it’s unreasonable to expect a rookie quarterback, with no offseason work prior to his initial season, to come in and play well in his first 16 games. There are going to be growing pains, but the organization has to work through those growing pains and keep improving not only the play of the quarterback but also the quality of players surrounding the quarterback.

If the Vikings get the first overall pick in the draft, do you think that we should dump Ponder and go for Andrew Luck?
-- Anna

The answer to this question depends on several factors, perhaps the most important of which is the evaluation the Vikings have of Luck in terms of his potential to play in the NFL. Right now Luck is the consensus No. 1 pick according to the media and public, but most teams have not actually finished their evaluation of Luck – or any other first-round prospects – yet. There are still bowl games, all-star games, the Scouting Combine and pro days to get through before teams have a good idea of which players they like and which players they don’t like.

It is extremely rare for a team to use a first-round pick on a quarterback in back-to-back years. When you invest a first-round pick in a quarterback, which the Vikings did in Ponder last year, you owe it to your organization and the players to be patient with that quarterback because he obviously has the physical and mental traits that should enable him to be a very good player (that’s why you took him in the first round). So to use a first-round pick on another quarterback in this year’s draft would represent a huge shift in direction and would be a precedent-setting move. That doesn’t mean a team shouldn’t do it, but it does mean a team should think long and hard before doing it because that decision could be a step backward before taking several steps forward.

Hey Mike,
Ponder looked a little gun shy today, seeing rush even when there wasn’t. Is that a product of the beating he has taken this year? I hope we fix that soon before he goes the way of a one David Carr. What are your thoughts on getting a LT and RT through draft or FA? Also, with the extension of John Sullivan at center, what are futures of Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love?
-- Viking33
vikings.com Blog commenter

During the radio broadcast on the Vikings Radio Network, game analyst Pete Bercich pointed out that Ponder had “happy feet” at times during the game, which is similar to the “gun shy” comment within this question. I do think part of the reason this is happening to Ponder is that his pass protection has been a bit inconsistent this season. So even when the pass protection is solid, which it has been this season and was at times on Sunday, Ponder might feel it coming anyway. Using an early-round pick on a left tackle might be a good idea for the Vikings because it would allow them to try Charlie Johnson at guard. I think Johnson has a place on this roster because he is a capable pass blocker and a good run blocker, but I’m not certain that place is left tackle. As for right tackle, I believe Loadholt is the long-term guy at that position, and I also believe his play will improve once the entire offensive line begins to play better.

The contract extension for Sullivan doesn’t impact Love’s status with the team, but it does mean that Fusco will sit behind Sullivan on the depth chart at center, and could now also compete for time at other interior offensive line positions.

Why is Kyle Rudolph barely involved with our offense? I think he has more potential to make an impact on our offense than Visanthe Shiancoe. It frustrates me that he’s not making catches on a regular basis, especially since the Vikings only have two wins on the season.
-- Alex
vikings.com Blog commenter

There’s no question that Rudolph has shown he has the ability to make plays for the Vikings. His combination of size and athleticism makes him a great option in the passing game everywhere on the field. I’m not going to comment on whether he has more or less potential to contribute than Shiancoe (I think they are both talented and capable within this offense), but I do agree that Rudolph should become a bigger part of the offense going forward. The Vikings offensive coaching staff sees the same thing we do in Rudolph, but right now it’s hard to get much of anything going offensively because the Vikings can’t find any rhythm to the passing game. The Vikings had just 14 completions on Sunday, and with that few of completions it’s hard to get any player, much less a rookie tight end, involved in the offense. I believe that once Rudolph is more comfortable with the intricacies of this offense and once the Vikings can keep Ponder on his feet and in rhythm, we’ll see more Ponder-to-Rudolph completions and touchdowns.

I have been extremely proud of the way Toby Gerhart has played. He was given a chance to start with Adrian Peterson hurting his ankle and has been more than expected as a backup. He has proved he can be a starter, whether it is catching, running, or pass blocking (I just want to say I called the Vikings drafting Toby Gerhart in the second round of the 2010 draft. I submitted an email to the Monday Morning Mailbag about it.). I am also impressed with our receiving corps. Every one of them has stepped up. There is still great room for improvement, but there is something to build on. And the last player I am impressed with is Everson Griffen. He has turned into an all-around animal, in every phase of the game. He has a crazy motor that never ceases to stop and he carries that into special teams. That is rare. So I guess what I am trying to say is even though we are doing poorly this season, there is hope for next season. We have a chance to add some serious talent and that can add to the players we already have. I am PUMPED for next season!
-- Marty
Owatonna, MN

I appreciate that enthusiasm and I actually share in Marty’s positive outlook on not only the players he mentioned above but also in the team in general. It’s easy to be negative right now as the team sits at 2-12 and is coming off a 42-20 beating, but there are several young, talented players who are a core part of this team and I believe the coaching staff and scouting staff will put together a good plan this offseason that will lead to improvement in 2012.