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Read And React: Coordinators On Ponder, Rhodes And Locke

Posted Jun 20, 2013

The Vikings 3 coordinators met with reporters after Wednesday’s mini-camp practice. It’s one of the few times they’re available to the media during the offseason, so they are peppered with questions about a variety of topics. In this piece, I’ve taken on comment from each of them that I found interesting and have reacted to what they said.

 

Question asked: How do you measure him (Christian Ponder) during the offseason?

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said: Decision making is one of them. Physically throwing is the other. We always want to be accurate and we’re always working on our feet in the quarterback room. His decision making we’re assessing every day with all these competitive periods. It’s been good.

Reaction: Musgrave hits on a key point here regarding Ponder and his continual progression as an NFL QB. There are a few rare players every now and then that can come in and be stars right away at the QB position. That didn’t happen with Ponder. But there are a greater number of guys that come into the NFL, take a short time to gain their stride, and then become productive passers who lead their teams to more wins than losses and even some playoff appearances. That, I believe, is Ponder. But in order to make that progression, Ponder needs experience, and not just the experience to be gained in September through January. He needs to go through experiences – success AND adversity – during the offseason program. The coaches have done that with him, and they’ve done that by building up his confidence at some points of OTAs and by making it tough on him at other points of OTAs and mini-camp by putting the offense in compromising situations to see how they respond in the face of pressure and how they bounce back from adversity. All in all, it’s been a very good offseason program for Ponder and I believe during training camp later this summer we’ll see an improved player in Ponder, and that will pay dividends for the Vikings in 2013 and beyond.

Questions asked: Is it encouraging when Xavier Rhodes is getting his hands on the ball like he is?

Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said: It is. It really is. The one thing, I don’t know how much you watched today but he got his hands on some balls and he’s not giving up deep balls. That’s the big thing because a lot of guys like to sit on passes and you see them intercept balls and you say “wow” and then a lot of balls are going over his head. And he’s not giving up either. He’s tough down low and up top.

Reaction: I thought this was a great evaluation of Rhodes by a guy who knows his DBs. When you think about it, it is impressive that such a young player can already be good at both jumping routes underneath but also not getting beat over the top. If Rhodes continues to play well enough to lock down that starting job on the outside, that could move a skilled player such as Josh Robinson to nickel CB. I would be excited about the prospects of Robinson starting on the outside, so to get that caliber of player lining up as a starting nickel CB is a bonus for this young Vikings defense that is in a bit of transition at certain spots. Williams also added this comment about how important it is to have a quality nickel or 3rd CB: “The good thing is when you have a lot of DBs you can play multiple packages. In today’s NFL pass-happy world, the nickel is a starter. He’s playing almost 50 percent and sometimes more than the base package. You need three, four, five corners to function in today’s NFL.”

Question asked: What do you think of your new punter?

Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said: I like our new punter (Jeff Locke), very talented like we knew he was. He’s working very hard. I knew he would be a hard worker, I didn’t realize to this extent. He does everything I ask him to do drill wise and more. He is very contentious. He’s worked very hard as a holder as well so everything is going in the right direction.

Reaction: I wanted to include a Priefer response to a Locke question because many readers have asked about Locke and I haven’t been able to provide a thorough response because I haven’t gotten the chance to see him punt much with some of the inclement weather we’ve had this spring. A surface-level observation I have of him is that he clearly puts a ton of hang time under his punts, which I know is something Priefer prefers and I know will make the Vikings punt coverage group even better than they were last year. But as you can tell from Priefer’s response, it looks like Locke is off to a great start in purple, and I can also tell you that Priefer is very pleased with the synergy that exists in his room with the 3 specialists – Locke, long snapper Cullen Loeffler and K Blair Walsh.

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