Monday Morning Mailbag

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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Dec 2, 2013

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.

When Christian Ponder was taken out and Matt Cassel came in, it was disclosed that Joe Webb would be the emergency quarterback should Cassel get injured. Josh Freeman wasn't even dressed to play. I know he had a horrible game (against the NY Giants), but is our confidence in him that low, or is there something else keeping him off the field?
-- Kenneth G.

My sense is not that the confidence in Freeman is low enough that the team doesn’t feel comfortable dressing him. To me, it’s as much a numbers game as it is a confidence issue in Freeman. Keep in mind, NFL teams can only dress 46 of their 53 active players, so roster spots are a premium. And with Webb, a former quarterback, you have a built-in emergency quarterback who can also contribute on special teams and as a wide receiver. Essentially, the Vikings have no reason to dress three quarterbacks with Webb on the roster. Given that Ponder is the starter and Cassel has more experience and has been with the team longer than Freeman, it’s no surprise that the coaching staff chooses Ponder and Cassel as the two quarterbacks. Ultimately, that decision was validated on Sunday because of how well Cassel played in relief of Ponder.

Vikings

Coach Frazier had good things to say about Audie Cole. He has been putting some nice stats together, and I heard his name mentioned a lot on the television broadcast. It seems he does a good job staying close to the action. What has made him stand out? And how has he improved since joining the team last season as a 7th-round pick? What parts of his game could he most improve in?
-- Kent E.

From my standpoint, Cole’s strengths are his instincts and toughness. He may not measure exceptionally well in some of the athletic drills we see every year at the Combine, but he is still a very good athlete. More importantly, though, he has instincts and toughness in spades, and I’ll take those two traits in a middle linebacker over a fast 40-yard dash time or an impressive number in the bench press.

In terms of improvement, I would say consistency. He’s a young, inexperienced player, so you’re going to have to live with some mistakes and with some inconsistent play. But you can only live with those shortcomings for so long if the player isn’t also demonstrating constant improvement. Cole’s ability to perform this well in back-to-back games tells me he also has the ability to learn from mistakes and not make the same mistakes twice.

Can't express how happy I am for our team! What a fight! Go Vikings! Great effort from the whole team, even with mistakes and a slow start, they managed to get all of us a win!  Let's get another next week!
-- Jesse B.
Holland, MI

Historically, Sunday’s win over the Bears will go down as one of the NFL’s best games of the week and it’ll be remembered as the game in which Adrian Peterson reached 10,000 career rushing yards. But on a micro level, this game should be remembered for the great fight that it was.

At 2-8-1 and trailing or on the verge of defeat several times throughout the game, the Vikings had every reason or excuse to just go away, allow the Bears to squeak out a close win, and get one week closer to the offseason. But this Vikings bunch refused to take the path of least resistance, and instead they chose to keep fighting. While I agree we shouldn’t glamorize a team for doing what it should do (play until the end), I do think it’s appropriate to recognize the heart and competitive integrity this Vikings team has and we should also note the individuals who stepped up in this game because those are the guys you know are fighter and those are the guys you want to be a part of the team going forward.

Was Ponder officially diagnosed with a concussion? After Cassel’s excellent performance, injury or not, could the Vikings make another switch to Cassel for the rest of the season just to see if we can make anything out of him?
-- Austin N.
Duluth, MN

It sounded to me like the official word on Ponder is indeed a concussion because Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier stated in his press conference following the game that Ponder left the game with a concussion. I’m not trying to mince words, but I do want to be careful in disseminating injury information because it’s a sensitive topic and nothing is official unless it comes directly from the head coach.

As for the chances of a change at quarterback, Frazier said that’s something the coaching staff will evaluate and discuss this week as Ponder goes through the NFL’s concussion protocol and as the Vikings begin their preparations for the Baltimore Ravens, next week’s opponent.

Skol Vikings, what a great win. I was driving back to college from Thanksgiving break and was clenching my steering wheel the whole game. What a win! The secondary is struggling. Something needs to change. Yes, Harrison Smith is injured, but he and Jamarca Sanford can only do so much. Yes, the secondary is young, and giving up yards isn’t the biggest concern because we have buckled down on 3rd-down conversion defense, but what are your thoughts on taking another defensive player in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft next year?
-- Jonathan J.
West Fargo, ND

It’s a bit too early for me to start honing in on the draft and it’s far too early for me to start identifying positions that should be addressed in specific rounds. But from a philosophical standpoint, I am 100% on board with the Vikings addressing the defense (specifically the secondary) with a high-round pick in 2014. When you play in a division that features quarterbacks such as Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford and then receivers such as Calvin Johnson, Green Bay’s crew and the tandem of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, you need all the talent you can get in the secondary.

Vikings

First off, Skol! A win is a win. And even better, in dramatic fashion. Love the want to fight and will to win from the team. I'm just wondering what the return timelines are looking like for Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph? (Even though the guys filling in are doing a great job.)
-- Kyle S.
Hampton, VA

There is no official word on this as of yet, but last week Frazier indicated there’s optimism Smith could play against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 15. I haven’t heard an update on Rudolph, so we’ll have to stay tuned on that front.

In the 1st quarter, two penalties were called against the Bears on a 3rd down play in the red zone. One was offensive pass interference against tight end Martellus Bennett and the other was a personal foul against receiver Brandon Marshall. Coach Frazier picked the offensive pass interference (a 10-yard penalty). I was wondering, wouldn't the personal foul have been 15 yards? So why didn't Coach Frazier pick the 15-yard penalty?
-- Derrick F.
Minnesota

Good question and an interesting scenario. As I recall, the personal foul happened at the conclusion of the play. That penalty would be marked off 15 yards from the end of the play (Minnesota 9), whereas the pass interference against Bennett is a 10-yard penalty that is marked off from the original line of scrimmage (Minnesota 17). So the Vikings choice was to accept a penalty that would result in the ball being placed on the Minnesota 27 (pass interference) or the Minnesota 24 (personal foul). Under those circumstances, obviously the right choice is the 27, which was the pass interference against Bennett.