Over the next two weeks we'll take a position-by-position look at the performance and production of the Vikings roster in 2013.
Uncertainty and uneven play at times from the quarterback position masked what was a season of improvement for the Vikings offense. Christian Ponder (nine starts) and Matt Cassel (six starts) split the bulk of the playing time for the Vikings and neither established a standard of play that satisfied the masses, but even through turmoil the Vikings signal callers guided an offense that made improvements in yards per game, passing yards per game and points per game.
Ponder opened the season as the starter and, despite building 4th-quarter leads in two of the first three games, was unable to lead the Vikings to a victory. After the 0-3 start and a rib injury, Ponder was replaced by Matt Cassel in Week 4. Cassel threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. The Vikings returned home for a bye in Week 5 and then, with Cassel under center, dropped a Week 6 contest at home to Carolina.
The Vikings turned to Josh Freeman the following week in New York, and then went back to Ponder for their Week 8 game at home against the Green Bay Packers, another loss. Ponder remained the starter into December, but was knocked out of the Vikings Week 13 game against the Bears with another injury. Cassel started the remainder of the Vikings contests, guiding the team to a win over the Bears while replacing Ponder as well as victories over both the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15 and the Detroit Lions to close out Mall of America Field in the season finale.
Was the play at quarterback up to what the team expected? No. But was the play at quarterback good enough to yield almost across-the-board improvement on offense and, arguably, more than five wins? The numbers suggest yes.
So where do the Vikings go from here at quarterback? It's not a matter of starting from scratch. Cassel proved the Vikings wise for signing him as a veteran backup over the offseason, and Ponder continues to A) show flashes of what made him a first-round pick, B) find injuries keeping him off the field and C) work on gaining more consistency in his performance. Add it all up, and the Vikings head to the offseason with a pair of capable quarterbacks on the roster as well as a need to seriously consider adding more talent to the depth chart via free agency or the draft.
On the Roster
Matt Cassel: 153-254 (60.2%), 1,807 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs, 81.6 rating in 9 games (6 starts)
Josh Freeman: 20-53 (37.8), 190 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 40.6 rating in 1 game (1 start)
Christian Ponder: 152-239 (63.6%), 1,648 yards, 7 TDs, 9 INTs, 77.9 rating in 9 games (9 starts)
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