Tuesday, July 28, 2015

christian ponder

All of the NFC North teams are now tied for first place within the division.

The San Francisco 49ers decisive Saturday Night whooping of the Packers ended any hope (or fear) of a team from the North winning the Super Bowl.

While Vikings fans have to be elated to see their most hated enemy’s Super Bowl hopes dashed, it is somewhat painful to notice exactly how the 49ers took away a Victory.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was selected with the fourth pick of the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.  This was nearly a full round later than where the Vikings decided to place the future of the quarterback position on the shoulders of Christian Ponder.

I’m not going to launch into a hate fest of Ponder, but it is hard to deny that Kaepernick is clearly the better quarterback right now and that he has progressed faster than Ponder.  He is just plain and simply getting it done both through the air and on the ground.

What hurts even more is that Kaepernick led an option style offense that posted a ridiculous 579 yards against Green Bay’s defense.  The Vikings employed a similar scheme in the Wild Card round’s opening drive, with Joe Webb making the surprise start, but inexplicably abandoned the option after finding success on that drive.

Why Bill Musgrave and Leslie Frazier “adjusted” their offensive scheme after that first drive will be a question that, for most fans, will never be adequately answered.

Soon, why the Vikings opted for Ponder over Kaepernick in the 2011 NFL Draft may be a question that Rick Spielman finds equally difficult to answer.

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It took about a whole two, maybe three, hours before the disappointment from getting our butts handed to us via the Green Bay Packers vanished and the excitement for the offseason completely consumed me. Free agents? The draft?! Possible trades? Veterans leaving? New talent?

I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as bummed about the loss as the next hardcore Vikings fan (well, maybe not as much as this guy…) but the postseason letdown didn’t feel as bad this time. Maybe it was because deep down I knew once it was announced Christian Ponder wouldn’t be starting that we would lose the game and then the next three to four hours was just a realization of that fact. Maybe it’s because nothing could have happened in the playoffs that would take away from what an amazing season 2012 was. (And, folks, it was an amazing football season.) Who knows, really.

What I do know is that I was, and am, at peace with what the Vikings did this year and what I think they’ll do in the near future.

There’s a lot to be excited about with this team. There’s a ton to look forward to this offseason and some great stories to look out for.

Here are five of the biggest stories headed into the offseason. Stories that we will be covering in [exhausting] detail here at Vikings Territory, I’m sure. Of course, there will always be a few (maybe more) developments that catch us all by surprise. You can be sure we’ll have those, too.

(Note: These do not include general things like “the draft” or “free agency.” It’s a given those will be huge. I tried to think of specific storylines that will provide intrigue, mystery and excitement.)

5. The New Stadium

I almost didn’t include the stadium on the list because it seems that, now that we’ve got our stadium, it’s more of a “I don’t care how it happens, just get it here” type thing. But, after Adam mentioned it to me when I queried the inner-workings of his very knowledgeable Vikings mind, I started to see why it could become something we talk about frequently during the offseason.

It shouldn’t be long until we start seeing a real design for this thing.  And that will be pretty dang cool. We’ll finally get to see what this thing will look like. What features it will have. Does it have a retractable roof? Seat warmers? Does it have a mammoth monitor floating eerily above the ant-sized players a hundred or so feet below? Who knows.

It will be something tangible at that point. Something we can look at and say, “Okay. So that’s going to be where I take my children to watch my Minnesota Vikings a few years from now.” (Maybe more if you’re me).

It’s been an idea up until this point. A finalized design that we can see is a big step to it becoming a real, real reality. (A real one.)

4. Backup Quarterback Backup Plan

Christian Ponder’s late season surge (and potentially even his absence from the playoff game at Lambeau) solidified his role as the Vikings starter at quarterback next season. Head coach Leslie Frazier has even already made it public. That’s all good and fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings still need to figure some things out at the quarterback position during the offseason.

I’m not going to torch Joe Webb too much because I honestly feel like he’s better than what he showed Saturday in Green Bay. The guy was thrown into an incredibly difficult situation under an offensive coordinator who remained steadfast in his stubborn ways and refused to adjust his game plan to increase the likelihood of success for Webb. Nevertheless, I don’t think Joe Webb is somebody who can really threaten Ponder for the starting position and light a fire under his butt, so to speak.

I think Ponder is going to be a good quarterback with a little more development. I take a lot of heat for that position but I’ve held it since he was drafted and I still hold it today. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is not a sure thing. He is not a sure thing. And the Vikings need to have a Plan B just in case it doesn’t pan out with #7.

Personally, I’d like Spielman and Co. to do some superb scouting and find a quarterback in the middle rounds who has a lot of upside. It’s also possible the team could just to go the free agent route. (Also, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s entirely possible the Vikings could not address it at all…)

Nevertheless, I think how the roster shapes up behind Ponder is something to keep an eye on.

If your team loses early in the postseason, and you have your own blog, then the reward is being able to turn your gaze towards the NFL Draft.  So, with the Vikings getting a slap upside the head from Green Bay last weekend, I couldn’t help but update my mock.

Last time around I assigned Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to the Vikings.  Since then, however, the Vikings success meant they worked themselves all the way down to the 23rd selection and the more I looked at Richardson the more I am convinced he will be long gone by that point.

I ended up taking Richardson off the board at the 11th spot (Chargers) and had to see how things worked themselves out by the time the Vikings were “on the clock” in my mock.

A number of interesting option still existed at 23, which is a good sign for when the real deal actually rolls around, and I was awfully tempted to consider North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon.  While I think some quarterback-needy team might trade up to this point and try to grab Glennon, I just don’t see the Vikings realistically spending their first rounder on the quarterback position unless the coaching staff is suddenly and surprisingly dismissed… which won’t happen.

The Vikings will likely target a quarterback at some point in the Draft, but I highly doubt it’ll be that early, as they remain committed to developing Christian Ponder.

I did select someone on the offensive side of the football, however, and could help Ponder in his efforts to improve what has been a very lackluster passing game.

At #23, with USC’s Robert Woods the only other receiver selected prior, I assigned Tennessee product Cordarrelle Patterson to the Vikings.  The rest of the mock can be looked over by clicking here.

He has great size at 6’ 3” and 205 pounds and impressive elusiveness and has helped quarterback Tyler Bray lead an impressive passing game.  He has also contributed significantly by taking handoffs, returning punts, and returning kicks.  Sound familiar?

He is a physical receiver capable of out jumping most defenders, and possesses the ability to consistently make any catch he can get his hands on.  The only knock on Patterson is that he is still raw and needs to work on his route running, which is completely coachable.

For those unfamiliar with Patterson, here is a nice little highlight reel to get you familiarized.  At the very least, take note of how his legs never stop churning… despite the ridiculously long strides this guy take:

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The Vikings, led by backup quarterback Joe Webb, got their asses kicked at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

There really is no nicer way to put it than that without being dishonest.  The game was a debacle in all phases of the game.  Embarrassing production on offense, deadly mistakes on defense, turnovers coming from the special teams, and a coaching staff that seemed outmatched nearly the whole time.

With that being said, Saturday night’s letdown is just one black mark in what was otherwise a very pleasant surprise of a season, with the Vikings netting 10 wins after getting just three the season prior.

The Vikings accomplished many of their stated goals in 2012.  They kept Ponder upright for 16 games in an effort to gauge his progression.   The offensive line improved with players that never once had to miss a start.  The running game was one of the best that the world has ever seen, with Adrian Peterson making a very convincing bid to be the NFL’s MVP.

On defense, Alan Williams put together one of the better looking secondaries, albeit lacking depth, that Vikings fans have seen in years and years.  The pass rush was fairly consistent and the run defense was usually fairly stout, with only a select few exceptions in each area.

The special teams unit was overall one of the best in the NFL.

Following a phenomenal Draft from Rick Spielman, and Eric Sugarman earning every penny of his salary in keeping this squad relatively healthy, the Vikings are certainly a lot further along in their rebuilding process than almost anybody expected.

With that being said, there is not a position on this roster that couldn’t stand to be improved, other than kicker, and the Vikings now have another offseason full of opportunity to get even better.  They have an offseason to evaluate the coaching staff, search for free agents, prepare for the NFL Draft, and continue to develop their current talent.

While I was hoping not to be starting this for a few more weeks, the offseason unfortunately does begin today, and we here at VT are excited to do you the favor of filling it full of analysis, irresponsible speculation, rumor mongering, and discussion.

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We decided against a live chat today since, in our experience, these later games with huge ramifications typically means people are glued to their TVs, have a party going on, or are going out.  So, instead, we’ll do the whole quarterly forums thing to allow those that remain to share their thoughts as the game goes on.

What is there to say?  Joe Webb is starting and Christian Ponder won’t even be in uniform.  Adrian Peterson just seems to get better and better every week.  The Packers are as healthy as they have ever been this season in the passing game.  Frozen rain is expected to hit at some point during this game.

Fun, fun, and more fun!  Sit back and enjoy the game everyone!

SKOL!

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