Ponder named No. 2 QB, evaluates his progress

Christian Ponder was named the Vikings' No. 2 quarterback. See how he evaluated his preseason performance, where he's making progress and how the Vikings view the running skills of Ponder and Joe Webb.

The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder No. 12 overall with the idea that he would quickly become the team's starter. The NFL lockout may have prevented them from being fully comfortable making that move this season, but head coach Leslie Frazier on Monday named Ponder the No. 2 quarterback behind veteran acquisition Donovan McNabb.

Ponder said the No. 2 spot was his goal after the Vikings acquired McNabb via trade when the lockout ended.

"Definitely. I think getting the No. 2 spot is critical, getting those reps in practice. Obviously we're already limited in what we can get," Ponder said. "To get as many as possible will be good. You never know with football. It's one injury away."

Ponder's role won't officially start until the Vikings have a full practice on Wednesday and they get into the swing of preparing for a regular-season game. Monday's practice was a short one – Ponder said the entire offense took only 20 snaps and the second team received only four of them.

Ponder said he had a chance to review the film from Thursday's preseason finale, when he played the entire first half and the first series of the second half. His initial impressions with what he saw were favorable.

"It was pretty good. A couple times, I escaped the pocket a little early, but several times it saved me and got the ball down the field. That was good, but there's still some plays to be made," he said.

Ponder finished that game completing 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 96.6 passer rating. He nearly finished as the game's leading rusher as well, pulling the ball down and running eight times for 61 yards.

"There was a lot of running. We tried to give him a hard time that he ran for 200 yards in the first half. It felt like it. He made everybody else out there look slow. That was good to see," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said after Thursday's 28-0 win over the Houston Texans.

"I thought his decision-making was good. … He got himself down when he needed to and got himself out of bounds when he could. As long as he makes good decisions, we're glad for any yards he can pick up for us when the play breaks down."

While Ponder wasn't able to work with coaches during the lockout, he finished the preseason completing 27 of 49 passes (55.1 percent) for 290 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 79.5 passer rating, but he also took five sacks.

"It's still a pretty big learning curve. I'm still thinking my way through it right now," Ponder said. "I think I did a better job on Thursday just being myself and trusting my instincts more. That will keep coming along, but I'm definitely more comfortable than I was in Day One."

While Joe Webb will now spend much of his practice time running the scout-team offense as the third quarterback, Frazier said the coaching staff will continue to try to find ways to use him on offense during games. That could include splitting him out wide at receiver or using him as the "Wildcat," both options the team showed during training camp.

"He's a tremendous talent, so we're exploring some options and it's just a matter of whether we want to do it now or two weeks from now, three weeks from now, but we want to utilize his gifts," Frazier said.

Said Musgrave: "Joe's got quarterback skills and then he's got running skills. I know he played a little bit of wide receiver when he initially came here, but it's going to be fun to create some things for Joe because he'll create problems for all the different defenses that we'll face.

"Joe's sharp. … Everybody gravitates toward him."

Webb finished the preseason completing 17 of 29 passes (58.6 percent) for 213 yards, no TDs, one interception and a 67.2 rating.

While Ponder and Webb both have athletic skills to run when the pocket breaks down, Musgrave said he thought Ponder did a good job feeling the pressure and running only when necessary.

"It felt like just the right amount. At times, there was nobody open. At times, a couple of our guys got edged a little bit," Musgrave said. "We don't mind if they get edged as long as our quarterback is always going forward. We thought his habits were good. We want to move forward in the pocket. Only bad things happen when you go backwards.

"… You can't teach that sixth sense in the pocket. Just from the sideline it appeared a couple plays he had some guys bearing down on him from the back side. You know he didn't see them, but it looked like he felt them."

Ponder said his preseason playing time also helped him progress with reading NFL defenses.

"Especially with how this offense is built, we have so many different types of progression reads, whether it's split safety or single-high safety, it's a set progression from one to two to three, so there is a lot of things that need to be done presnap with reading stuff," he said. "We did a lot of that at Florida State so I'm pretty comfortable with it."

Now it could be just a matter of time before Ponder is able to take that next step in a regular-season game.

NOTES

  • The Vikings signed TE Allen Reisner to their practice squad after he cleared waivers Monday afternoon. The former Iowa Hawkeye originally made the 53-man roster but was released Sunday in order to make room for LB Xavier Adibi.

  • Former Vikings OL Artis Hicks signed with the Cleveland Browns after being released by the Washington Redskins.

  • Former Vikings OL Ryan Cook signed with the Miami Dolphins after being released by the Vikings on Saturday. Cook was drafted with a second-round pick that the Vikings acquired when they traded Daunte Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins.

  • Former Vikings WR Andre Holmes was signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. Holmes spent training camp and the preseason with the Vikings after signing as an undrafted rookie, but the Vikings released him in the roster cutdown to 80 players last Tuesday.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder No. 12 overall with the idea that he would quickly become the team's starter. The NFL lockout may have prevented them from being fully comfortable making that move this season, but head coach Leslie Frazier on Monday named Ponder the No. 2 quarterback behind veteran acquisition Donovan McNabb. Ponder said the No. 2 spot was his goal after the Vikings acquired McNabb via trade when the lockout ended. \"Definitely. I think getting the No. 2 spot is critical, getting those reps in practice. Obviously we're already limited in what we can get,\" Ponder said. \"To get as many as possible will be good. You never know with football. It's one injury away.\" Ponder's role won't officially start until the Vikings have a full practice on Wednesday and they get into the swing of preparing for a regular-season game. Monday's practice was a short one – Ponder said the entire offense took only 20 snaps and the second team received only four of them. Ponder said he had a chance to review the film from Thursday's preseason finale, when he played the entire first half and the first series of the second half. His initial impressions with what he saw were favorable. \"It was pretty good. A couple times, I escaped the pocket a little early, but several times it saved me and got the ball down the field. That was good, but there's still some plays to be made,\" he said. Ponder finished that game completing 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 96.6 passer rating. He nearly finished as the game's leading rusher as well, pulling the ball down and running eight times for 61 yards. \"There was a lot of running. We tried to give him a hard time that he ran for 200 yards in the first half. It felt like it. He made everybody else out there look slow. That was good to see,\" offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said after Thursday's 28-0 win over the Houston Texans. \"I thought his decision-making was good. … He got himself down when he needed to and got himself out of bounds when he could. As long as he makes good decisions, we're glad for any yards he can pick up for us when the play breaks down.\" While Ponder wasn't able to work with coaches during the lockout, he finished the preseason completing 27 of 49 passes (55.1 percent) for 290 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 79.5 passer rating, but he also took five sacks. \"It's still a pretty big learning curve. I'm still thinking my way through it right now,\" Ponder said. \"I think I did a better job on Thursday just being myself and trusting my instincts more. That will keep coming along, but I'm definitely more comfortable than I was in Day One.\" While Joe Webb will now spend much of his practice time running the scout-team offense as the third quarterback, Frazier said the coaching staff will continue to try to find ways to use him on offense during games. That could include splitting him out wide at receiver or using him as the \"Wildcat,\" both options the team showed during training camp. \"He's a tremendous talent, so we're exploring some options and it's just a matter of whether we want to do it now or two weeks from now, three weeks from now, but we want to utilize his gifts,\" Frazier said. Said Musgrave: \"Joe's got quarterback skills and then he's got running skills. I know he played a little bit of wide receiver when he initially came here, but it's going to be fun to create some things for Joe because he'll create problems for all the different defenses that we'll face. \"Joe's sharp. … Everybody gravitates toward him.\" Webb finished the preseason completing 17 of 29 passes (58.6 percent) for 213 yards, no TDs, one interception and a 67.2 rating. While Ponder and Webb both have athletic skills to run when the pocket breaks down, Musgrave said he thought Ponder did a good job feeling the pressure and running only when necessary. \"It felt like just the right amount. At times, there was nobody open. At times, a couple of our guys got edged a little bit,\" Musgrave said. \"We don't mind if they get edged as long as our quarterback is always going forward. We thought his habits were good. We want to move forward in the pocket. Only bad things happen when you go backwards. \"… You can't teach that sixth sense in the pocket. Just from the sideline it appeared a couple plays he had some guys bearing down on him from the back side. You know he didn't see them, but it looked like he felt them.\" Ponder said his preseason playing time also helped him progress with reading NFL defenses. \"Especially with how this offense is built, we have so many different types of progression reads, whether it's split safety or single-high safety, it's a set progression from one to two to three, so there is a lot of things that need to be done presnap with reading stuff,\" he said. \"We did a lot of that at Florida State so I'm pretty comfortable with it.\" Now it could be just a matter of time before Ponder is able to take that next step in a regular-season game.
  • The Vikings signed TE Allen Reisner to their practice squad after he cleared waivers Monday afternoon. The former Iowa Hawkeye originally made the 53-man roster but was released Sunday in order to make room for LB Xavier Adibi.
  • Former Vikings OL Artis Hicks signed with the Cleveland Browns after being released by the Washington Redskins.
  • Former Vikings OL Ryan Cook signed with the Miami Dolphins after being released by the Vikings on Saturday. Cook was drafted with a second-round pick that the Vikings acquired when they traded Daunte Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins.
  • Former Vikings WR Andre Holmes was signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. Holmes spent training camp and the preseason with the Vikings after signing as an undrafted rookie, but the Vikings released him in the roster cutdown to 80 players last Tuesday.
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