Ponder well aware of Woodson now

Christian Ponder got an unenviable baptism into the NFL with his first start coming against Green Bay. Charles Woodson intercepted Ponder twice and the rookie QB categorized each of them differently. Plus, a look at what the numbers say about the Vikings' opening drives, a renewed point of emphasis for them.

To date, Christian Ponder has thrown two career interceptions. He can thank Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson for both.

Of course, Ponder is hardly the only victim of Woodson's thievery. The likely future Hall of Famer has 52 career interceptions and ranks first in the NFL with 23 interceptions since 2008. This year, he leads the Packers with five interceptions, which also ties for the league lead.

"Obviously Woodson is a good player and I will be more aware of where he is and aware of what he does on that field. He has a knack for making plays," Ponder said.

But simply avoiding Woodson will be a difficult task because the Packers move him around on defense and disguise what he does.

"They do a great job of disguising things and playing different coverages that you wouldn't expect, and with Charles Woodson, he's playing over the slot and it looks like man-to-man coverage, then he's dropping back to be a half-safety," Ponder said. "They just do a lot of different disguises and different pressures and they make great plays. … They are kind of a bend-but-don't-break defense, and they create a lot of turnovers and big plays."

Woodson is also an accomplished return man after the interception. He is tied for second in league history with former Vikings and Packers safety Darren Sharper with 11 interception returns for touchdowns, one behind Rod Woodson. Since 2008, Charles Woodson leads the league with 23 interceptions and seven interception returns for touchdowns. He also ranks second for interception return yards (458) since 2008, is second among defensive backs with eight sacks and second among defensive backs with 11 forced fumbles.

Both of Ponder's interceptions came with Woodson in man coverage. The quarterback put them in two separate categories.

"I'd say the first one was a bad decision, the second one was a bad throw," Ponder said. "The first one I shouldn't have gone over to that side anyways, the second one he undercut the ball. If I would have put air under it and thrown it over the top it would have been a great gain for us. The guy is going to make plays every now and then and I've got to find a way to get around them."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who played cornerback for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, said Ponder will have to pick his spots on when to throw Woodson's direction.

"We know that well," Frazier said.

Ponder's first start was against the Packers, and he's still only making his third NFL start – in a scheduling oddity, two of those starts will be against the Packers. While Ponder called himself out for completing only 41 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions in his first outing against Green Bay, he did help the Vikings convert a season-high 56 percent of their third-down attempts.

"He fared fairly well at his opening start against Green Bay a few weeks ago," Frazier said. "I'm sure there will be some new wrinkles that he may not have seen on tape that they may show in this next game, but I get the impression from being around him and the way he played in that first game versus them that he'll be able to handle those looks if there are some new looks that they may bring."

No matter how the Packers line up prior to the snap, you can be sure Ponder will be locating Woodson and making a mental note it.

DOING BETTER EARLY

Vikings coaches are often vague in recounting what they found during bye-week studies, but Musgrave said the offense needs to do a better job on its initial drives in the first and second halves of games.

"We didn't feel like we did as well as we could have, both in the first half and the second half opening series on the road," Musgrave said.

A look at the numbers backs Musgrave's assertion. In eight games, the opening drives for the offense have produced one touchdown, one field goal, one missed field and five punts. That doesn't count Percy Harvin's season-opening kickoff return for a touchdown as one of the offensive drives.

In the eight opening drives of the second half of games, the Vikings also have one touchdown, one field goal and five punts, as well as one lost fumble. That means the Vikings have two touchdowns and two field goals in the 16 offensive drives to start their first and second halves so far this year.

Musgrave said the coaches script a set number of plays to start a game, but they can't always follow the script. They will present five to 15 of those to the players during the week of preparation so they can be prepared but not overwhelmed.

"We want them to know and be able to anticipate what calls are going to be made in certain situations, especially to start out a game so they can visualize it before it actually happens," Musgrave said. "To stay on the script real stringently is tough to do just because the game a lot of times goes differently than you would anticipate."

Musgrave said the team has been doing a good job of opening running lanes for Adrian Peterson, but he'd like to see the passing game improve.

Green Bay's defense is ranked 31st against the pass, but they do a lot of different things with personnel and alignments to try to confuse the quarterback.

"They're quite complex," Musgrave said. " … They don't rank up there in terms of yards, but that doesn't mean a lot. A lot of times they're play from a lead, but they've done a great job of creating turnovers. They are a tough group to prepare for because they are somewhat unorthodox in a lot of situations."


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



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"To date, Christian Ponder has thrown two career interceptions. He can thank Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson for both. Of course, Ponder is hardly the only victim of Woodson's thievery. The likely future Hall of Famer has 52 career interceptions and ranks first in the NFL with 23 interceptions since 2008. This year, he leads the Packers with five interceptions, which also ties for the league lead. \"Obviously Woodson is a good player and I will be more aware of where he is and aware of what he does on that field. He has a knack for making plays,\" Ponder said. But simply avoiding Woodson will be a difficult task because the Packers move him around on defense and disguise what he does. \"They do a great job of disguising things and playing different coverages that you wouldn't expect, and with Charles Woodson, he's playing over the slot and it looks like man-to-man coverage, then he's dropping back to be a half-safety,\" Ponder said. \"They just do a lot of different disguises and different pressures and they make great plays. … They are kind of a bend-but-don't-break defense, and they create a lot of turnovers and big plays.\" Woodson is also an accomplished return man after the interception. He is tied for second in league history with former Vikings and Packers safety Darren Sharper with 11 interception returns for touchdowns, one behind Rod Woodson. Since 2008, Charles Woodson leads the league with 23 interceptions and seven interception returns for touchdowns. He also ranks second for interception return yards (458) since 2008, is second among defensive backs with eight sacks and second among defensive backs with 11 forced fumbles. Both of Ponder's interceptions came with Woodson in man coverage. The quarterback put them in two separate categories. \"I'd say the first one was a bad decision, the second one was a bad throw,\" Ponder said. \"The first one I shouldn't have gone over to that side anyways, the second one he undercut the ball. If I would have put air under it and thrown it over the top it would have been a great gain for us. The guy is going to make plays every now and then and I've got to find a way to get around them.\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who played cornerback for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, said Ponder will have to pick his spots on when to throw Woodson's direction. \"We know that well,\" Frazier said. Ponder's first start was against the Packers, and he's still only making his third NFL start – in a scheduling oddity, two of those starts will be against the Packers. While Ponder called himself out for completing only 41 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions in his first outing against Green Bay, he did help the Vikings convert a season-high 56 percent of their third-down attempts. \"He fared fairly well at his opening start against Green Bay a few weeks ago,\" Frazier said. \"I'm sure there will be some new wrinkles that he may not have seen on tape that they may show in this next game, but I get the impression from being around him and the way he played in that first game versus them that he'll be able to handle those looks if there are some new looks that they may bring.\" No matter how the Packers line up prior to the snap, you can be sure Ponder will be locating Woodson and making a mental note it. Vikings coaches are often vague in recounting what they found during bye-week studies, but Musgrave said the offense needs to do a better job on its initial drives in the first and second halves of games. \"We didn't feel like we did as well as we could have, both in the first half and the second half opening series on the road,\" Musgrave said. A look at the numbers backs Musgrave's assertion. In eight games, the opening drives for the offense have produced one touchdown, one field goal, one missed field and five punts. That doesn't count Percy Harvin's season-opening kickoff return for a touchdown as one of the offensive drives. In the eight opening drives of the second half of games, the Vikings also have one touchdown, one field goal and five punts, as well as one lost fumble. That means the Vikings have two touchdowns and two field goals in the 16 offensive drives to start their first and second halves so far this year. Musgrave said the coaches script a set number of plays to start a game, but they can't always follow the script. They will present five to 15 of those to the players during the week of preparation so they can be prepared but not overwhelmed. \"We want them to know and be able to anticipate what calls are going to be made in certain situations, especially to start out a game so they can visualize it before it actually happens,\" Musgrave said. \"To stay on the script real stringently is tough to do just because the game a lot of times goes differently than you would anticipate.\" Musgrave said the team has been doing a good job of opening running lanes for Adrian Peterson, but he'd like to see the passing game improve. Green Bay's defense is ranked 31st against the pass, but they do a lot of different things with personnel and alignments to try to confuse the quarterback. \"They're quite complex,\" Musgrave said. \" … They don't rank up there in terms of yards, but that doesn't mean a lot. A lot of times they're play from a lead, but they've done a great job of creating turnovers. 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