Familiarity breeds more freedom for Ponder

Christian Ponder is being allowed more freedom in the offense the more familiar he gets with the offense and coordinator Bill Musgrave. Plus, Jerome Felton's efficiency as a blocker was rewarded by extended playing time, and find out just how young the Vikings have become.

When Christian Ponder took over for Donovan McNabb last year, one Vikings player said the playbook actually opened up more because of the then-rookie's greater understanding of the new scheme being implemented by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in the post-lockout season.

This year, there is even more freedom for Ponder in his second season in the offense with a full offseason of preparation and honing timing with his teammates.

"He has a bunch of leeway out there to change protections, change runs to passes, change passes to runs," Musgrave said.

"It's grown, it's evolved. It's definitely been ever-expanding," Musgrave said. "I think more and more experience, more and more turns, the more things you see from various defenses, you're probably more comfortable, no matter what is thrown at you, that you'll have the answer."

Musgrave said Ponder made adjustments on his longest completion of Sunday's 26-23 overtime win. Late in the third quarter, with the Vikings leading 14-12, Ponder changed the protection when he saw a blitz coming off the edge, took the snap, looked off a safety and lofted a perfect pass for Kyle Rudolph down the left sideline for a 29-yard completion on third-and-8, putting the Vikings in field goal position.

"He's got a lot of responsibility out there," Musgrave said.

The Vikings offense didn't really start hitting on all cylinders until they went into a no-huddle look at the end of the first half. That's when Ponder hit four consecutive passes to end the first half as the Vikings found their first touchdown drive of the season.

"He's done a nice job with our no-huddle components. We have up-tempo no-huddle, we have no-huddle where we want to take the air out of the game a little bit, keep their offense stale on the sideline, fatigue the defense," Musgrave said. "He's done a good job up to this point in all of those facets of the offense and I think he is comfortable with most of them."

A SPECIAL START

The Vikings had one of their best all-around games on special teams in recent memory. Besides Blair Walsh's heroics with his game-tying and game-winning field goals, punter Chris Kluwe was also solid with a gross average of 48.4 yards and net average of 44.4.

Walsh was 4-for-4 in field goals and hit five of his six kickoffs into the end zone.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer granted that it was a solid kicking effort, but …

"Perfect game? You're always hoping for more in every phase. In terms of helping our team win, we did that," Priefer said.

"You look at it and you hope we would have done better in the return phases," he said.

Percy Harvin averaged a healthy 29.3 yards on kickoff returns, but Priefer was hoping for better blocking in front of him. Marcus Sherels averaged a solid 11 yards on two punt returns.

Perhaps the most impressive special teams statistic was the Jaguars' average start position following kickoffs – at the 19.5. Three of Walsh's kickoffs went for touchbacks, but the three that were returned were stopped at the 16, 18 and 23.

"I think because of the new rule it's going to be more commonplace," Priefer said of teams starting inside their 20. "I think two years ago, the lowest drive start average was like 24. Now it's 21 or 22 or maybe even less than that. We hope that anytime we kick it deep we tackle them inside the 20 or it's a touchback. That's our goal every time and that's not going to change all year long."

FEELIN' FULL

Fullback Jerome Felton may have had the most impressive game of any offensive player.

It's difficult to quantify the value of a lead blocker, but time and again Felton was stopping blitzers in their tracks or throwing key blocks for Adrian Peterson. He played 32 snaps, the same number as Adrian Peterson, or 54 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Last year, fullback Ryan D'Imperio averaged playing in 15 percent of the snaps.

"I think sometimes it depends on how teams are playing us, but Jerome had a heck of a game," Frazier said. "He played extremely well and that was a lot of snaps for him. There wasn't one time a season ago we had that many snaps with our fullback on the field and a lot of it had to do with the way he played and what's happening when he is on the field. It was really encouraging for all of us to see him dominate the way he did. There may be more opportunities for him as we go forward."

Felton threw a key block in Peterson's first big run, a 9-yarder in the second quarter, and led him into the end zone one series later. And it seemed like every drive after that, Felton was making a blitz pickup or throwing a key lead block on a run.

YOUNG AT START

The Vikings were tied for seventh-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.72 to start the season. They averaged 3.57 years of experience on the 53-man roster with 12 rookie or first-year players and seven players age 30 and over.

The Vikings are pretty average with 11 players 200 pounds or less and 10 weighing 300 pounds or more.

The Vikings' opponent Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts, lead the league with 15 players under six feet tall.


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":"When Christian Ponder took over for Donovan McNabb last year, one Vikings player said the playbook actually opened up more because of the then-rookie's greater understanding of the new scheme being implemented by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in the post-lockout season. This year, there is even more freedom for Ponder in his second season in the offense with a full offseason of preparation and honing timing with his teammates. \"He has a bunch of leeway out there to change protections, change runs to passes, change passes to runs,\" Musgrave said. \"It's grown, it's evolved. It's definitely been ever-expanding,\" Musgrave said. \"I think more and more experience, more and more turns, the more things you see from various defenses, you're probably more comfortable, no matter what is thrown at you, that you'll have the answer.\" Musgrave said Ponder made adjustments on his longest completion of Sunday's 26-23 overtime win. Late in the third quarter, with the Vikings leading 14-12, Ponder changed the protection when he saw a blitz coming off the edge, took the snap, looked off a safety and lofted a perfect pass for Kyle Rudolph down the left sideline for a 29-yard completion on third-and-8, putting the Vikings in field goal position. \"He's got a lot of responsibility out there,\" Musgrave said. The Vikings offense didn't really start hitting on all cylinders until they went into a no-huddle look at the end of the first half. That's when Ponder hit four consecutive passes to end the first half as the Vikings found their first touchdown drive of the season. \"He's done a nice job with our no-huddle components. We have up-tempo no-huddle, we have no-huddle where we want to take the air out of the game a little bit, keep their offense stale on the sideline, fatigue the defense,\" Musgrave said. \"He's done a good job up to this point in all of those facets of the offense and I think he is comfortable with most of them.\" The Vikings had one of their best all-around games on special teams in recent memory. Besides Blair Walsh's heroics with his game-tying and game-winning field goals, punter Chris Kluwe was also solid with a gross average of 48.4 yards and net average of 44.4. Walsh was 4-for-4 in field goals and hit five of his six kickoffs into the end zone. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer granted that it was a solid kicking effort, but … \"Perfect game? You're always hoping for more in every phase. In terms of helping our team win, we did that,\" Priefer said. \"You look at it and you hope we would have done better in the return phases,\" he said. Percy Harvin averaged a healthy 29.3 yards on kickoff returns, but Priefer was hoping for better blocking in front of him. Marcus Sherels averaged a solid 11 yards on two punt returns. Perhaps the most impressive special teams statistic was the Jaguars' average start position following kickoffs – at the 19.5. Three of Walsh's kickoffs went for touchbacks, but the three that were returned were stopped at the 16, 18 and 23. \"I think because of the new rule it's going to be more commonplace,\" Priefer said of teams starting inside their 20. \"I think two years ago, the lowest drive start average was like 24. Now it's 21 or 22 or maybe even less than that. We hope that anytime we kick it deep we tackle them inside the 20 or it's a touchback. That's our goal every time and that's not going to change all year long.\" Fullback Jerome Felton may have had the most impressive game of any offensive player. It's difficult to quantify the value of a lead blocker, but time and again Felton was stopping blitzers in their tracks or throwing key blocks for Adrian Peterson. He played 32 snaps, the same number as Adrian Peterson, or 54 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Last year, fullback Ryan D'Imperio averaged playing in 15 percent of the snaps. \"I think sometimes it depends on how teams are playing us, but Jerome had a heck of a game,\" Frazier said. \"He played extremely well and that was a lot of snaps for him. There wasn't one time a season ago we had that many snaps with our fullback on the field and a lot of it had to do with the way he played and what's happening when he is on the field. It was really encouraging for all of us to see him dominate the way he did. There may be more opportunities for him as we go forward.\" Felton threw a key block in Peterson's first big run, a 9-yarder in the second quarter, and led him into the end zone one series later. And it seemed like every drive after that, Felton was making a blitz pickup or throwing a key lead block on a run. The Vikings were tied for seventh-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.72 to start the season. They averaged 3.57 years of experience on the 53-man roster with 12 rookie or first-year players and seven players age 30 and over. The Vikings are pretty average with 11 players 200 pounds or less and 10 weighing 300 pounds or more. The Vikings' opponent Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts, lead the league with 15 players under six feet tall. 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