Don’t worry, Christian Ponder said. Upon further review, all the hiccups he and the Vikings offense showed in Friday’s loss to San Diego can be corrected.
The offense, which had been developing a preseason rhythm, struggled in the 12-10 loss to a Chargers team that, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said, played some pretty good defense.
Over two-plus quarters Ponder completed nine of 16 passes for 115 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He struggled – especially early, on third down. And he was sacked five times. And while that stat – along with the Vikings’ difficulty finding running room – can be traced in part to the offensive line, there are things Ponder said he has to do better.
--Stepping up in the pocket to avoid sacks. “After watching [the tape], that’s the biggest thing for me,” Ponder said after Sunday’s practice. “It’s something we focused on today, doing some drills. Just hitting the last step in the drop, setting the depth and just moving forward.”
--Improving his touch. Ponder said a couple of the key incompletions – including two third-down misses to Michael Jenkins that ended the Vikings’ first two drives – came as a result of his throwing the ball too hard. “It was early in the game, I was pumped up, and I just let it go,” he said.
That said, Ponder said, don’t worry.
“We left a lot of plays out on the field,” he said. “We moved the ball, but just had dumb mistakes that came at the wrong time. Completely correctable.”
Thin at safety
With so many injuries at safety, and with the Vikings loathe to play their starters in this week’s preseason finale in Houston, the question is who will play safety?
Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford played mega minutes Friday, because Mistral Raymond experienced pre-game back spasms, Eric Frampton strained his groin in the second half and Andrew Sendejo sustained an ankle sprain.
None of the injuries appear to be significant. But Raymond and Sendejo missed Sunday’s practice.
So who will play Thursday? Start with Robert Blanton. Frazier said Blanton – coming back from a hamstring injury – would start in Houston and play significant minutes while getting his first preseason action.
“We plan on starting him, playing him for quite a while so we can properly evaluate him,” Frazier said. “He’s missed a lot of time.”
And at the other safety? “We’re going to mix and match, whatever we have to do to get through the game,” Frazier said. “We’re fortunate that at this point the injuries don’t seem to be the ones that should hinder the guys who from playing in the first [regular season] game.”
Wright getting comfortable
Will Marcus Sherels' ankle sprain Friday open a door as a returner to Jarius Wright? Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has said he liked Wright’s big-play upside, but needed to see more consistency catching the ball. Frazier said the coaches saw just that Friday.
Wright returned two punts for 29 yards, including a 24-yard return that set up a field goal late in the first half.
“He seemed very comfortable catching the ball,” Frazier said. “He showed some confidence. So we’ll keep feeding him. He showed something. He showed he’s worthy of us giving him more opportunities.”Carlson returns
Tight end John Carlson, out with a knee injury since early in camp, returned to practice today, but won’t play in Thursday’s game.
That was one bit of good news on the injury front. Others? Cornerback Chris Cook (concussion) returned to practice and rookie defensive tackle Letroy Guion (knee) continued to work out. But Frazier said none of the three would play Thursday.
Offensive guard Geoff Schwartz, coming back from a sports hernia operation, is moving well and could return to practice next week, though he will continue to miss workouts this week, Frazier said.
Also not practicing Sunday were Raymond, Sendejo, cornerback Josh Robinson (concussion), cornerback Chris Carr (back spasms) and fullback Ryan D’Imperio (shoulder). Frazier said D’Imperio would be evaluated further.
Rooting for Rice
On Thursday, just minutes from where the Vikings and Houston will end their preseasons, Rice University will open its season by hosting UCLA. Frazier and Houston coach Gary Kubiak each have sons playing for the Owls. Corey Frazier is a senior safety and Klein Kubiak is a junior receiver. By following their sons play, Frazier and Kubiak have become friends.
“We’ll both have our minds split a little bit, I guarantee you,” Frazier joked.Etc.
--Frazier said middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley made great strides Friday. Frazier was particularly happy with Brinkley’s lateral quickness and his ability to change directions to make a play. “We feel much better about where he is now than we did prior to that game,” Frazier said.