Minnesota Vikings' Christian Ponder

Genevieve Ross, Associated Press

VIKINGS • Up next: Noon Saturday at Washington • TV: Ch. 9 (100.3-FM)

Plenty of secondary, and primary, concerns for Vikings

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • December 21, 2011 - 8:51 AM

A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Saturday's game in Washington against the Redskins.

Player in the spotlight

It's been awhile since Chris Cook (below) has been brought up at Winter Park. The cornerback was arrested on felony domestic assault charges in mid-October, was suspended for one game and basically has been on a paid leave of absence since Nov. 7. That has left the Vikings with the equivalent of a 52-man roster the past eight games, short-handed in a season in which they could use extra help.

Coach Leslie Frazier was asked Monday if he had any regrets about Cook occupying a roster spot for two months without contributing.

"There was a lot of discussion prior to making that decision; a lot of discussion," Frazier said. "We went through all the 'what ifs' and all the possibilities. ... I was in agreement with the decision."

The organization's philosophy seems logical: Until a resolution in Cook's case provides substantial reason to cut ties, the Vikings are content with this wait-and-see approach. With the secondary woes as eye-opening as they are, you can bet the Vikings hope for the best-case scenario, hesitant to let a promising young player go at a position of major need.

Most pressing question

Q: Did Jared Allen have a right to be angry for not playing down the stretch Sunday?

A: Nope.

Most likely, the standout defensive end was simply blowing off steam immediately after the game when he griped about being removed in the fourth quarter. But it was absolutely the right decision.

Allen is a prideful guy and a passionate player who would love to set the NFL's single-season sacks record. But when the coaching staff yanked him Sunday, the Vikings trailed 42-13 in the fourth quarter and Allen just barely had averted a catastrophe when he was chop-blocked by Saints center Brian De La Puente with 7:30 to play. The Vikings have way too much invested in their star defensive end to risk a serious injury in the latter stages of a lopsided loss. Plus, it didn't significantly hurt his chances of adding to his sack total. After his departure, New Orleans ran only six plays, all handoffs to Chris Ivory.

Keep an eye on ...

Arguably no player has more on the line in the final two games than Christian Ponder, who must prove he can be a reliable leader for the future even after suffering through woeful performances the past two weeks. Ponder must now has two weeks to show marked growth without pressing too hard. And his teammates must keep encouraging him without being so overly supportive that they get in his head.

See the fine line?

Said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe: "Confidence is everything with a quarterback. Everything. So we'll encourage him in any way we can. You try to put your little two cents in every now and then. But at the same time, don't beat a dead horse. You can't do that. So you have to be very, very careful. Especially with a rookie who's going to be discombobulated at times."

Scouting the Redskins

At 5-9, Washington is an average team at best. But the Redskins are coming off a surprising 23-10 road victory over the Giants. In that game, their defense came up with three takeaways and three times held the Giants scoreless after they had driven inside the 20. The Vikings defense will have to key on running back Roy Helu, who has 966 yards from scrimmage this season. It's also worth noting that linebacker London Fletcher is the NFL leader in tackles this season with 146, free to make plays thanks to the help provided up front by nose tackle Barry Cofield and end Stephen Bowen.

True or false

Q: The Vikings' interception drought will end this weekend?

A: False.

After going nine consecutive games without an interception, a league record, the Vikings should have good opportunities to break that streak Saturday. After all, Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman has thrown at least one interception in each of his past 10 starts and has averaged one pick every 25 passes during his career. But even with Grossman's error-prone tendencies, the Vikings might be forced to attack with the following five players seeing the bulk of the secondary workload: Benny Sapp, Marcus Sherels, Brandon Burton, Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond. That quintet has eight career interceptions among them -- two by Sanford and six by Sapp.

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