Notes: Yes, Ponder does look improved

  • Updated: August 4, 2012 - 10:14 PM

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Staff writers Mark Craig and Dan Wiederer blog at Access Vikings on startribune.com. Here is Mark's report from Saturday:

MANKATO - The first full week of training camp ended Saturday night with a two-hour controlled scrimmage at Blakeslee Stadium. Today we report what we've learned so far about the offense. Monday we'll reveal what we've seen in the defense and special teams:

Quarterbacks

What we've learned: After being asked 15,679 times whether having a true offseason made a difference in the progress from his rookie season, starting quarterback Christian Ponder should be allowed to smack the 15,680th person who asks the question. Said receiver Percy Harvin: "The difference is huge. His progressions, reading defenses and confidence level has been like night and day. He believes in himself this year."

What needs to happen: Coming off a shaky week, at best, Joe Webb needs to restore the confidence around him that's expected of the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback. When asked about Webb's inconsistency and inaccuracy, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said: "Joe is always going to look better in games than he will in practice at this stage in his career."

Running backs

What we've learned: Toby Gerhart's added upper-body mass makes him an even bigger load in short-yardage situations. As cornerback Chris Cook said on the field seconds after trying and failing to stop Gerhart in a goal-line drill: "Man, you gotta get low if you want to stop Toby's big" um, butt.

What needs to happen: Second-year pro Jordan Todman needs to return from an ankle injury that's knocked him out the past two practices. He's the ideal change-of-pace back with speed and quickness that no other back on the roster, except Adrian Peterson, possesses. But each missed practice helps kill Todman's chances of closing the gap on veteran Lex Hilliard in the battle for the No. 3 running back job.

Offensive line

What we've learned: A sports hernia suffered by Geoff Schwartz essentially ended the right guard competition before it had a chance to start. Schwartz declined to comment after Saturday's walk-through, citing the team's policy on injured players talking to the media, but he could be out four to six weeks or longer. With injuries mounting on the offensive line, the Vikings added another undrafted rookie, Bridger Buche of Eastern Michigan, on Saturday. Receiver A.J. Love was released to make room on the roster.

What needs to happen: Someone other than Chris DeGeare needs to step up as the No. 2 right guard. DeGeare and veteran Joe Berger can play the position, but it's better if DeGeare focuses on backing up the left guard position. Longshot to watch: Undrafted rookie free-agent center/guard Quentin Saulsberry.

Tight ends/receivers

What we've learned: Kyle Rudolph will be a popular target for Ponder in this offense. The second-year tight end has had an excellent camp and will benefit underneath if receiver Jerome Simpson lives up to his potential as a deep threat. Simpson was the camp star of Week 1. "He's just fast," said left guard Charlie Johnson.

What needs to happen: Someone other than Simpson and Harvin has to start standing out at receiver ASAP, especially with Simpson having to start the regular season with a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Rookie Greg Childs has shown the most raw talent but has been inconsistent and suffered what appeared to be a right knee injury near the end of Saturday night's scrimmage. The extent of the injury was to be determined.

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