Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Craig: How would Ponder look in the read-option?

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: September 8, 2013 - 8:25 AM

DETROIT -- Sitting down with Christian Ponder a week ago to watch game film for today's story in the Star Tribune was interesting in that it provided a glimpse at what he's looking at and thinking as a play unfolds.

There were a lot of leftovers from that sit-down. Here is one we'll share before heading over to Ford Field for today's Vikings-Lions season opener:

One of the more intriguing NFL storylines this season is what will become of the read-option offenses that were the talk of the league a year ago. Some, like Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, think it's the read-option is a fad that will go the route of the run-and-shoot and the Wildcat. Others believe it's here to stay.

The league's defensive minds have had an entire offseason to consult with college coaches and other various experts in the read-option. The NFL season kicked off Thursday, but neither the Broncos nor the Ravens employ the read-option. So today is the day we start finding out just where the next chapter in the read-option will take us. For the Packers' sake, they better hope it leans in favor of the defense because they're back in San Francisco today to face QB Colin Kaepernick, the guy who piled up 444 yards, including a QB record 181 on the ground, during last year's playoff win over the Packers.

What's all of this have to do with Ponder? Well, the read-option came up during our conversation. The Vikings don't use the read-option, but it was mentioned to Ponder that it would seem to be something that he might be good at. Ponder isn't as built as sturdy as the guys who really make the read-option work, but he does move deceptively well when he gets outside the pocket. The read-option requires the quarterback to make a quick read on an unblocked defender on the edge. If the defender commits to the running back, the QB keeps the ball. If the defender commits to the QB, the QB hands the ball off. The QB also has the option to step back and throw, too.

Some believe the answer to rendering the read-option obsolete in the NFL is to smash the quarterback as hard as possible every single time whether or not he keeps the ball. In that scenario, Ponder would not last long.

Here's Ponder's take: "I did a little bit of the read-option in high school and a little bit of it in college. I think I could run it. I don’t know if it’s one of the things we want to do. You look at the quarterbacks who run the zone-read. There’s a high risk of injury there. You don’t want as a quarterback to get out there and have that defensive mindset of `Oh, man, here’s a free shot on the quarterback. I’m going to hit him as hard as possible.’ But we’ll see. I don’t know if it’s something [offensive coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] wants to do or not. We’ve mixed it in during OTAs a little bit but we’ll see."

The fact they've tinkered with it in OTAs means we might actually see some of it. And, remember, now-receiver Joe Webb ran some of it early on in the playoff loss to the Packers a season ago. With Ponder sidelined with the elbow injury, Webb should have run it a lot more at Green Bay. But that's another story.

But, as Ponder said, don't expect to see a lot of plays in which he's running downfield with the ball.

"You do know we have a pretty great running back?" Ponder said. "I think I’d rather have him running the ball than me running the ball."

Good point, Christian. Good point.

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