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.


Vikings 4 Downs: Ponder, Johnson, Cox, defense

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: August 4, 2014 - 9:31 AM

Every Monday during the offseason we’ll take four questions from Twitter for our weekly mailbag using the #VikingsST hashtag.

The Vikings are expected to keep three quarterbacks. It would be very surpising if they cut Christian Ponder, has seen a slight increase in reps recently. He’s still locked in as the third string quarterback with the race for the starting position is between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater. Both should be active for every game barring injuries and Ponder inactive. It’s smart for the Vikings to hold on to their 2011 first round pick in case Cassel or Bridgewater suffer an injury. Even if they don’t, there will be injuries that occur at the position for one the 31 other teams. Ponder is a valuable backup quarterback, in my opinion, and will be a trade asset once teams deal with injuries at quarterback.

And this is your weekly reminder that Blaine Gabbert was traded from the Jaguars to the 49ers for a sixth round pick and possible conditional 2015 pick.

Like a Fabolous mixtape, there is no competition. Head coach Mike Zimmer practically hinted that Charlie Johnson will be the starting left guard. It’s mentioned in Monday’s paper about how David Yankey needs to improve on technique. He’s not quite there yet, but it’s impressive to see how he moves as a pull guard. Yankey is a pretty athletic for a 6-6, 315-pound offensive lineman. It will be interesting to see when Yankey receives reps during the regular season and if he’ll get a chance to start later in the year. Johnson was rated as the 52nd best guard among 80 guards according to Pro Football Focus. The Vikings could use an upgrade at the position, but Johnson and the rest of the offensive line has worked together for the past three years. Look for those same five guys in St. Louis on Week 1.

Outside of those two interceptions on Bridgewater, I haven’t really noticed Cox much. The Vikings are still shuffling around at cornerback due to injuries. Josh Robinson has been sidelined with a hamstring issue, which has allowed for more reps for Cox, Jabari Price and Marcus Sherels, who had a good practice on Saturday night. I still think Robinson will be the third cornerback, but we’ll have a better idea of where things stand after Friday’s preseason game against the Raiders.

The defense is under more pressure because of how bad it was last season and general manager Rick Spielman’s decision to hire a defensive-minded head coach. The Vikings revamped their defensive line, signing defensive end Everson Griffen and nose tackle Linval Joseph and drafting linebacker Anthony Barr. They didn’t get a chance to make a significant upgrade in the secondary, which ranked 31st in the NFL last season. Zimmer has called himself a “fixer” on multiple occasions since his introductory press conference. The pressure is on to back that.

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