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.


Posts about Quarterbacks

Vikings have new QB coach; Musgrave headed to Eagles

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: January 21, 2014 - 12:51 PM

The Vikings haven't announced their new coaching staff, but Scott Turner, son of new Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, will be the quarterbacks coach.

Scott Turner has been meeting with quarterbacks here at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., as the Vikings explore options for the May draft.

Former Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is headed to Philadelphia to be the Eagles quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly, it was reported by Fox Sports' Alex Marvez. The Eagles lost their quarterbacks coach, Bill Lazor, who is the new OC for the Dolphins.

Both Turners were on the Browns coaching staff last season; Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator and Scott Turner was wide receivers coach.

The Vikings quarterbacks coach last season was Craig Johnson. The only change the Vikings have acknowledged on their web site in the coaching roster was Zimmer replacing Leslie Frazier as head coach.

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd both met with Scott Turner, they said. Both Thomas and Boyd said the interviews went well. Thomas said his session lasted about 15-20 minutes, but new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t present. Thomas impressed scouts at the weigh-in on Monday checking in at 6’5, 250 pounds.

Thomas, Boyd and Miami quarterback Stephen Morris all struggled during the North’s practice on Tuesday dealing with high winds. 

Vikings' Ponder on picking QB in first round: 'It wouldn't surprise me'

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 30, 2013 - 11:29 AM

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder isn’t sure what the future holds this offseason and intends to speak to general manager Rick Spielman about the issue.

But it wouldn’t surprise him if the organization selected a quarterback in the first round.

“I think it all depends on what the new head coach wants to do,” said Ponder after the organization announced the firing of Leslie Frazier on Monday. “But it wouldn’t surprise me.

Ponder began the season as the team’s starting quarterback but played just nine games due to inconsistency and injuries. The 12th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft intends to prepare this offseason as a starter either in Minnesota or with another team.

“This is what I’m familiar with. These guys my teammates, the ones I have a relationship and this is where I’d like to continue to be. But ultimately I want a shot to be a starter. So if that’s not here then I’ll have to find somewhere else.

Ponder, 25, wouldn’t be surprised if the organization brought him back along with Matt Cassel for competition purposes that would benefit both quarterbacks. If that was the case, he’d expect the front office to stick with one quarterback unlike this season.

“Matt’s done well and obviously he’s been the starter the past few weeks, and he’ll probably be named the starter going into the offseason if he opts in or they opt in,” Ponder said. “We’ll see. I think it could be a good competition. We have a good relationship. I think it could work out well.”

Vikings snap count: Harrison Smith eases back at safety

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 16, 2013 - 10:38 AM

The morning after a 48-30 win over the Eagles, we take a look at the Vikings’ snap distribution on offense and defense.

Offense: 75 snaps

Quarterback

QB Matt Cassel – 75 snaps (played 100% on offense)

QB Christian Ponder – DNP

Cassel finished with the fourth most passing yards (382) among quarterbacks on Sunday and the only one in the top seven to win. He went 26 of 35 with two touchdowns and an interception, finishing with a 116.6 passer rating. The Eagles defense was ranked 29th in total defense entering the game, but it was the only team in the NFL that didn’t allow over 21 points since Week 5.

That streak is now history.

Running Back/Fullback

RB Matt Asiata – 65 (87%)

FB Jerome Felton – 28 (37%)

RB Joe Banyard – 5 (7%)

The average wasn’t pretty (1.7), but Asiata scored his first three career touchdowns in his first career start. Asiata became the first player in a first career start to rush for three or more touchdowns since former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He remarkably received 30 carries in the game for 51 yards.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

TE Rhett Ellison – 64 (85%)

WR Greg Jennings – 50 (67%)

WR Cordarrelle Patterson – 42 (56%)

WR Jerome Simpson – 36 (48%)

TE Chase Ford – 35 (47%)

WR Jarius Wright – 23 (31%)

WR Joe Webb – 17 (23%)

Jennings had a career-high 11 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown. He had 13 targets, more than double the receiver with the second most targets (Patterson had six). Cassel has made Jennings worth every dollar the Vikings paid him in the offseason.

Offensive Line

C Joe Berger – 75 (100%)

G Charlie Johnson – 75 (100%)

C John Sullivan – 75 (100%)

T Matt Kalil – 75 (100%)

T Phil Loadholt – 75 (100%)

T J’Marcus Webb – 7 (9%)

G Joe Baca – 3 (4%)

Berger filled in at guard for Brandon Fusco, and the offensive line did a good job protecting Cassel for most of the game. A good example was Cassel’s 57 yard touchdown to Jennings. The offensive line bought him enough time to hit Jennings in stride. Cassel was still sacked three times though.

Inactives: QB Josh Freeman, RB Adrian Peterson (foot), RB Toby Gerhart (hamstring), G Brandon Fusco (knee), TE John Carlson (concussion)

The Vikings scored 48 points without Peterson and Gerhart. That says enough about Cassel’s day.

Defense: 69 snaps

Defensive Line

DE Jared Allen – 65 (94%)

DE Brian Robison – 58 (84%)

DE Everson Griffen – 42 (61%)

DT Kevin Williams – 37 (54%)

DT Sharrif Floyd – 32 (46%)

NT Letroy Guion – 22 (32%)

NT Fred Evans – 20 (29%)

DT Chase Baker – DNP

Allen and Robison finished with two sacks each and seem to mirror each other in that category down the stretch. They combined for six of the team’s 10 quarterback hits. Williams also had two quarterback hits.

The most impressive aspect of Sunday’s game was how the defense limited Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to eight carries for 38 yards. To put that in perfective, Asiata had 22 more carries than the league’s leading rusher.

Linebacker

LB Chad Greenway – 69 (100%)

LB Audie Cole – 67 (97%)

LB Erin Henderson – 11 (16%)

LB Marvin Mitchell – 1 (1%)

Henderson saw an increase in snaps, particularly short yardage downs, but the Vikings remained almost exclusively in the nickel. Cole led the unit with seven tackles and a quarterback hit. Greenway had five tackles.

Secondary

CB Marcus Sherels – 69 (100%)

CB Shaun Prater – 69 (100%)

FS Harrison Smith – 61 (88%)

SS Robert Blanton – 59 (86%)

SS Jamarca Sanford – 47 (68%)

FS Andrew Sendejo – 30 (43%)

CB Robert Steeples – DNP

Smith didn’t start the game but that’d be hard to tell based on the amount of snaps he received. He was rotating with Sendejo, but Smith took over at safety in the second half. He finished tied with a team-high eight tackles with Blanton.

The cornerbacks had a good day without three players although Eagles quarterback Nick Foles finished with 428 yards. Prater got his first career NFL start and an interception against his former team. Sherels finished fourth on the team with six tackles.

Inactives: CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), CB Chris Cook (knee)

Access Vikings: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota returning to school

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 3, 2013 - 5:09 PM

One quarterback has already removed himself from the 2014 NFL Draft.

Oregon announced on its official Instagram account redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota will return for his junior season. He completed 63.1 percent of his passes this season for 3,412 yards, 30 touchdowns and four interceptions.

“It is an honor to be a student at the University of Oregon and to have the opportunity to represent our institution on the football field alongside my teammates,” Mariota said in a press release. “I look forward to earning my degree next year and to the rest of my career at this great university.”

Mariota was ranked the top quarterabck (third overall) by ESPN's Scouts Inc. and Todd McShay ahead of Lousville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (fifth), but Mel Kiper Jr. had Mariota as the second best quarterback (fifth overall) behind Bridgewater. 

The announcement eliminates a possible option at quarterback for the Vikings in the upcoming draft.

Without Mariota, Bridgewater, Hundley and Manziel have been widely regarded as the top quarterbacks in this class, but they all also still have eligibility remaining. Hundley is the least likely to declare for the draft out of the three quarterbacks.

If the season ended today, the Vikings would have the sixth overall pick.

Ponder will start for Vikings, barring unforeseen setback

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: November 15, 2013 - 1:55 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wouldn't come out and say Christian Ponder will start on Sunday at Seattle. But he did admit that's the likely scenario, barring an unforeseen change in Ponder's progress from a separated left [non-throwing] shoulder on Saturday.

"Christian is better," Frazier said after today's practice. "We gave him a little bit more today in practice, so that was encouraging. We'll see how he feels tomorrow with the extended work he got today and then we'll make a determination based on where he is tomorrow. We want to make sure that he feels comfortable as well as our medical staff as well.

"The way he moved around today, he looked pretty good. Hopefully, he'll wake up tomorrow without any residual effects, negative effects from the workload that we gave him. But you never know."

Frazier wouldn't say whether Matt Cassell or Josh Freeman would serve as the backup, although Cassel looks to be the No. 2. Frazier also said it's possible the team will keep all three quarterbacks active against Seattle.

In other news:

  • We'll have the official injury report later, but it looks like NT Fred Evans (knee) will play after missing the past two games. He got more work in today's practice and should play if he doesn't experience any issues with the knee tomorrow.
  • RB Adrian Peterson (groin) was held out of practice entirely for the second straight day. "We held him out to get him ready for Sunday," Frazier said. "He should be ready to go. No concerns. ... It's more managing him. Not wanting to overextend him. He has a good feel for what we're doing game-plan wise so he should be fine when we get to Sunday."
  • NT Letroy Guion (chest/knee) has regressed in his recovery from injuries that knocked him out of the Redskins game. Frazier said Guion did "OK" in practice today, but "he may or not make it" on Sunday. With Guion's status up in the air, Frazier said the team might have to revisit its plan at nose tackle. Frazier orginally said veteran three-technique tackle Kevin Williams wouldn't start at nose, but would get some snaps there. Now, Williams starting is a possibility. "We'll have to rethink that," Frazier said. "We were hoping that Letroy would make it. Not certain that he will now. So we'll have to go back and discuss the best way to go."
  • Frazier said he was surprised to hear that KFAN radio was reporting that Frazier became animated during Thursday's practice. "How would KFAN know about that?" Frazier said. "It's just things that happen in practice that you're dealing with. Just doing what we do. Just some of those things you have to deal with." Frazier went on to say how important this week of practice is. "Tough seattle team, tough environment and also where we are in our season," he said. "Just making sure that we stay on point. We're 1-0 in the second half of the season. We want to be 2-0 after Sunday afternoon. Just want to make sure we're all on board with getting that done." Frazier also said what he did on Thursday wasn't unusual. "That's why I'm wondering why it was even reported," Frazier said. "I don't think I did anything out of character, anything that I have done in the past."
  • Frazier wouldn't say how the team plans to handle receiver Jerome Simpson's playing time on Sunday. He did, however, say that Simpson will be active and will play in the game. Simpson was arrested and charged with two counts of DWI this week. Cordarrelle Patterson is expected to start ahead of Simpson this week. "[The league] has kind of given us some information on how to proceed this week," Frazier said. "We'll know more when we come back next week. We have an idea of what we can and cannot do this week." As for what the team will do with Simpson beyond this week, Frazier wouldn't say. "I can't go beyond this week," he said. "We'll know more next week. All I know is what we'll be able to do this week." Asked if he was content with the league dictating Simpson's punishment, Frazier said, "I don't know if content is the word, but we'll see what happens when we talk again next week. I know our General Manager, Rick Spielman, will be on the phone with the league on Monday, as he has been throughout this week, talking about what can and can't be done and how we proceed. He'll pick up those conversations again on Monday."

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