Meetings are taking place at Winter Park this week with the Vikings planning a detailed player-by-player evaluation of their current roster. As they perform their in-house review, we’re following suit and delivering our own snapshot evaluation of each position group.
Get excited: Hey, if Christian Ponder’s inability to stay on the field in the final four weeks was good for anything, it showed that Joe Webb is a pretty nice insurance policy. Plus, with the Vikings coaching staff vowing to give Webb a chance to battle for the starting job at training camp next summer, Ponder should be fueled by the heightened competition. It may not seem like a huge victory to have what is widely considered as OK depth at quarterback, but ask the Bears how perilous it can be to be without a reliable back-up. After all, Chicago was 7-3 when Jay Cutler broke his thumb the week before Thanksgiving and didn’t win again until New Year’s Day. So Webb’s fantastic play in relief of Ponder in losses at Detroit and Washington has head coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave exploring ways to make him a bigger part of the offense in 2012.
Keep an eye on: Christian Ponder’s development. Ponder’s rookie season was all over the map, his flashes of brilliance often offset by a bevy of head-scratching mistakes. But newly anointed general manager Rick Spielman is pushing all his chips to the middle of the felt on Ponder, certain that the quarterback's intelligence and mental make-up will allow for a huge jump in production and consistency in 2012 and beyond. Since landing in the GM’s role last week, Spielman has been persistent with his comparisons, constantly referencing Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler as now-established quarterbacks whose struggles were similar to Ponder’s when they were younger. Spielman has said over and over again that with the metrics he’s run from the aforementioned quarterbacks’ rookie seasons, Ponder’s erratic play wasn’t out of the ordinary. We decided to double-check Spielman’s conclusion by comparing the numbers from Ponder’s 10 starts this season with the stats those other quarterbacks put up in their first 10 NFL starts.
Yards per game
Yards per attempt
Reason for worry: The Vikings understand the daunting task of competing in the NFC North, looking up at the Packers, Lions and Bears, all teams who seem to be set at quarterback for the foreseeable future. The Vikings hope Ponder will offer similar stability long-term. But if he can’t mature into the player Spielman Leslie Frazier envision him becoming, it will be back to the drawing board once again. Inside the offices ar Winter Park, there is great optimism that Ponder will be able to break through. But in this league, at that position, until it happens, you just never know. And considering the Vikings used the No. 12 overall pick in 2011 on Ponder, the pressure for him to become a standout quickly is huge. Translation: if his struggles and inconsistency last too long into next season, patience may dry up quickly.