TVA previews the 10 storylines that will be consuming our lives starting on July 26 when the Vikings report to Mankato (full camp schedule available from Vikings.com).
1. Christian Ponder
There is no quarterback controversy in Minnesota. Christian Ponder is the clear-cut #1 QB over Joe Webb. That’s been made plain to us over-and-over again. And really, it’s the only decision that makes sense for the Vikings. Ponder was a #12 overall pick and more importantly he was Rick Spielman’s pick. Webb was a 6th round pick by that bald guy who isn’t here anymore. Which guy are you going to stake your future on if you’re Spielman and Leslie Frazier? You have to ride Ponder. You have too much invested in him.
Every move made this offseason on the offensive side was made so Christian Ponder’s life would be easier. They re-tooled the offensive line. They added receiving weapons. They even brought in a better-blocking fullback who can hopefully pick up a few more pass rushers. Translation: The Vikings will do everything within their power – and within reason financially – to make it work with Christian Ponder.
But, what if something unexpected happens in camp. Like, what if Christian Ponder just absolutely stinks it up like a sick dog. You do have Joe Webb sitting there. Joe Webb has played just enough to tantalize people. What I’m asking is, how long of a leash is Christian Ponder on? If he does struggle, how long will he be allowed to continue struggling before Joe Webb enters the picture?
Joe Webb is not even with Ponder going into camp nor does he deserve to be. If everything goes according to plan for the Vikings, Webb will enter the season as the back-up and will end the season as the back-up. But plans go wrong. Wheels fall off. I’m not saying I anticipate Christian Ponder having a bad training camp and a quarterback controversy being sparked. I’m just saying, those things happen.
And you know who loves a good quarterback controversy? The media. That’s why they pay such close attention to young, unproven quarterbacks. Secretly they want the quarterback to struggle so the back-up enters the picture. I’m not saying the media people in the Twin Cities are rooting for Christian Ponder to play bad and Joe Webb to creep up on him, I’m just saying they wouldn’t cry if it happened.
My point here being, the media are going to scrutinize Christian Ponder heavily, because he’s a young, developing quarterback and that’s what reporters do with young, developing quarterbacks. And if there’s even a hint that he’s not getting the job done, there will be a quarterback controversy in the media even if there isn’t one inside the Vikings.
But to start off, there’s no quarterback controversy. Everyone’s bought in on Christian Ponder as the #1 (except the super-Webbheads). Most likely Ponder will breeze through camp like the solid pro he is and sail on into the season. That’s when the struggles will begin, but we expect struggles with this team while they continue building their offensive identity. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Ponder’s going to have bad games. Really bad games. Flat-out stinkeroo games. Hopefully he’ll have some good games too and start looking like a real consistent pro quarterback somewhere around mid-season.
I’m not even that worried about Ponder right now, to be quite frank. The secondary is more of a concern, and the receiver corps, and the linebacker corps and the offensive line. So why is Ponder the #1 camp storyline, exactly? I don’t think he should be – that’s just me personally – but I also understand how these things work and what people like to focus on and particularly what the media like to focus on. So Ponder is the #1 storyline like it or not. Young, developing QBs are always the #1 storyline.
Trust me, the scrutiny won’t bother Ponder. He’s a level-headed guy who already knows how to play the media. He’ll be relaxed. He won’t feel Joe Webb breathing down his neck. At least not at first. Get back to me in a few weeks. At that point, this storyline that isn’t a storyline might become an honest-to-goodness storyline.
Previous Top Training Camp Storylines:
10. Breaking In Blair Walsh
9. Percy Harvin Watch
8. Defensive line
7. Matt Kalil
6. Adrian Peterson
5. Linebacker – What the Heck is Going On Here?
4. Right Guard Battle
3. Wide Receiver Bonanza
2. Sorting Out the Secondary