Christian Ponder is headed in the right direction with his bum knee. Leslie Frazier said it was okay on Monday but then the problem flared up and by Wednesday it was “really sore.” But on Thursday it felt fine and Ponder “didn’t have any inhibition.” Nevertheless, the Vikings opted to limit Ponder’s participation. Mixed signals much?
All right, the Vikings were probably just being extra-careful with Ponder by limiting him on Thursday. We’ll see how much he participates in practice on Friday. Going by Frazier’s statements it seems Ponder should have no limitations. And that should dispel all our worries about how Ponder will perform on Sunday against Tennessee.
But just for the sake of argument let’s say Christian’s knee isn’t fine. How might that affect his performance against the Titans? Obviously you worry about mobility. Ponder has made some plays with his legs this year, rolling out to throw and also taking off up the field (and scoring a rushing TD against San Francisco). A bad knee you have to believe would limit his ability to do those things, and that would detract greatly from his playmaking potential. Right now, Ponder is not a great pocket passer. If he can’t move well and has to stay in the pocket, it could spell trouble for him.
If Ponder can’t move, this would put a little more onus on the Vikings’ offensive line. Thankfully the Vikings have a fairly good match-up this week. They’ve been solid in pass protection for the most part, and their opponent Tennessee has not been good up front. In fact the Titans have struggled to get any kind of pass rush going at all, amassing only 6 sacks all year. And this despite the Titans making a concerted effort to upgrade their pass rush in the offseason. They signed Kamerion Wimbley to a free agent contract, but he’s struggled in his transition from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 DE and so far has only one sack. Tennessee also hired former Viking Keith Millard to teach the fine art of pass rush, but so far his efforts have yielded only meager results.
On paper, this should be a good week for the Vikings’ passing game. The Titans can’t rush the passer with their front four, but they don’t like to blitz because their secondary is garbage. Even on a bum knee Ponder should have a relatively easy time finding receivers against this team. He could be in for a bust-out stat game like he had last year against Denver, but hopefully without the turnovers this time.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the playmaking ability Ponder has shown at times when he breaks the pocket. But I also think at some point he needs to get better inside the pocket. If ever there was a week for Ponder to improve in that department, it would be this week against this defense. Not to sound cocky but this feels like an easy win coming together for the Vikings. The only thing that might ruin the party is Ponder not being right. But going by Leslie Frazier’s statements, we shouldn’t be worried.
And we know coaches never lie about injuries.
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