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Ponder move gives Vikings lots to consider

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Posted Oct. 20, 2011 @ 8:39 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

The decision to bench Donovan McNabb and turn to rookie Christian Ponder was a tricky development, one with a lot of considerations.

The Vikings basically had to turn their backs on a $5 million investment, one for whom they traded two sixth-round picks, and go against the quarterback whom head coach Leslie Frazier handpicked in the offseason to be the bridge to the future.

Another issue is of readiness. Although Ponder showed some flashes in his Week Six relief appearance, the bigger issue is whether he can handle the week-in, week-out pressure of being the starter without a lot of reps under his belt.

In the preseason, Ponder showed he was not ready for prime time. The things he needed the most work on were making faster reads and keeping his passes from sailing high, which might have been related to one another. Ponder also looked better out of the pocket than in it, which was the knock on him coming out of Florida State, and it likely won't be until next offseason before he can make extensive progress in that department.

The good news is that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has a package of plays that called for McNabb to roll outside the tackle box, and Ponder likely will work with a lot of those same plays.

One major concern, even with Ponder's good mobility, is that the offensive line appears to be in shambles. The Bears, a base zone defense, sent the dogs after both McNabb and Ponder in Week Six and had no trouble getting pressure. Adding to the concern is that ORT Phil Loadholt (knee) and C John Sullivan (concussion) might not play against the Packers in Week Seven.

Of course, that was factored into Frazier's decision. As did the knowledge that McNabb might not be eager to offer his knowledge or help to Ponder, given that McNabb still believes he should be starting and likely is thinking about his future in the NFL with another team next season.

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