Ponder Getting One Last Shot?Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Minnesota Vikings quarterback carousel keeps on moving. Josh Freeman got the start on Monday night against the Giants and completely face-planted. He was sacked just once but was knocked to the turf over a dozen times. Coach Leslie Frazier announced Wednesday that Freeman suffered a concussion and the team has to “move forward as if he is not playing on Sunday night” against the Packers.
Just when it looked as if the Christian Ponder era was over in Minnesota, he’s being reinserted back into the starting lineup. Ponder started the first three games of the season before injuring his ribs and essentially being benched for Matt Cassel, who made two starts. Cassel was then benched in favor of Freeman. Ponder bypassed Cassel on the depth chart and was the No. 2 in Week 7. This will in all likelihood be Ponder’s last chance to stake his claim to the job.
"It's an opportunity to get back in the saddle and be more vocal and take ahold of this position, because I don't want to give it back," said Ponder. “I think it was good for me to kind of take a step back for a couple weeks and take a deep breath and learn from those first three games and get out there and play better. I'm excited for this opportunity.”
In those first three games, Ponder completed 59 percent of his passes for 691 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also ran for 76 yards and two scores. It’s going to be nearly impossible for Ponder to play any worse than Freeman did on Monday night when he completed just 20-of-53 passes for 190 yards and one interception. Most believe that if Ponder had started that game, the Vikings would have been in it to the end because the Giants played nearly as bad.
With Ponder back under center it doesn’t change the fantasy outlooks on any of the Vikings skill players. Adrian Peterson remains locked in as an RB1. Greg Jennings is a low-end WR3, while Jerome Simpson is a dice-roll WR4. Kyle Rudolph remains touchdown-dependent as a middling TE2. Ponder should at least help the offense move the ball down the field a bit better than Freeman and Cassel did. The Vikings will take it day by day at the quarterback position. It wouldn’t surprise anyone in the least if Freeman was back under center in Week 9. The Vikings are paying him the most.
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News Nugget #2
In other quarterback news, Brandon Weeden has been benched again by the Browns. After “leading” the Browns to another loss last Sunday against the Packers, coach Rob Chudzinski has decided to pull the plug on last year’s 22nd overall pick. Veteran Jason Campbell will get the start against the Chiefs.
"I'm committed to doing whatever gives us the best chance to win,” Chudzinski said. “From a game plan standpoint, I like the things that Jason Campbell brings to the table. Going back and forth isn't ideal, but ultimately finding the production and consistency that we need is the goal.”
Campbell was passed over earlier in the season in favor of Brian Hoyer when Weeden was sidelined with a sprained thumb, which, looking back on it appears to have certainly been the right decision. Campbell has started 71 games in his career, posting a 31-40 record. The 31-year-old has a 76:52 career TD:INT ratio and an 82.4 quarterback rating. Campbell possesses a big arm and can move around the pocket a little bit. However, he loved to check down to his backs and tight ends during the preseason. Campbell also struggled brutally in his one start for the Bears last season. We wouldn’t expect a major improvement. But the Browns simply couldn’t keep trotting Weeden out there. He’s done in Cleveland. Campbell isn’t on the QB2 radar. The outlooks for Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon are unchanged. Cameron is still a TE1. Gordon is a boom-or-bust WR2/3.
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News Nugget #3
As I’ve done in the past in this spot on Thursdays, I’ll visit a few key injury situations around the league and dissect them a bit since the Wednesday “news” was a bit on the slow side.
Jimmy Graham (foot) failed to practice on Wednesday. "Each day we'll just take a peek on how he's progressing and be smart about it," coach Sean Payton said. ESPN’s Adam Schefter hinted Monday that Graham may sit out this week against the Bills. However, it’s still too early in the week to determine. Graham owners need to have a backup plan in place. Keep an eye on Graham on Thursday and Friday. We should have plenty of updates on him before the weekend.
Steven Jackson (hamstring) said he expects to play this week against the Cardinals. The 30-year-old returned to practice in a limited fashion Wednesday for the first time since he went down against the Rams in Week 2. It’s looking like Jackson has a good chance to suit up in Week 8. If he does, Jackson will be on the RB2 radar. His snaps could be monitored. Jacquizz Rodgers would likely handle most of the passing-down work. Jackson just doesn’t have the juice anymore.
On Monday, CSN New England reported Danny Amendola (concussion) was “doing well.” He returned to a limited practice Wednesday. We still have no idea what this means for Amendola’s Week 8 status against the Dolphins being that it’s the Patriots we’re talking about here. However, this does confirm that Amendola has at least been cleared for exercise and appears to be out of the dark. If Amendola can get through the practice week and gain clearance from an independent neurologist, he’d immediately slide back into the WR2 mix.
Quarterback/Running Back Slants
Blaine Gabbert is healthy, but Chad Henne will continue to start for the Jaguars. … Michael Vick (hamstring) practiced in full Wednesday and is on track to start against the Giants. … Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) was limited on Wednesday. There’s no reason to believe he’ll miss Week 8 against the Patriots. … Rashard Mendenhall (toe), Brandon Jacobs (hamstring), C.J. Spiller (ankle), Fred Jackson (knee) and Adrian Peterson (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. Jacobs’ status is up in the air. Peterson is fully expected to play. Spiller says he’s doing better, while coach Doug Marrone says his star running back is further behind than he was last week. The Bills may decide to hold him out this week. … Doug Martin (shoulder) has officially been ruled out for Thursday night. … Frank Gore (ankle) was limited on Wednesday. He’s a top-ten running back this week against Jacksonville. … DeMarco Murray (knee) was limited on Wednesday. The Cowboys aren’t going to rush him back.
Wide Receiver/Tight End Slants
Coach Tom Coughlin said Hakeem Nicks hasn’t been as reliable as he has been in the past. Nicks has dropped six passes this season and is proving himself as nothing more than a WR3. … Mike Williams (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Thursday night. He’ll be a game-time decision. … Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (hamstring, wrist) were limited on Wednesday. Bryant is going to play and is locked in as a top-two receiver play this week. Austin is off the fantasy radar for the time being. … Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) practiced in full Wednesday. He’s close to 100 percent after getting plenty of rest since last Thursday night’s loss. … Lance Moore (hand) returned to practice for the first time since Week 3. … Andrew Hawkins (ankle) returned to practice. He’s on short-term injured reserve and can be activated at any time over the next three weeks. … Roddy White (ankle, hamstring) and James Jones (knee) remained sidelined at practice. … Calvin Johnson (knee) did not practice. He’s back to taking Wednesdays off most likely. … Justin Blackmon (hamstring) and Cecil Shorts (clavicle) did not practice. Both are expected to play. … Brandon LaFell (knee), Steve Smith (ankle), and Greg Olsen (foot) are listed as probable for Thursday night. … Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) was limited on Wednesday. He’s in zero danger of missing Week 8. … Jordan Reed (hip) practiced in full. He’s a TE1 this week against the Broncos. … The Chiefs waived Tony Moeaki (shoulder) with an injury settlement Wednesday. He’ll be free to sign with any team should he clear waivers.