Frazier backs Ponder, wants battle for No. 2
FEB 22, 2013 4:42p ET
Leslie Frazier is hoping the Minnesota Vikings have more competition at quarterback next season -- backup quarterback, that is.
Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Friday, Frazier touched on a variety of tops regarding his team, but he made clear that Christian Ponder, coming off his first full season as the starter, will be unchallenged in the No. 1 role.
"Our guys need to know who's the starting quarterback and how confident myself and the rest of the coaches are and kind of create some clarity for our football team as we are giving them direction about where we want to go and what we want to achieve," Frazier told reporters. "So, it's important to have that position solidified more so than any position as you are setting your goals for that next season. I think we're solid at the starting quarterback position and we got to maybe do some things to make sure we're solid at the backup position. But as long as Christian keeps improving, we feel like we've got what we need to bring a championship to Minnesota."
Ponder, in his second season after being selected No. 12 overall out of Florida State in the 2011 draft, ranked 21st in the NFL this season with an 81.2 quarterback rating. On a team built around the running of Adrian Peterson (Minnesota was second in the league in rushing), Ponder completed 62.1 percent of his passes (13th in the NFL) for 2,935 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Ponder, 24, missed the Vikings' 24-10 first-round playoff loss at Green Bay with a deep triceps contusion. Joe Webb, a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft, started for Minnesota in that game after not having thrown a pass all season and struggled mightily. He completed only 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Vikings chose to cut veteran backup Sage Rosenfels at the end of training camp, going with the still unproven Webb. Frazier implied Friday that Webb will have more competition in training camp this year, adding that the team could "potentially" bring in somebody else.
"(Webb) was in a tough spot in that playoff game, not taking any snaps and not knowing for sure that he was going to end up being the starter," Frazier said. "So, it was a tough, tough deal for him. But that position, like a lot of our positions, the backup quarterback position is one we're going to create competition at and try to make sure that we have the right guy in place backing up Christian, if for whatever reason something happens injury-wise. But Joe understands that. He'll come back. He'll compete. He'll work as hard as he can. So will (third-stringer McLeod) Bethel-Thompson, and if we decide to do anything else, those guys will compete for that second position."
Frazier said the team will "look at a bunch of different avenues" for adding more competition for the backup spot. There is no question, though, when it comes to Ponder as the starter.
Speaking generally, Frazier said it isn't difficult to make a switch at quarterback if the starter is not meeting expectations, but Frazier has been pleased with the Ponder's progress, specifically when he helped Minnesota to four straight wins at the end of the season while playing his best football.
With the Vikings in must-win position, Ponder responded to perhaps his worst game as a pro in a loss at Green Bay by recovering to help Minnesota beat Chicago, St. Louis, Houston and the Packers in the final four weeks. In the regular-season finale at home against Green Bay, Ponder was 16 of 28 for 234 yards and three touchdowns and didn't throw an interception, while posting the best single-game quarterback rating of his short NFL career (120.2).
Frazier expects Ponder's growth to continue this offseason.
"We expect in his third season he's going to take another jump, and part of that will be what happens this offseason," Frazier said. "So, we're not at a point where we're looking for a quarterback to come in and move Christian at all. We expect him just to keep getting better. …We feel like we have our guy in place. We just want to see him keep improving."
Receiver is a focus: Frazier was asked about the continuing questions surrounding the status of receiver Percy Harvin and said Harvin is "extremely important" and a "focal point" of Minnesota's offense.
Frazier didn't express any concern about Harvin, his reported outburst toward Frazier or his late-season absence after he was put on injured reserve.
"Well, the fact that he's under contract, he's a part of our team," Frazier said. "And he's excited about being a part of our team from my conversations with him. And that's where things are."
Frazier seemed to acknowledge that receiver will be a position the Vikings will look to address this offseason, regardless of Harvin's status. Frazier said speed is one of the biggest points of emphasis when looking at receivers.
"We need an all-encompassing guy, a guy who can run by some people, who can make the hard catch for us if he's in a contested situation but hopefully also can get us some yards after catch," Frazier said, adding that getting a good perimeter receiver will help Ponder's development. "You would think that would be a plus for us. When you run the ball as well as we do, if we can get that home run guy outside, we think we'll just improve our entire offense and our team as well."
Frazier also spoke highly of receiver Jarius Wright, a fourth-round pick out of Arkansas last year who had 22 catches for 310 yards and a 14.1 yard average per catch last season after getting a chance to play because of Harvin's injury.
"Jarius did a great job for us late in the season, made some big plays for us," Frazier said. "So we're excited about his development and watching him progress. But he has that potential to be that type of player."
Change expected: Frazier said the focus is determining what is needed to take the next step and win in the playoffs.
"We're not where we need to be by any means," Frazier said of his young roster. "I don't think we can go back in this 2013 season with that roster and say we're going to be a playoff team. We've got to make some improvements along our roster, and that's going to be one of our goals this offseason."
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