Faceoff: All eyes on Ponder as Vikings open camp

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder breaks away from Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt as he runs for a first down during the fourth quarter Sunday in Houston.

PHERSY:Hey Feldy, I never thought I'd say this, but it's good to have you back. I don't think I could have taken another week of Limbeck. There's bad news for you, though — my vacation kicks in next week. Good luck! Feldy, purple pride is full steam ahead, with the Vikings reporting to training camp in Mankato today. There are several story lines we'll be watching over the next few weeks, but I'd argue there's nothing more important than the development of Christian Ponder. If he's not better, this team could quickly lose ground in the NFC.

FELDY:Ponder needs to be better and consistent. His numbers weren't terrible last season — 2,935 yards, 18 TDs, 12 interceptions — but he made Donovan McNabb's Vikings career look good at times. Ponder had three games where he passed for less than 100 yards last season. That's unacceptable. Phersy, will the presence of a legitimate backup, Matt Cassel, help Ponder or will he be looking over his shoulder too often to be effective?

PHERSY:Ponder knows he's the starter, and the coaching staff has never deviated from that plan. If the coaching staff had declared it an open competition, maybe it would have pushed Ponder, or he could have seized up and buckled under the pressure. We'll never know that, though, because this coaching staff has a blind faith in Ponder. But Feldy, I refuse to get excited about a QB who tossed just 18 TDs last season. He must improve, or he should be shown the door. Feldy, coach Leslie Frazier has hitched his wagon to Ponder, and Frazier's contract is up after this season. Is that a gamble you'd take if you were Frazier?

FELDY:No, I wouldn't, but I'd put just as much pressure on the shoulders of GM Rick Spielman. He's done a nice job in the past couple of drafts, but Ponder is as much his guy as he is Frazier's. That said, coaches take the fall when players don't produce. If Frazier is coaching to win and to save his job, Ponder will be on a short leash. Phersy, how much will the remodeled receiving corps help Ponder?

PHERSY:They will help, but it's still a middle-of-the-road receiving corps in the NFL. I loved the addition of Greg Jennings, but it was a needed move after losing Percy Harvin. I also appreciated the draft-day deal that allowed the Vikings to select Cordarrelle Patterson. He's not Harvin...yet. I do see the Vikings using Patterson in a Harvin-type role while he's learning the offense, finding simple ways to get the ball in his hands. The kid is electric and has a chance to be a great NFL player. ... Feldy, the defensive secondary will look different when the Vikings open the season Sept. 8. Do you have any faith in that unit?


FELDY:With Antoine Winfield in Seattle, all of a sudden the secondary is really young. Chris Cook is healthy and needs to step up and finally be the all-around cornerback the team has expected him to be. Xavier Rhodes gives the Vikings two tall, fast corners on the outside, but he hasn't played a down in the NFL and needs to prove he can cover at this level. And a second solid safety needs to step up next to Harrison Smith. Playing against the receivers in the NFC North is a tough task for a young secondary. ... Phersy, what do you expect from another first-rounder, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd?

PHERSY:I think he's stepping into a great situation, with talented players around him. And he seems to have a great head on his shoulders. Floyd will have a solid season in 2013, and I would look for him to be an elite DT in 2014. Overall, it will be tough to get a sense of where this defense stands until it hits the field against the Lions in Week 1. If the defense is better, the high expectations for the Vikings will be warranted, and a return trip the playoffs is likely.

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