Ponder to play more at Buffalo, A.P. may not play
MANKATO — Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder is banking on more than two snaps Friday night during Minnesota's second preseason game at Buffalo.
Adrian Peterson still might not get any.
As the Vikings prepared to break training camp Wednesday, it remained uncertain whether their star running back would suit up against the Bills.
Peterson is healthy and will carry the ball either this week or next at San Francisco, unlike 2012, when he was sidelined all four preseason games to protect his surgically repaired knee.
Still, coach Leslie Frazier wants to see him emerge from Wednesday's final workout before determining what role, if any, Peterson will play with the first-team offense, which is scheduled to play at least the first quarter against Buffalo.
"We have an idea of what we want to do, but we also want to talk about it after this practice — just make sure we're doing the right thing if we're going to utilize him or use him the next ballgame," Frazier said Wednesday morning. "We want to get him something these next couple weeks."
Meanwhile, Ponder is eager to increase his workload after spending a mere 42 seconds on the field against Houston — unleashing a 15-yard completion to Jerome Simpson followed by an interception.
"I think these next two games are crucial for us as an offense, and for everybody, because we're going to get a lot of snaps," Ponder said.
Ponder's accuracy has been mixed during camp, and questions remain about his ability to throw into tight coverage and connect on deep balls. He also is trying to synchronize with a revamped receiving corps that includes fast-developing rookie Cordarrelle Patterson and veteran Greg Jennings.
Patterson caught four passes for 54 yards after returning the opening kickoff 50 yards last week against the Texans. He made one of the prettiest catches of camp Tuesday, hauling down a 30-yard sideline pass with one hand.
Ponder, receivers still jelling
But all of those came on the receiving end of backup quarterback Matt Cassel, not Ponder, as Patterson has worked almost exclusively with the second-team offense.
Jennings has said Ponder needs to trust himself and pull the trigger. Ponder says he is adjusting to Jennings' aggressive route running, which involves more evasive movement at the line of scrimmage and downfield than typical receivers.
"We're a lot farther along," Ponder said. "Greg is a guy I can count on. For us, it's just getting on the same page because he runs routes so different than anybody else. I think we're a lot more comfortable than we were."
Frazier praised Ponder's command of the offense and the huddle. He noted Ponder is carrying himself with more confidence as a third-year quarterback.
"These last few practices have been his best practices from a decision-making standpoint, along with how he's handled himself around the huddle," Frazier said. "I've seen some growth. We're looking forward to seeing some plays on Friday night."
When the Vikings return to Winter Park on Sunday, there will be plenty of roster intrigue. Friday's game is another chance for bubble players to showcase their talent range and help the coaching staff start formulating the depth chart.
Big decisions loom among the receiving corps, where Joe Webb and Stephen Burton appear to be in a runoff for the potential final roster spot.
Burton, a third-year pro, has been a revelation with his consistent playmaking and finishing. Webb has had his moments, and his broad skill set presents a tantalizing reason for the Vikings to retain the popular player on special teams or as a long-shot third-string quarterback.
Frazier has said the team was only evaluating Webb as a receiver but noted Tuesday that the depth chart would be dictated by a players' talent more than numbers at a particular position.
And Frazier was unwilling to say whether the Vikings would keep five or six wide receivers.
"It's too early right now to order them," he said. "We want (them) to get a few more games under their belt. These next couple preseason games will create some clarity for us."