Going into Week 8, there are a few teams playing quarterback shuffle. At least five teams are making adjustments to their rosters for everything from injuries to attempts to rejuvenate their offense. We will begin our series with the Minnesota Vikings.
In: Christian Ponder
Out: Josh Freeman, concussion
In an attempt to lift the Vikings out of their 1-5 slump, Vikings’ higher ups signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. After two weeks to study the playbook, Freeman was launched into a Monday Night Football game and his lack of preparation and missed playing time showed.
In his first on-field action since Week 2 of the season, Freeman completed only 20 of 52 passes for 190 yards, without any touchdowns and one interception. Needless to say, any time he can take off to recuperate and learn the Vikings’ schemes will be to the greater good of the tams’ season.
Vikings’ Coach Leslie Frazier reported Freeman told him he was not feeling well on Tuesday afternoon, and may have been injured in the third quarter during the Monday night game against the New York Giants. Freeman took several hits that may have caused the “concussion-like symptoms” he has been diagnosed with. He is currently going through the required NFL protocols to see him cleared before he can play again. If he is not cleared by the medical staff as of Friday, by NFL rule he cannot suit up to play on Sunday.
When asked Wednesday about Matt Cassel being passed over in favor of Ponder, Coach Frazier put the choice of starter down to a comparison of each quarterback’s “body of work” and capabilities. Cassel is not as mobile as Ponder.
So the Vikings turn back to Christian Ponder, their original starter. Ponder injured his ribs against the Cleveland Browns (31-27) early in the season, allowing Matt Cassel to step in and gain the one win Minnesota has in London against the Pittsburgh Steelers (34-27). After their Week 5 bye, during which Freeman was acquired, they lost to the Carolina Panthers (35-10). Monday the New York Giants got their first win of the season (23-7) at the Vikings’ expense to wrap up Week 7.
During his run as starter, Ponder completed 59 of 100 passes for 691 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. He had five touchdowns and was sacked 10 times for a loss of 44 yards. His current QBR is 65.9. In contrast, Matt Cassel completed 48 of 69 passes for 489 yards with a 7.1 average. He has two touchdowns and only four sacks for a 26 yard loss, his QBR is 92.
While Freeman’s numbers don’t begin to stack up against his fellow quarterbacks, he does have history and experience. With Ponder back under center, the Vikings will face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. When questioned about Freeman versus Ponder as starter, Frazier side-stepped the issue, saying continuity at the quarterback position was important for team success. “We want (Ponder) to have a great game (Sunday) and not look beyond that game.” He went onto say the Vikings wanted Ponder to focus on the upcoming game, without putting forth expectations as to what was to come further into the season.
Analysts have made a point of comparing teams with solid players at the quarterback position versus the whirlwind going on in Minnesota and other teams with quarterback revolving doors. No matter who starts in Week 9, Ponder is “the guy”on Sunday, and Freeman may or may not be the guy for the future. Either way, the Vikings need to get out of the quarterback shuffle and solidify their offensive leader sooner rather than later if they want to see a turnaround this season and the next.
By: Brandi Tasby