Vikings QB Ponder: ‘We have a lot to work on’

Christian Ponder says he needs to get rid of the ball

quicker.

Charlie Johnson says the offensive line has to do a better job

of protecting their quarterback.

No matter whom you believe, there is no disputing that the

Minnesota Vikings have a lot to work on as the regular season

opener approaches.

Ponder was sacked five times in less than three quarters against

San Diego on Friday night and never really appeared to be on the

same page with an offensive line that only has two players in the

same positions from last year’s group.

”It takes a little bit to kind of develop that chemistry,”

rookie left tackle Matt Kalil said. ”Getting in the playbook a

little bit more to find out how far he’s going to drop and when I

need to step up and protect the inside. It just takes a little bit.

There are things to work on and that’s what preseason’s about,

getting better.”

The only problem for the Vikings (No. 29 in APPro32) is that

Ponder and many of the starters will not play in the exhibition

finale at Houston on Thursday.

That means that most, if not all, of the improvement that needs

to be made ahead of the regular season opener against Jacksonville

on Sept. 9 will have to be made in practice.

”There’s a lot of work that we need to do,” coach Leslie

Frazier said on Sunday. ”We’ve made tremendous strides along the

way. We think we’re much improved across the board on offense. But

there’s obviously some things we’ve got to get better at.”

The first-team offense looked solid in the first two weeks, with

Ponder looking more assured in his reads as he prepares to open his

first full season as a starter and the offensive line getting used

to not having veterans Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera around

anymore.

Kalil was taken fourth overall in April, Johnson was moved from

left tackle to left guard to replace Hutchinson and Brandon Fusco

is starting at right guard in place of Herrera.

The continuity dissolved on Friday night against the Chargers,

with Kalil being responsible for at least one of the sacks, Toby

Gerhart having difficulty finding running room and Ponder going

just 9 for 16 for 115 yards and an interception while looking a

little indecisive at times in the pocket.

”I got myself in trouble,” Ponder said after the game. ”I was

getting back at the top of my drop and I was just sitting there.

That puts a lot of pressure on our tackles. I’ve got to a lot

better job of stepping up and moving forward.”

He could also use a little more help at times from his blockers

up front and a group of receivers that are still looking to

establish an identity outside of top target Percy Harvin.

Much of training camp has been devoted to getting the offensive

line to form a cohesive unit, and there have been signs of promise

and signs of struggles along the way.

”I don’t think there’s any o-line out there right now that’s

where they want to be, regardless of new parts or if they’ve been

together (for a long time),” Johnson said. ”That’s what you’re

here to work on. To say that we’re there three weeks into a camp

would be ridiculous. We’re not where we want to be. But that’s

stuff that we work on, we strive for and hopefully we can hit our

peak Week 1.”

The biggest key is getting Kalil up to speed as the man who is

expected to be protecting Ponder’s blindside for the next decade.

He’s been practicing against All-Pro Jared Allen every day and says

he’s gradually getting comfortable with the level of

competition.

”As a whole, the offensive line has played well,” Kalil said.

”We feel a lot more comfortable with each other. I’m feeling a lot

more comfortable out there. Things are slowing down and I feel

good.”

Johnson said he didn’t think Ponder deserved all of the

blame.

”We need to protect for however long we need to protect,

whether it’s three, four, five, 10 seconds,” he said. ”However

long we need to protect, we need to be better at. That’s something

as an offensive line that we kind of want to do. We want to give

him as much time as possible to make plays downfield, so in that

aspect it wasn’t good enough.”

NOTES: Frazier said CB Josh Robinson (concussion), CB Chris Cook

(concussion), DT LeTroy Guion (knee) and TE John Carlson (knee) all

will not play on Thursday against Houston but are expected to be

ready for the season opener. … Joe Webb will start at QB against

the Texans.

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