Cowboys Extra: Scouting the Minnesota Vikings

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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For an organization that boasts one of the all-time great quarterbacks, scrambling Fran Tarkenton, the Minnesota Vikings surely have run into a quarterback drought of late.

A fans’ jersey chronicling the starting quarterbacks the Vikings have used since Brad Johnson replaced Daunte Culpepper in the middle of the 2005 season has gone viral. The names on the jersey range from Brett Favre to Donovan McNabb to Tavaris Jackson to Gus Frerotte.

It also has the three names that have been shuffled in and out of the quarterback spot this season — Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel.

In other words, Dallas Cowboys fans, be careful what you wish for when it comes to Tony Romo.

This week, though, the Cowboys will gladly take on a team with a quarterback mess. Cassel, who had a forgettable stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, is out of the starting mix, as coach Leslie Frazier told Minnesota reporters earlier this week that either Ponder or Freeman will start.

“[We’re] just trying to look at the whole picture and who will give us the best chance to win from our standpoint as coaches for this Dallas ballgame,” Frazier said. “That’s what it’ll be based on. The other factors will be what the health of the other guys are, but primarily who do you think will give you the best chance in this ballgame against Dallas?”

Ponder, the Colleyville Heritage product, started last week in a 44-31 loss to the Packers, completing 14 of 21 pass attempts for 145 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. In four games this season — all losses — Ponder has completed 60.3 percent of his passes and has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (2).

Freeman, who dealt with concussion-like symptoms last week but had been cleared to play by Friday, didn’t impress in his debut with Minnesota two weeks ago. The former Tampa Bay quarterback completed less than 38 percent of his passes and had a 40.6 quarterback rating in a 23-7 loss to the New York Giants.

Third down struggles

There isn’t a worse team in the NFC at preventing third-down conversions than the Vikings. Offenses have converted an eye-opening 51 percent of their third-downs against the Vikings.

“We’re so bad right now on third down on defense,” Frazier said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

There are several reasons why the Vikings are off to a 1-6 start, but the defensive struggles at critical parts of the game is certainly a factor. The Packers completed 13 of 18 third-down chances Sunday, and it won’t get any easier for the Vikings as they will face seven of the top 11 highest-scoring teams in the final nine weeks.

Injury report

The Vikings have similar injury issues in their secondary as the Cowboys. Minnesota had two more defensive backs suffer injuries Sunday, as safety Jamarca Sanford (groin strain) and cornerback Chris Cook (hip muscle strain) each left. The Vikings were already without safety Harrison Smith (turf toe).

Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) and tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) were also out Sunday, but could return to practice this week.

Key stat

4If Christian Ponder starts for the Vikings, it will be the fourth consecutive week the Cowboys will face a former Texas high school quarterback. Nick Foles (Austin Westlake) started for the Eagles, Robert Griffin III (Copperas Cove) for the Redskins and Matthew Stafford (Highland Park) for the Lions. The Cowboys are set to play Austin Westlake’s Drew Brees next week, too.

Briefly

• Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has 87 career touchdowns, the second most among active players trailing only Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (106).

• Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was one of the more marquee names thrown out in trade talks this week, but he was not dealt by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

• The Vikings have allowed an average of 32.1 points a game, and are on pace to allow the most points in team history.

• Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings was part of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV winning team in 2010 at Cowboys Stadium. He had two touchdown receptions in Green Bay’s 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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