A comfortable Christian Ponder still adjusting to Greg Jennings routes
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson stood behind a pack of media members, trying to distract quarterback Christian Ponder as he spoke after Wednesday's walkthrough -- the final one of training camp.
Ponder was in the middle of talking about what the first-team offense needs to accomplish during Friday's game at the Buffalo Bills, which boils down to building a rapport with new receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson.
But past that, coach Leslie Frazier said he's noticed Ponder coming out of his shell, hoping that translates to a more comfortable -- and more confident -- quarterback in year three.
"What I've seen is a better command from a guy who's more confident in what he's doing. You would expect that in his third year of this system," Frazier said. "But it's great to see. I can see him taking more control in the huddle, interacting more with other teammates, other than the small group of guys he's comfortable with."
In addition to working on two key areas, decision making and accuracy, Ponder also has to get used to throwing to a veteran receiver like Jennings, who runs routes like no other targets Ponder has had at Minnesota.
You could call it a work in progress, as they've had plenty of time to gel in practice -- but Jennings has yet to see if Ponder can place the ball where he needs it in game situations.
"For us, it's getting on the same page," Ponder said. "[Jennings] attacks leverage and does a lot of movement with his body and his head, which is great, does a great job of getting open, it's just a little different when you watch him on film."
Jennings' route running is what allows the 6-foot receiver to get open as often as he does and Frazier said it's a matter of Ponder adjusting to his receiver.
"[Jennings] is not going to just run straight up the field and break out. He's gong to stem a defensive back inside, try to get his hips turned, get his feet out of whack, then he'll break outside," Frazier said. "When he releases on press coverages, he's not a guy that's going to release it to you, he does a lot of shaking at the line of scrimmage."
"For a quarterback, you have to adjust to how [Jennings] runs routes and how effective he is. Because you don't want to change what he's done to this point with the success he's had."
Friday's second preseason game at Buffalo should produce the first Ponder-to-Jennings connection after two snaps against the Houston Texans yielded one reception to receiver Jerome Simpson and a tipped pass back to Simpson that ended up as an interception.
Frazier said he wants the first-team offense to play into the second quarter at Buffalo, depending on the amount of snaps they get in the first quarter.
"I think these next two games are going to be critical for us as the first-team offense, and everybody, because we're going to get a lot of snaps," Ponder said.