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Updated: August 13th, 2011 11:57pm
Notebook: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb endure rocky moments in relief

Notebook: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb endure rocky moments in relief

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the matchup of first-round rookie quarterbacks, give this round to Jake Locker.

The No. 8 overall pick in April's draft impressed in his preseason debut with the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, completing 7 of 10 passes for 89 yards, a score and a 144.9 passer rating while leading two touchdown drives in relief of starter Matt Hasselbeck.

Meanwhile, Christian Ponder -- selected four picks later by the Minnesota Vikings -- took three sacks, misfired badly on a third-down slant and looked uncomfortable in the pocket at times while going 8-of-13 for 84 yards with the third string in a 14-3 loss.

"It was good to finally get in there and get some real action," Ponder said. "Made some plays here and there, could have made some more plays, but I think it was good just to get some plays on film and learn from it."

Ponder's first throw was a "keep" pass to Kyle Rudolph for a 10-yard gain. He also hit Allen Reisner for 16 off a bootleg and Juaquin Iglesias for 26 -- the Vikings' longest gain of the game -- on a quick out-and-run.

"Those are good things to get in a rhythm and get some completions here and there and build that confidence and then get rolling from there," Ponder said. "They were working for us (Saturday), especially when I was in, and so we just kept using them."

The completions to Reisner and Iglesias propelled the Vikings' best drive behind Ponder in the fourth quarter. But two pre-snap penalties and pass Reisner couldn't quite haul in on fourth-and-2 led to a turnover on downs.

Jaymar Johnson's 40-yard punt return gave the Vikings excellent field position on their next drive, too, but they failed to gain a first down and Ponder took a sack on fourth-and-2.

"I thought he did a good job extending plays (Saturday), and he was good on the sideline when we'd come over there in between series, looking at the pictures," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "This was the first time for him to ever see pictures of a game and try to digest them and then apply the lessons learned the very next series."

Outside of the slant that badly missed Devin Aromashodu -- "I threw that one in the dirt, kind of slowed my hands a little bit, which wasn't good," Ponder said -- accuracy wasn't an issue.

Joe Webb took the second-team reps ahead of Ponder on Saturday, but they'll flip-flop next week at Seattle.

"I'm just going to go in and prepare and work my butt off and play better next week," Ponder said.

Another lesson

Webb and the second string marched 59 yards to set up Ryan Longwell's 37-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half. They also handed over the ball to set up both of the Titans' touchdowns.

The game still was scoreless with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the first half, when Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey ripped the ball out of halfback Lorenzo Booker's hands on a running play. Locker hit wide-open Yamon Figurs for a 45-yard touchdown on the next play.

The Vikings' next possession ended three plays after that, with reserve safety Jordan Babineaux intercepting Webb on a pass intended for Aromashodu on a cross.

"It was just a great play by the defensive player," Webb said. "All I can do is just learn from it."

Webb finished 4-of-8 passing for 45 yards, took a sack and had a 27.6 rating. He also scrambled five times for 33 yards and appeared to give up early on some of his progressions -- although one throw he made in rhythm ended up a turnover.

"We really blocked up the blitz," Musgrave said. "They brought the two weakside linebackers, and our backs hit them right in the mouth. It'll be good for Joe to see that on film and see that protection held up and he can get through his progression and maybe find one or two other guys that might be more open than that one."

Limited action

Three veteran defensive starters -- cornerback Antoine Winfield, right end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams -- dressed for the game but didn't play.

"Next week, they'll play more," Frazier said. "But this was an opportunity for us to look at some young guys and just try to determine if they can help us or not."

Halfback Adrian Peterson didn't last long either. He carried once for 3 yards and was out before the first series ended.

"He wasn't happy in the locker room at all," Musgrave said. "In fact, when he came out, Toby went in and then Toby (Gerhart) gashed them on one of our power plays. Adrian will look to get more touches and we'll look to integrate him more and more as the preseason goes along."

Said Peterson, "I got in and got my feet wet a little bit, stuck my toe in the water. Hopefully, next week, I will get a little more time."

Health watch

Rookie safety Mistral Raymond was one of seven pregame scratches because of the hamstring injury he suffered while running back an interception on the final play of training camp.

"They told me it was mild," coach Leslie Frazier said, "and they think he should be fine for this next ballgame as long as we treat it correctly."

The Vikings' other scratches were: halfback Tristan Davis (stomach), cornerback Cedric Griffin (knee), linebacker Kenny Onatolu (foot), guard Anthony Herrera (knee/triceps), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and receiver Stephen Burton (tight hamstrings).

End D'Aundre Reed left the game in the third quarter with a cramp in his left calf and should be fine, Frazier said.

Quick hits

• Rookie DT Christian Ballard got a sack on what looked like a blown protection by the Titans' second-string offense. "First-game jitters, being a rookie -- all that's fun," said Ballard, a fourth-round pick from Iowa. "But to come out here, put something on tape, put something on your resume -- hopefully, the team will keep me. If not, other teams will see what I can do, and go from there."

• Musgrave was on the sideline and plans to call plays from there this season, rather than from in an upstairs booth. "I just think with a new system, it's one less chain in the communication to the quarterback," Musgrave said. "So, trying to get it in to those guys early and so they can have plenty of time in the huddle with their teammates."

• The Vikings' captains were LG Steve Hutchinson, MLB E.J. Henderson and PK Ryan Longwell.

• Scratched for the Titans were: WR Kenny Britt, HB Chris Johnson, S Robert Johnson, S Nick Schommer, LS/LB John Stokes, DT Sen'Derrick Marks.

• The preseason continues with a visit to Seattle next Saturday (9 p.m., KARE/Channel 11).

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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