Report: Barring injury, Matt Cassel will start the rest of the way
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Quarterback Matt Cassel had to wait his turn this season. Twice, actually.
But now he's taken the reins and it appears he will not relinquish control of the starting quarterback job in the final two games.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Monday night Tweeted that Cassel's the guy the rest of the way for the Vikings.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said there were no promises made to quarterback Josh Freeman when he signed with the team during their early-season bye week in October.
Freeman started the Oct. 21 loss at the New York Giants less than two weeks after he signed and has been active for just two games since. According to Mortensen, that's all playing time Freeman will see, barring injuries.
The Vikings have made four quarterback swaps this season as they went with Cassel over a healthy Christian Ponder in the Oct. 13 loss against the Carolina Panthers. Freeman then made his first and only start in the following game at New York. After a concussion, the Vikings reverted back to Ponder, who started the next six games before a concussion knocked him out of the Dec. 1 win over the Chicago Bears.
That opened the door for Cassel, who led the Vikings to an overtime victory on the Bears and has started the previous two games since.
Cassel commanded the Vikings' 48-30 upset victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and coach Leslie Frazier left no doubt that Cassel would start next week's contest at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cassel went 9-for-9 for 168 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone against the Eagles and finished with a Vikings' season-high 382 passing yards.
This should confirm what the Vikings' camp won't say, but has certainly shown: there's no reason to further evaluate Christian Ponder. The 2011 first-round pick (12th overall) is 14-20-1 as a starter, including 2-6-1 this season.
Head coach Leslie Frazier had high praises Monday for Cassel, especially the veteran's leadership and pocket presence.
"He does a great job of studying, for one, and understanding what the looks are you're going to get and what coverages you're going to get as well. He knows where to go with the football in pre-snap and gets it out of his hands because of that. ... He doesn't hesitate. He knows exactly where it has to go and that's his veteran experience and the confidence he has that he can make those plays."
Whereas Christian Ponder was often tempted to tuck the football and flee the pocket when his first option was covered, Cassel relies on his blockers to buy him time and receivers to get open. Frazier said that's in part due to preparation and partly it's experience.
"I think if you were to ask [Cassel] when he was a second- or third-year quarterback how he would have handled those situations it might be a little bit different, but he's been in those situations a number of times and he knows if he can just buy another second when you've got a guy like a Greg Jennings or a Cordarrelle Patterson, those guys are going to get open if they're playing single-high safety and he has enough poise to maintain his composure and make some plays."