Searching for a solution at that quarterback, the team has gone back to Christian Ponder as their starter, and he will start his third straight game when Washington pays Minnesota a visit on Thursday.
Ponder — the 12th overall pick of the 2011 draft — opened the 2013 season as the Vikings’ starter.
But he stumbled out of the gates, throwing two interceptions and five interceptions during an 0-3 start to the season. Minnesota turned to Matt Cassel for two games, and then signed Josh Freeman and started him for one game. Because Freeman struggled so badly in his first and only start with the team, the Vikings went back to Ponder two weeks ago against Green Bay.
Ponder on Sunday had his best performance of the season — completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 236 yards and a touchdown, and running the ball four times for 29 yards and a touchdown. But he did have two turnovers — an interception and a fumble — and the Vikings suffered a 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Although he is now 0-5 as a starter this season with three touchdown passes and nine turnovers, the Vikings are sticking with Ponder for now. Coach Leslie Frazier believes Ponder has the ability, but he wants better game management and ball security out of the Florida State product.
“I want the quarterback play to be consistently good throughout,” Frazier said. “There are going to be some ups and downs and you’re going to have to be able to bounce back from those. Making good decisions is probably the thing we want to see most from Christian. He has the tools to lead a team and have success and lead you to a championship, we believe. But the consistency is the key at that position, along with the leadership that’s required.”
The quarterback carousel means that the Redskins defensive players don’t have as extensive a collection of game video to study as they usually would. But cornerback DeAngelo Hall said facing Ponder probably represents the best possible scenario for he and his teammates simply because he has the most action in Minnesota’s offense compared to Cassel and Freeman.
“We’ve got years of film on Ponder. Even last year we faced him,” said Hall, who along with his teammates have faced Ponder in each of the past two seasons. “We probably are more confident with him back there because with the other guys, there wouldn’t be as much film as there is on Ponder. But we feel good about it. We feel good about our guys and hopefully their chemistry isn’t there exactly all the way there because they’ve had a lot of guys there at quarterback. It might could hurt them more than it hurts us, but whatever guy they have back there, I’m sure they know the playbook inside and out and what they want to do to us.”
The Redskins held Ponder in check his rookie season and eventually knocked him out of the game. His backup Joe Webb took over, however, and led Minnesota to a win in 2011. Then last season, the Redskins sacked Ponder four times, forced him into two interceptions and a fumble in a 38-26 victory.
But the Redskins know they can’t take Ponder and the Vikings lightly. After seeing the Vikings come close to beating the Cowboys on Sunday, Hall and his teammates know what kind of mind-set they must have on Thursday.
“Just a sense of urgency,” Hall said. “Understanding the task that’s at hand is and going out there and getting the job done. This team is 1-7 but like I was telling the guys today after practice, that’s much better team than 1-7. We’ll need all hands on deck. We’re a little sore, they’re a little sore, but we have to go into a hostile environment and get it done.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
● Washington practices Wednesday morning, then heads to Minnesota for Thursday’s 8:25 p.m. game.
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