Vikings’ cluster of QBs: Minnesota’s first depth chart lists Ponder as 3rd-string quarterback
MANKATO, Minn. — While it has been apparent it would happen, now it’s in writing: Christian Ponder is the Vikings’ third-string quarterback.
The Vikings released their first training camp depth chart Tuesday. The chart, termed unofficial, lists Matt Cassel as the No. 1 quarterback followed by rookie Teddy Bridgewater at No. 2 and Ponder at No. 3.
Ponder, taken with the No. 12 pick in the 2011 draft, started more games than any Minnesota quarterback in each of the three previous seasons. That included all 16 in 2012, when he helped lead the Vikings to the playoffs.
But Cassel took over as the starter late last season, and Bridgewater was selected with the No. 32 pick in this year’s draft. With Cassel and Bridgewater getting the work, Ponder didn’t get a single snap in team drills at Minnesota’s marquee training camp practice last Saturday before 9,500 fans.
“This is football and guys have to be somewhere,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Just at this stage, that’s where he’s at. I still think he’s done a good job. He’s a good kid and he still continues to get better every day. And just because he’s third right now doesn’t mean that’s where he’s going to end up. I like Christian. He works real hard.”
There were no real surprises on Minnesota’s first depth chart. Perhaps the most intriguing position battles will be in the secondary when the Vikings play their first preseason game Friday against Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium.
At left cornerback, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson are listed as co-No. 1 guys. Both Munnerlyn, a free-agent signee, and Robinson, who started all 10 games he played last season before getting hurt, have had hamstring injuries in training camp.
“Munnerlyn missed a bunch of time early; Robinson has missed a bunch time lately,” said Zimmer, adding that Robinson is “real close” to being back at full strength.
Robert Blanton has been out for more than a week with a hamstring strain. But he is No. 1 on the depth chart at strong safety over Jamarca Sanford, who started all 13 games he played last season but missed spring drills with a groin strain.
Zimmer said Blanton played well early in camp but needs to “get back and show what he can do.” He expects Blanton to return to practice soon.
“You can’t control it,” Sanford said of being No. 2 on the depth chart. “All you can control is keep grinding, (which is) what I’ve been doing the last five or 10 years.”
Middle linebacker remains up for grabs, but defensive coordinator George Edwards said Jasper Brinkley likely will start there against the Raiders. Barkley is tops on the depth chart, followed by Audie Cole.
“Everybody wants to start, but I can’t go out and just feel it’s given to me,” Brinkley said.
Rookie Anthony Barr is listed as the top strong-side linebacker. Zimmer said he’s a “strong” candidate to start the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at St. Louis.
The Vikings are in line to have the same 11 starters on offense they had last December. All the holdovers are tops on the depth chart.
There’s a strong chance Minnesota could have as many as seven new starters on defense from last year. That could be the case if Munnerlyn beats out Robinson.
In addition to Brinkley and Barr, others in line to be new starters on defense are tackles Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd, end Everson Griffen and Blanton. Blanton did start the three games last season Sanford missed because of injury.
It’s possible another strong safety could add intrigue to that spot. The Vikings on Monday signed 12-year veteran Chris Crocker, who played the previous seven seasons under Zimmer when he was defensive coordinator at Atlanta and Cincinnati.
Zimmer said it’s too early to speculate on Crocker’s starting chances; he is currently listed as fourth string. Zimmer said he had been thinking for some time about a reunion with Crocker, the oldest player on the team at 34.
“I thought it would be good for him to be around some of the younger (players),” Zimmer said. “We’ve got a pretty young secondary, a pretty young defense. He knows the system well.”
Zimmer joked that the two have such a good relationship that Crocker, with his wife pregnant, “needs to name his kid Mike.” That was a reference to Ponder recently having named his newborn daughter Bowden Sainte-Claire after Bobby Bowden, Ponder’s coach at Florida State.
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