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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Ponder In Need Of Strong Performance

y: Sam Ekstrom |

After going 6-for-14 with one interception and no touchdowns through two preseason starts, Christian Ponder is in need of a strong performance this Sunday at San Francisco.

“It feels like the regular season, so we’re excited,” said Ponder after Thursday’s practice. “I think the offense keeps improving, and we’re doing some good things in the offense, and we’re planning for San Francisco.”

Among the good things Ponder mentioned was the use of Greg Jennings in the slot, where he was frequently used in Green Bay. If Ponder is going to flourish in Year 3 of his career, he’ll need to be on the same page as the veteran wideout. Against Buffalo last Friday, Ponder missed Jennings on a short bubble screen that may have stemmed from miscommunication.

Jennings made it clear before Wednesday’s practice that he needs to build more chemistry with Ponder by getting additional reps.

“I’ve got to feel comfortable in the offense in a game setting,” said Jennings. “In practice, it’s cool. I’ve got it. Everything is kind of habitual now, but in the game, things kind of change up.”

Having Adrian Peterson in the backfield should provide a positive change this weekend. But with the expectations for Peterson so high this season, it will be up to Ponder to alleviate some of the pressure on No. 28, just as the MVP took the pressure off Ponder last season.

After all, how often do 2,000-yard seasons come around? Ponder – 25th in terms of passing yards last season – knows he needs to be the catalyst behind an improved passing game, beginning at San Francisco.

“We do want to establish the pass and be more efficient in that area,” said Ponder.

“With Adrian, we’re going to run the heck out of the ball, and we’re going to utilize him, but we need to keep getting more plays out of the passing game.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave thinks the young quarterback and his new-look receiving corps have looked sharp on the practice fields. But, of course, the controlled environment at Winter Park is far different from an NFL stadium.

“We’ve had a good camp. We’ve had good OTAs. But we want that to transfer to the game,” said Musgrave. “We’re looking for more turns (reps). As of this third preseason week, I think they’ve had a quarter-and-a-half out there together.”

The starters should more than double that total against the 49ers.

The top priority for Ponder on Sunday night?

“Execution,” said the quarterback. “That’s what we wanted the first two games. Obviously, we want a higher level of execution this week. It’s against a great opponent. It’s going to be a great barometer for us as a team.”

Sunday’s opening kickoff will be at 7 p.m. As usual, the game can be heard live on KFAN 100.3.

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