Leslie Frazier (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY)
Leslie Frazier said change for change’s sake isn’t a good idea. Jerome Felton is coming back and Desmond Bishop could see a bigger role, but it doesn’t sound like a quarterback switch is coming.
After reviewing the film from Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Leslie Frazier appears to be sticking with his assessment immediately after the game: No big changes are likely.
After that loss, QB Christian Ponder said there was “no doubt” in his mind that he would be the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game that will be held in London on Sunday.
Frazier said then that Ponder was the team’s starting quarterback and he stayed consistent with that message Monday morning, about six hours before the team would be leaving for London.
“(Ponder) made some plays for us yesterday that we needed. There were some other plays that we needed to make that we didn’t always get,” Frazier said. “But he’ll have to keep growing and keep developing. We’re doing enough things that are not right across the board that are affecting our won-loss record, and it’s not just the quarterback position. He has to play better, but so do some other groups on our football team. I don’t think where we are is necessarily purely because of Christian Ponder.”
The third-year quarterback was booed several times Sunday at the Metrodome. He finished the game completing 25 of 42 passes for 228 yards, no touchdowns, had one interception, took six sacks and fumbled at the end of the first half with the Vikings in scoring position.
“You only want to make changes if there’s a problem in an area where you feel like you have a better solution,” Frazier said.
Veteran Matt Cassel, in his first season with the Vikings, is Ponder’s immediate backup, followed by second-year player McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Neither have thrown a pass for the Vikings.
Frazier is right, however, in saying the Vikings have more issues than just Ponder’s play contributing to their 0-3 record. The defense surrendered 409 net yards to a Browns offense that was starting its third-string quarterback and featuring a running game Sunday whose most productive player was the up back on a fake punt.
There were issues all across the board. Injuries played a role with Chris Cook (groin), A.J. Jefferson (ankle) and Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) all bowing out of the secondary.
At linebacker, starter Marvin Mitchell is beginning to cede playing time to June’s free-agent acquisition, Desmond Bishop. Mitchell played 13 of the 74 snaps, Bishop 12.
“We wanted to take a real good look at Desmond on tape and get a better feel for where he is physically as well as a grasp on what we’re trying to do on defense,” Frazier said. “He did some good things yesterday so we’ll continue that evaluation process.”
That could be one of the changes on defense that isn’t due to injury.
On offense, the Vikings are getting Pro Bowl FB Jerome Felton back on Sunday after he served a three-game suspension stemming from his 2012 drunken driving arrest.
“I think it will have a positive impact. He’s a Pro Bowl player, really helped our run game a year ago quite a bit,” Frazier said. “So we look forward to having him back.”
Other than that, don’t expect major changes from Frazier, at least from a personnel standpoint.
“I don’t know if change for the sake of change is the right thing to do, from my perspective,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to stand in front of the guys in the locker room and talk to them about why you’re making the change. Then it’s got to be something you feel like is going to help your football team be successful. So change for change sake – I don’t totally buy into that.”
Three members of the secondary – Cook, Sanford and Jefferson – had MRIs scheduled on Monday, but Frazier was hoping their injuries would be healed by Sunday.
“It’s kind of early. So, I’ll have to wait at least until the end of the day to get some results back,” he said.
Other than those injuries, Frazier didn’t have any other injuries of significance to report.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.