By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings have seen a sharp decrease in its passing offense in recent weeks.
Since Christian Ponder threw for 352 yards against the Washington Redskins in Week 6, he has topped 100 yards just once. The second-year quarterback threw for 251 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but 121 combined against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7 and Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.
“I think the last couple of weeks, there have been some things that have come up that we need to keep working on, not only with him, but our entire offense, to get better production out of our pass game,” head coach Leslie Frazier said at his press conference Monday. “He knows there are some things he needs to improve on but there are also some things throughout our passing game that we have to get corrected in order to help him be successful. That will be the challenge for all of us as we prepare for this Detroit game, because like everybody we’re seeing of late, they’re going to load the box and dare us to complete balls down the field, so we’ll have to do some things to offset that. It’s not just what Christian is doing or not doing, but some of the things that we’re doing as a whole.”
Ponder and second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph took some time after practice Wednesday to do a little extra work. However, that is not out of the ordinary.
“(It’s) nothing more than we’ve done the first nine weeks of the season,” Rudolph said. “We’re still doing our normal practice reps, and we always get a little work after practice while the rest of the guys are still doing the developmental work. So nothing’s really changed between the two of us”
That hasn’t helped the Vikings’ first two selections in the 2011 NFL Draft connect over the last three games. Rudolph has been held without a catch in two of three games and had just two catches for 17 yards in the other game.
“It’s just the way things go sometimes,” Rudolph said. “We need to obviously make a concerted effort, but also it’s on me to make sure I’m winning every time. That’s all I can control, winning in the pass game and making sure there’s multiple other ways we can contribute in the pass game besides the pass stats.”
With the passing offense struggling, the Vikings did not need to see its best receiver and most explosive player rolling around on the CenturyLink Field turf Sunday with an injury.
Percy Harvin was seen Monday at Winter Park on crutches. He called his availability to play Sunday as a “long shot,” but would not rule himself out of the game.
“I’m just going to go day by day,” he said. “Like I said, I’m in a lot of pain. There’s a lot of swelling. My whole ankle, all the way around, is swollen. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Whether or not Harvin plays Sunday, Jarius Wright could make his NFL debut. The rookie fourth round pick has been inactive for all nine games this season.
“It’s just been real difficult,” Wright said. “I like to get out there and I like to compete and I like to have a chance to help the team out. Not that I don’t help the team out as far as (from a) practicing standpoint and everything. But as far as getting out there on Sunday, I love playing football and I’d love to get a chance to help out the Minnesota Vikings.”
If Harvin cannot play, it is almost certain Wright will play. If Harvin can play, the Vikings may want to keep him active as insurance.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.