Redskins

Vikings GM has '100 percent belief' in QB Ponder

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Vikings GM has '100 percent belief' in QB Ponder

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Christian Ponder's up-and-down performance in his first full season as the Vikings starting quarterback has draped plenty of criticism on his shoulders from the team's demanding fans.

It hasn't done a thing to shake the organization's confidence that Ponder will lead the Vikings back to relevance in the NFC North.

``I know everybody in this organization believes Christian Ponder is our guy,'' Vikings GM Rick Spielman said on Wednesday. ``And I have full, 100 percent belief that Christian Ponder's going to be our quarterback heading into the future.''

That's an emphatic vote of confidence for the 2011 first-round draft choice who at times appeared to be a rising star with complete command of the offense and pin-point accuracy. Other times, Ponder looked like an overwhelmed youngster with happy feet and a propensity for making risky throws.

Ponder was among the league leaders in completion percentage, with six touchdowns and two interceptions, to help the Vikings to a surprising 4-1 start. But they lost three of the next four games, and he threw six interceptions and twice failed to top 65 yards passing in that span. It culminated with star receiver Percy Harvin venting his frustration on the sideline in a loss to Seattle in which Ponder threw for just 63 yards.

He rebounded last week, completing 24 of 32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Detroit that got Minnesota to 6-4 heading into the bye week.

The peaks and valleys may be difficult for the breathless fan to handle, but it's exactly what Spielman expected when he drafted Ponder last year. Spielman said he wrote down a series of statistics at the beginning of the season that he felt Ponder would produce this year, based upon the second year of several elite quarterbacks. While not getting specific, he intimated that Ponder is right on that track.

``Just look at guys in their second year,'' said Spielman, who has previously mentioned the developmental paths taken by Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. ``And where he is right now to where he was last year and just look at some of the quarterbacks I have mentioned. And what their progress was. And they're almost identical wherein that realm where they all ended up.''

Of course, just because other players have followed that trajectory does not guarantee Ponder will do the same. He still has been reluctant to step up in the pocket and deliver strong throws into tight windows, and has a tendency to let poor footwork lead to gasp-inducing throws across his body.

But Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier remain confident Ponder is right on schedule in the three-year plan they have for his development. And heading into the bye after a very good game against Detroit certainly helped matters.

``It just raises everybody else's confidence level,'' Frazier said. ``He took control of our offense, moved the ball around, got everybody involved and did a great job of leading us throughout the day. So his pocket presence and the decisions that he made with the football. He did a great job all day decision-making wise.''

And even though the Vikings are very much in the playoff hunt, Spielman said the team is looking at Ponder's full body of work to evaluate his performance and ability to be a building block going forward.

``They're going to get evaluated from the outside and from the media on their performance that week,'' Spielman said. ``But you have to be, from an internal standpoint, looking at the whole picture and looking at a length of time.''

Spielman also lauded Frazier for his work with the fourth-youngest roster in the NFL. The Vikings are coming off back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North and won just three games last season. Most expected 2012 to be another rough rebuilding year, but so far the team is much more competitive.

``Leslie's been doing an outstanding job,'' he said. ``Knowing the situation that we were going to have a lot of new faces on this roster, and I think the coaching staff has done an outstanding job.

``We can bring in guys that are talented, but it's our coaches who should get the credit for developing these guys. And our coaches should get the credit for playing these guys and letting them grow into the positions as they grow.''

Frazier has one more year left on his contract, but Spielman declined to discuss an extension. He did the same with Harvin, the do-it-all threat who was garnering some MVP consideration before spraining his left ankle. Harvin has one year left on his rookie contract and the Vikings have a history of extending their core players before the final year begins.

``We will keep all that in-house,'' Spielman said. ``I don't want to say anything about where we're at with any of our players right now. Right now, the whole focus is for coming back out of the bye.''

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Need to Know: Redskins stock watch—Three up, three down

Need to Know: Redskins stock watch—Three up, three down

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 22, 34 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins stock watch: Three up, three down

For some Redskins players, the outlook looks much brighter now than it did when last season ended. Others have seen their stocks decline. Here is a look at three players in each category.

Stock up

CB Quinton Dunbar—His rise started the day after the season ended when he signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract. It continued when the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland opened up more opportunity at his position. Then the only additions at corner were veteran Orlando Scandrick and seventh-round pick Greg Stroman. Dunbar has a clear path to a starting job, perhaps for the next few years. 

G Shawn Lauvao—At the end of the season, he was coming off of injured reserve. It was the second time in his four seasons in Washington that he finished the season on the sideline. He turned 30 last year and as the prime weeks of free agency passed he didn’t get much attention. His fortunes started to turn when the team didn’t sign or draft a guard. Then on May 4 when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Washington. Shortly after that Arie Kouandjio, his primary competition at left guard, was lost for the season with a quad injury. While there is no guarantee that the Redskins won’t look at other options at left guard, for right now it’s Lauvao’s job to lose. 

S Montae Nicholson—It was hard to make much out of his rookie 2017 season as he spent half of it on the sideline with injuries. But early in the offseason, Jay Gruden said that Nicholson was as important to the defense as Jordan Reed is to the offense. Given that Reed has made one Pro Bowl on his resume and could get more if he stays healthy and that his presence on the field tends to lift his teammates, that’s high praise. It means that Nicholson is at the top of the depth chart in Sharpie. He still needs to stay healthy but he is not a player who is at risk of losing his job due to an injury. 

Stock down

RB Rob Kelley—This one of pretty obvious. He finished the year on injured reserve and a couple of the running backs signed as injury replacements, Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall, looked pretty good. Then came the draft and Derrius Guice as the second-round pick. Right now, he looks like the No. 4 back and he will have to fight hard to keep a roster spot. 

DL Ziggy Hood—Most expected the Redskins to draft a nose tackle early and that’s what happened when they took Daron Payne in the first round. That didn’t hurt Hood’s stock much. But they followed up by taking Tim Settle later in the draft and that made the depth chart very crowded. Hood is the seventh D-lineman and they usually only keep six. Even if he makes it he could spend a lot of time on the game-day inactive list. 

S Deshazor Everett—Nobody expected the Redskins to draft a safety, but they found the speed and athleticism of Troy Apke too attractive to turn down in the fourth round of the draft. The rookie needs some work on his game, so it appears that Everett, who started eight games last year, will be the first safety off of the bench early in the season. But it’s likely that they will want to get Apke in games as soon as he’s ready and that could leave Everett on the bench. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey was born on this date in 1978. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 34
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 48
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 71

The Redskins last played a game 173 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 79 days. 

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!