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Vikings Insider: Patience In Youth Pays Off

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In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick, a move considered a reach by most national pundits.

A preseason trade for Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb allowed Ponder to progress slowly, as he did not appear in the regular season until Week 6, before taking over starting duties for the remainder of the season

In his next 10 starts, Ponder averaged only 175 yards-per-game, throwing for 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and weathering 30 sacks.  The team struggled behind the rookie signal caller, finishing 1-8 in games that he finished.

Despite the growing pains, head coach Leslie Frazier stood behind his rookie quarterback.

"Patience is critical," he told the media earlier this week.  "Just trying to find things that he's comfortable with that we also thought could help us to be successful.

"We also knew that there would be some growing pains and that it was going to take a little time and a little patience on our part."

Without an lockout this past offseason, Ponder was able to work closely with the coaching staff and engross himself in the playbook.  Through five games this season, Ponder has more than 1,000 passing yards with a 6:2 touchdown-interception ratio and only nine sacks.

The Vikings are off to a 4-1 start, sitting in first place in the NFC North.

"We felt like as he saw more things and went through some of the ups and downs of being a rookie quarterback, we'd be better for it – and we are," Frazier said. "The hard work that Christian put in this offseason, to see what areas he didn't perform as well in and what he had to do to improve.

"[We] need him to play. The fact that he is a smart football player and a very good football player, he's gotten that information, he's done with it what we needed him to do."

The Redskins have experienced elite play from their own rookie this season, as Robert Griffin III has risen directly from the college ranks to the NFL spotlight. 

While the Redskins sit in the top-10 of most meaningful offensive categories, Griffin III is still learning to avoid hits like the one that ended his day last week against the Falcons.

"It is a learning lesson," Griffin III said earlier this week.  "I have to make sure I keep myself safe while still being the same player that I am.

"Keep myself safe so that my family and the fans and my teammates aren't let down."

Even though Griffin III's status is unclear for Sunday, Frazier said the defense is preparing for his lethal playmaking ability at the helm of the Redskins' offense.

"They introduce the option, where we haven't had to prepare for option football at all this season," Frazier said.  "We're watching film of a quarterback that creates problems not only throwing the ball, but also gets on the perimeter of the defense and can pitch the ball or keep it for big plays. 

"It forces you as a defense to be very disciplined and tackle well."

Frazier said that Vikings defense is gambling on No. 10 being under center when the two teams take the field on Sunday.

"We expect him to start, and that's what we want them to watch tape on and prepare for him to start," Frazier said.  "He's a multi-threat quarterback, RG3, and they create problems for defenses."

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