Monthly Archives: August 2012

Reviewing QB Christian Ponder’s preseason thus far

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Stats

Week 1 vs. San Francisco: Att/Comp – 4/9 | Comp%  – 44.4 | Yds – 80 | TD – 0 | INT – 0

Week 2 vs. Buffalo: Att/Comp – 10/13 | Comp%  – 76.9 | Yds – 136 | TD – 1 | INT – 0

 

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Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings first-team offense dealt with some struggles against a very formidable San Francisco defensive unit in its first week of preseason play. Ponder, the former Florida State Seminole, led a couple point scoring drives and was able to move the ball. Unfortunately, the No. 12 overall pick in last year’s draft was unable to finish drives with touchdowns, settling for a pair of field goals. The high-point of Christian Ponder’s effort against San Francisco was a 52-yard aerial connection with second-year wide receiver Stephen Burton. Although the pass was underthrown a hair and didn’t allow Burton the opportunity to catch-in-stride, it was a nice display of arm strength for Ponder, who’s had that aspect of his game questioned rather heavily by some. He looked poised and clearly has a very good grip of the offense, while staying in-control for the most part. Ponder’s pocket mobility remains ‘plus’. All in all, it wasn’t a bad performance, nor was it anything worth praising. For the first (exhibition) game of the year, you’re able to take away a few positives, as well as identify a few distinct areas to work on.

The second taste of preseason action for Christian Ponder came when his Vikings hosted the Buffalo Bills – a notably upgraded, but unproven defense to this point. Doing an excellent job moving the ball, he was able to finish in the redzone with a short touchdown pass on the goal line to fullback Jerome Felton. Completing an array of throws and not being overly flustered by occasional pressure from the Buffalo front, Ponder continued to look poised and composed, displaying an innate ability to feel pressure and keep his eyes down field. After being sacked twice (by Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams) on the opening drive, Ponder still managed to go 3/3 with 56 yards and a touchdown pass. The sophomore signal caller improved his ball placement on a number of passes against Buffalo in contrast to (preseason) week one vs. San Francisco. One of the quarterback’s new targets, wide receiver Jerome Simpson certainly took notice of the effort as well.

“Christian (Ponder) did an awesome job in there. He was so poised, and I’m so proud of him. He just took leaps and bounds this game,” said Simpson.

Early on, Ponder connected on a sharp 33-yard crossing route with Simpson, who once again put his leaping ability on display, hurdling Bills safety Jairus Byrd.

Perhaps the most notable statistic of all: the Vikings offense did not punt once while Ponder was in the game. While his preseason numbers indicate he could stand to finish drives a little better, his ability to consistently get points is highly encouraging.

Despite a frighteningly small sample size, and relatively meaningless, we evaluate quarterbacks on a weekly basis in the NFL, and the talented youngsters especially. Christian Ponder, thus far, has had moments of looking overwhelmed, and moments of brilliance. The difference in competition level certainly plays a part in the evaluation, but with another significant test coming up against the San Diego Chargers, there will be another opportunity to see what Ponder has truly improved on, and what may have been a product of circumstance.

This is what the preseason is for, in my view.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

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2013 NFL Draft Spotlight: OT Chris Faulk, LSU

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Age: 22
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 323 lbs.
College: Louisiana State
Class: Rs-Junior

 

 

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Positives:

-Keeps elbows compact and within his frame.

-Seals well; displaying the ability to box out defenders with his big frame, creating running lanes.

-Able to get good leverage in run blocking by keeping a low pad level.

-Keeps his feet moving through blocks in the run game.

-Does a good job directing rushers outside, using their own momentum against them.

-Gets off the ball quickly at the snap in run blocking.

-Generates a good push off the snap in short-yardage/goal line situations.

-Decent cut-blocker; hides the block from defenders well before performing it.

-Naturally powerful individual with great size and and overall mass.

-Will leave school with lots of experience: 25 appearances, 15 starts going into his Junior season.

 

 

Negatives/Questions:

-Has a tendency to roll hips his into defenders, not generating much of a pop at the point of attack; minimizes his ‘football strength’.

-Lacks ideal mirroring abilities because of only average lateral movement skills; this inability doesn’t allow him to stick to blocks very well.

-He will struggle to beat many speed rushers to the edge in the NFL when left on an island.

-More of a waist bender, lacking the ideal flexibility and knee bend as a pass protector.

-Gets a little upright in pass pro occasionally and is susceptible to being jolted off balance.

-Average at best in getting off the ball in pass pro. Not one of the first lineman to pop up out of his stance and prepare for contact.

-Has power in his hands, but a strong punch is not evident.

-Doesn’t typically extend his arms into a defender; rushers are able to get within his frame and stack + shed much easier because of it.

-Base strength is evident, but it’s negated by his inability to play with flexibility and bend.

-Motor/drive? When he finishes an assignment or falls down, his play is usually over.

 

 

Final Thoughts:

Although Faulk is a very good run blocker but displays obvious deficiencies out of a top tier blind side protector. His pass blocking improvement from the left tackle position this season will be evaluated heavily, but for the time being he has the look of a right tackle with the skill set to play inside at guard as well. Only a Junior, Faulk enters his fourth year on campus after redshirting his true freshman season in 2009. It is by no means out of the realm of possibility that he declares eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, should he put together another good season. Quite clearly not a zone-blocking type player, he is rather a prototypical power blocker, whose ‘plus’ run blocking ability will be best utilized in a man-to-man scheme at the next level. Managing 73.5 knockdowns in 2011, good for third-best on the LSU offensive line, Faulk exhibits an obvious knack for run blocking. He is a physical player who also has the ability to work well in tight areas. Certainly the book on Chris Faulk has not been completed yet, as the 2012 season will be telling.

2013 NFL Draft Spotlight: RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin

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Age: 21
Height: 5’11″
Weight: 215 lbs.
College: Wisconsin
Class: Senior

 

Stats

2011 – ATT: 307 | YDS: 1,923 | AVG: 6.3 | TD: 33 | REC: 24 | YDS REC: 306 | REC TD: 6

2010 – ATT: 163 | YDS: 996 | AVG: 6.1| TD: 18 | REC: 16 | YDS REC: 128 | REC TD: 0

2009 – ATT: 98 | YDS: 391 | AVG: 4.0 | TD: 4 | REC: 9 | YDS REC: 92 | REC TD: 0

 

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Positives:

-Exhibits good patience, allowing holes to open + his blockers to set up running lanes

-Great vision, often able to see holes before they truly develop. Recognizes cutback lanes, as well.

-Hits holes with quickness and decent force, converting a good portion of his runs.

-Displays true elusiveness; often making the first defender miss.

-Highly creative with a deep repertoire of moves to break tackles; really slippery as well.

-Lowers pad level at the point of attack, routinely punishing defenders attempting to tackle him when he is able to gain momentum. Arm tackles do not bring him down.

-Stays agile in tight areas; good wiggle to him.

-Very good laterally; movement skills are smooth.

-Runs with fluidity and balance; properly keeps knees bent. Typically stays on course after taking a lick.

-Quick and active feet; rarely idles.

-Instinctual runner who ‘feels’ surrounding defenders.

-When a play breaks down he does a good job identifying when there is no crease; getting back to the line of scrimmage, losing few yards.

-Does a nice job protecting the ball through contact. Sometimes putting two hands on the rock when multiple defenders are bearing down.

-Shows a willingness to block; primarily engaging defenders with good blocking posture and knows his assignment.

-Capable of being more than a checkdown receiver. Makes quick cuts and gets up field when running routes; displaying decent hands, even when in traffic.

-Typically does a nice job of keeping eyes on the ball when making routine catches on checkdowns and swing plays, thus avoiding dropping easy passes. Doesn’t often begin looking upfield before securing the ball.

-Not necessarily a mismatch as a receiver, but lined up in the slot periodically in 2010 and exhibited the ability to run basic routes and make catches with a defender in his back pocket.

-Product of a primarily pro-style offense.

-Highly productive and durable: good Soph. numbers while playing in trio rotation + great Jr. numbers as the feature runner. Has not missed significant time.

-Strong frame with girth and muscle.

 

 

Negatives/Questions:

-Lacks a true second gear or elite level straight line speed.

-Sometimes too patient in goal line/short-yardage situations; doesn’t always attack holes in 3rd and short.

-Can get a little upright prior to engaging at the point of attack, causing backside/unseen tacklers to get a clean shot on him.

-Accelerates to top speed relatively quickly, but he does not possess high level stop and go explosion.

-After 300+ carries as the feature in his Jr. year + a full workload as the feature yet again as a Sr., mileage could be a concern.

-Albeit very minor, he was arrested in May 2012 for trespassing after refusing to leave the porch of an apartment during an annual block party.

 

 

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I was really excited and intrigued while dissecting the footage on Wisconsin runner Montee Ball. He is a complete running back with ideal vision, instincts, and between the tackle running ability. Ball’s ability to stay agile and slippery in a phone booth (tight areas) will allow him to succeed rather early in his NFL career. His willingness as a blocker and above-average running + receiving skills indicate a clear cut three-down running back projection. While he isn’t a naturally gifted athlete with violent running ability like Trent Richardson this past season, Montee Ball is everything you look for in a modern NFL rusher. That being – decisive, patient, versatile, and complete at his position. Although mileage and playing behind a near NFL-caliber offensive line are two question marks that simply won’t be answered in the pre-draft, Ball does not have many flaws as a prospect. Despite lacking the 4.3, 4.4 speed most salivate over when evaluating the position, he accelerates to his (likely) 4.5 range rather quickly. I have no qualms with tentatively slapping a 1st round grade on the player, provided he recovers from his recent assault, and can continue to flash this upcoming season, as expected. There truly may not be a running back in college football — eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft — who is as productive, pro-ready, or safer than Montee Ball.

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