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Saturday, August 17, 2013
Vikings: Christian Ponder and the shotgun

By Kevin Seifert

If you've been able to look past the Minnesota Vikings' uneven preseason results in the passing game, you've probably noticed another -- and perhaps more significant -- common thread. About 77 percent of quarterback Christian Ponder's passes have come from the shotgun formation, a significantly higher ratio than the 2012 regular season.

Ponder
Ponder
It's fair to wonder if that uptick is simply an extra focus on the passing game with tailback Adrian Peterson on the sideline, or whether it reflects a philosophical change from offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Ponder and Frazier indicated the latter in comments to reporters after Friday night's preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills, but I suppose we will have to see on that.

"With some of the success he had for us last season," said Frazier, via Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "a lot of it happened when he was in the 'gun.' We want to play to his strong suits, and that's one of them: putting him in the gun, where he'll be able to see things."

According to Goessling, 20 of Ponder's 26 preseason snaps have come on plays that originated in the shotgun. Last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, 319 of Ponder's 555 dropbacks came out the shotgun (57.5 percent).

From what I can tell, Ponder's efficiency and production weren't noticeably better in those shotgun plays. His completion percentage was the same (62 percent) and about half of his touchdown passes (10 of 18) and sacks (16 of 32) came from the shotgun, but he also threw nine of his 12 interceptions on those plays.

The Vikings will have to be careful here. They'll need to line up under center for most of Peterson's runs, of which there will be plenty this season, but they can't let the shotgun be an obvious passing "tell" to the defense.

In the end, however, as the Vikings look for ways to level off Ponder's play and elevate their passing game, more shotgun is surely worth a look.