Vikings defensive end Jared Allen knows his team took a big step last season in making the playoffs and he knows a return trip to the postseason likely depends on the play of Christian Ponder, Kevin Cusick of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports.
“I tell him all the time, you have to be THE guy.” Allen said of Minnesota’s quarterback Thursday, May 2, during an interview on Jim Rome’s CBS Radio show. “Adrian (Peterson) can carry this team so far; our defense can carry this team so far. … You know, you look at teams that historically win championships, and they have consistent play from the quarterback position.”
Ponder helped lead the Vikings to a 10-6 record and a wild-card berth last season, mostly by handing the ball off to Peterson, his 2,000-yard MVP teammate. But Ponder’s injured elbow made him a spectator as backup QB Joe Webb crashed and burned during the playoff loss in Green Bay.
“I thought the last four games of the year (Ponder) did a great job. I think where he really made strides was as a leader, being more of a vocal leader amongst the team,” Allen said. “He was consistent. We weren’t turning the ball over. He was making the smart plays.
“Watching him mature that way is a positive thing. And he’s a great dude.”
The Vikings have added two new targets for Ponder this season: free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings and first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee. Allen says the additional weapons make this a pivotal season for No. 7.
“You should kind of have things down in your third year,” Allen said. “We’ve got some good weapons for him. I hope he makes leaps and bounds, and has a phenomenal year, and we have a phenomenal year.”