ESPN Quarterback Josh Freeman will make his first start for the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night against the New York Giants, coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday. “Our anticipation is he will play well,” Frazier said. Frazier said he informed general manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings’ ownership of what he was planning to do, and they signed off on his decision. Christian Ponder will be the backup Monday, Frazier said. Matt Cassel had started the past two games at quarterback while Ponder was sidelined with a rib injury. The Vikings signed Freeman last week after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after several run-ins with the coaching staff over the past few months. The former first-round pick threw for 571 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, completing just 45.7 percent of his passes in three games with Tampa Bay earlier this season before he was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon by coach Greg Schiano and later released.
This move makes a ton of sense for the Minnesota Vikings (1-4) because Freeman getting the start at quarterback brings a whole new element to their offense, the deep ball. Freeman has a huge arm, and the Vikings have needed a quarterback who can throw the deep ball for a long time, the addition of Freeman gives them the opportunity to succeed downfield for the first time since Brett Favre retired. With Freeman under center, teams will no longer be able to stack the line against star running back Adrian Peterson, they will need to respect Freeman’s ability to throw it deep by keeping defenders back. This should open the offense up for Peterson, and wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson should be thrilled, as the Vikings finally have a quarterback who can deliver them the ball downfield. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel are both dink-and-dunk quarterbacks, who need to check down a lot, and whose targets are often tight ends and running backs. They take what the defense gives them and rarely take risks, which is a safe, but ultimately ineffective style of play. I suspect that Freeman’s willingness to take risks downfield and arm strength will really open up this Vikings offense.