How Will the Green Bay Packers Handle Christian Ponder?

By Ryan Cook

The NFL has seen a busy day on the trade market, but for the Green Bay Packers, the only news worth listening to has surrounded this Sunday’s opponents, the Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb looked amateurish last weekend against the Chicago Bears, so much so that head coach Leslie Frazier had no other choice but to bench his former starter and promote rookie Christian Ponder.

The move always looked to be on the cards ever since the Vikings kicked their season off 0-4 behind McNabb’s 39-yard performance at San Diego in Week 1, but for Frazier to throw his rookie quarterback in the thick of things this early came as a surprise to everyone.

Last week against the Bears, Ponder started the fourth quarter following McNabb’s cold performance in a 39-10 blowout at Soldier Field. Ponder went 9 for 17 in completions, but his mobility out of the pocket brought forward some change for the Vikings quarterback position that has been beside the point ever since Brett Favre retired.

What the Packers can expect is simple. Most Vikings fans are questioning why Frazier would go willy-nilly and place his rookie against the defending champs, but Green Bay’s pass defense currently ranks 31st in the league, so he’s probably got a good reason.

The Packers will also need to watch out for Ponder on the run. If anything, he enjoys breaking away from the pocket and hitting receivers on the move, but cracking Dom Capers’ coverage will be a task on its own. In recent week Green Bay have also been a little suspect when defending wide receivers down the sidelines, and with Sam Shields likely out, replacement Jarrett Bush will likely have a target painted on his back.

Perhaps Vikings fans would like to think that if Ponder started the season, they may be a lot better off in the NFC North. Really, that thought is irrelevant though, especially with Adrian Peterson receiving just 12 carries last week.

If one thing is certain, the Vikings offensive line needs to protect Ponder on all costs. Second year player Sam Bradford was ruffled last week under center against the Packers, and is now spending time in a walking boot with a high ankle sprain.

Pocket pressure hasn’t been a weakness of Ponder’s, however. If you have a photographic memory, in college against North Carolina and Georgia Tech, Ponder welcomed pressure from all fronts in 2010 and stepped up in the pocket to deliver bullets.

The Packers probably won’t allow such freedom on Sunday with Clay Matthews circa 2010 returning, but the Vikings can expect to have a bit more of a spark under center – because rookies seem to have that effect.

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