No quarterback who started 16 games last year attempted fewer passes of 20 yards or more through the air than Christian Ponder. By comparison, Ponder’s 36 such attempts were 11 less than Jake Locker, who only started 11 games and was just terrible.
One of the key questions the Minnesota Vikings will have to answer next year is whether they trust Ponder to stretch the defense. Adrian Peterson is great and all, but you’re not going deep in the postseason without a quarterback you can trust in this day and age.
“I’m getting back to how I was throwing the ball my junior year in college and getting that rotator cuff back where it’s supposed to be,” Ponder told USA TODAY Sports at the Vikings’ training camp. Ponder missed the Vikings’ wild-card loss last season after hurting his rotator cuff Week 17. “I feel like I’m throwing the ball well.”
The Vikings attempted to provide Ponder the weapons needed to stretch the defense, taking speedster Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round. Greg Jennings may or may to still be capable of that. Added Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier: “We know that Cordarrelle can run by you. We know that Jerome (Simpson) can run by you. We have some deep threats. Now, it’s a matter of our being able to connect on some of those.”
Minnesota brought in Matt Cassel to loom over Ponder’s shoulder in case he undergoes putrid stretches like the ones last year — one midseason swoon even saw 58- and 63-yard passing games over a three-game stretch. It seems if Ponder is to go down in 2013, it won’t be without firing deep.