Christian Ponder started out the 2012 NFL season on a tear, and for awhile he was one of the most productive and efficient quarterbacks in the league. Then something changed; maybe it was the injury to Percy Harvin, or maybe teams just figured out what Ponder was doing, but the second-year quarterback began to struggle and finished the season with a below average 81.2 passer rating.
Ponder improved dramatically in some areas in his second pro season, but now entering his third year in the league and second full year starting it is time for him to show he is the quarterback of the future for the Minnesota Vikings. The run game clearly was the most effective part of the offense last season with Adrian Peterson going for just over 2,000 yards on the ground, but in a pass first league the quarterback needs to have a greater impact in each game than Ponder did last year.
Ponder’s preseason was about as up-and-down as his regular season was last year. He struggled at times to make the right decision of not throwing the ball as he ended with two interceptions in just 37 pass attempts. In the third and most important game Ponder seemed to hit his stride, however, as he completed almost 74 percent of his passes for 116 yards. Ponder was throwing shorter passes than usual in that game, but that is exactly what he was doing at the start of last year.
Bill Musgrave, the offensive coordinator for the Vikings, is known for his unimaginative and conservative offensive style. Through four preseason games it didn’t appear the Vikings’ offense has changed much from last year which indicates Ponder will likely be effective completing short passes early this season.
Obviously it would be nice if Ponder could be taken seriously when throwing the deep ball, but at the beginning of the year it is important for him to feel comfortable which is exactly what I expect Musgrave to do in this first game. He will give Ponder easy throws to make along with letting Peterson run wild and bowl over defenders. The pressure on Ponder in this first game is more than that on any other player, but that means fans will get a good indication if he will be able to lead the Vikings back to the playoffs by how composed and effective he is in this first game against the Detroit Lions.