Yes, Adrian Peterson must see more touches, but it is Christian Ponder who needs to seriously embrace the run. Over his two and a half years in the NFL, Ponder has shown impressive athleticism from a pocket passing quarterback, but what many people missed is that he ran a very similar 40-yard dash time at the combine as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
While Newton was .07 seconds faster than Ponder, both have proven the ability to run in the NFL, and it’s now time for Ponder to adjust his game to suit his strengths.
Not only should the former 12th overall pick look to tuck and run more often, but he should be involved in more designed rollouts that utilize his strength of throwing on the run. Last weekend alone against the Seattle Seahawks, Ponder’s accuracy on the run was impressive, and had his lone touchdown, a 38-yard pass to Jarius Wright, come off a designed play-action rollout.
The coaching staff has to first realize the threat Ponder poses when on the run, and then exploit it by calling more play action and possibly some zone-read plays as well.
While running a read-option offense sounds insane for the Vikings to do with Ponder, they actually ran a play last Sunday with Toby Gerhart that looked an awful lot like a zone-read in that Ponder had his eyes downfield and faked a run after the handoff. Obviously, this wouldn’t be something that the Vikings run on every drive throughout the entire game, but they could fool teams by simply featuring it once or twice a quarter as the majority of defensive players would likely commit early to stopping Peterson, leaving a whole side of the field open for Ponder to run.
There was also a play early in the game last Sunday in which Ponder was on the run, directing a receiver and clearly thinking about throwing the ball, but instead tucked it and settled for a one-yard loss. This is the type of decision-making Ponder rarely shows while standing in the pocket, so by putting him on the run more often, not only does he become a threat to run, but he also may become a better decision maker.
While I am all for the Vikings completely starting over at the quarterback position this offseason, I have always thought Ponder was an extremely underrated runner, and given he’s averaged 5.3 yards per carry over his career, it’s time the coaching staff maximizes his potential by playing to his strengths for the remainder of the 2013 season.