Monday, May 30, 2016

christian ponder

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Training camp is only ten short days away, and there is no question all eyes will be on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. As we all know, Ponder had the very definition of an “up and down” season in 2012. He started off great during the team’s first five games, recording no interceptions and leading the charge in a huge week 3 upset over San Francisco, a game in which he completed 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, and scored on an incredible 23 yard rushing touchdown.

Luck seemed to distance itself from Ponder after week five where, over a ten game span, Ponder failed to reach 200 passing yards seven times, and even failed to reach 100 passing yards three times. The Vikings as a team hit a slump as well because of this after starting off 4-1 in their first five games, ending up 6-6 after twelve games. We all know how the story goes from there, winning the next four games in a row and making the playoffs, and although Adrian Peterson was the main reason for that success, Ponder’s play over those last four games speaks, as well. He threw 4 touchdowns against just 1 interception over the last four games, and had the best game of his career in week 17 at home against the Packers, throwing for 234 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Ponder finished the season with 2,935 yards, 18 passing touchdowns (2 rushing), 12 interceptions, a completion percentage of 62.1%, and a quarterback rating of 81.2.

Although it was not a great season for Ponder, improvement was made in almost every category. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in each of his first two seasons, and with a great offensive line, a new and extremely talented group of receivers, and blossoming Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph, I don’t see how Ponder can’t succeed this year. Will he continue making mistakes? I’m sure we’ll still see some boneheaded passes here and there, but talent surrounding him should give him confidence and allow him to have a legitimate chance at displaying his full potential.

I think Ponder will finish the season with 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and 3,581 yards (3 rushing touchdowns).

This will be a make or break year for Christian Ponder, and he knows it. He’s a smart guy.

The Vikings entered the 2012 regular season with three quarterbacks who had less than a season’s worth of combined starting experience.  While that lack of experience showed up throughout the season, particularly when Christian Ponder needed to be replaced during their playoff game in Green Bay, their playoff appearance indicated that the struggles on offense were not nearly as many and devastating as most of us thought they would be.

Christian Ponder played all 16 games of his second season in the NFL and boasted a 10-6 record when all was said and done, which was good enough for second place in the NFC North, and a playoff berth.  Vikings fans eagerly awaited Ponder’s first full season as the team’s starter and couldn’t wait to see him take a huge leap forward in his progression.  While Ponder did improve from 2011 to 2012 in almost every possible statistic, the leap seemed more accurately described as a baby step, and even the most optimistic of Vikings struggled to identify a game in which he took over and dominated in a way that provided much hope that he is a true franchise quarterback.

His best game was his last, the season finale against Green Bay, where he came out of the contest with a career best quarterback rating of 120.2, after throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns.  Even while posting those numbers, however, Ponder still managed to be overshadowed by the record-chasing Adrian Peterson and led some to wonder why he wasn’t able to take advantage of that elite ground game earlier and more often.

Ponder attempted 483 passes in 2012, completing 62.1% of them.  He converted for 2,935 yards and 18 touchdowns while suffering 12 interceptions and taking 32 sacks.  The season ended with him having an 81.2 quarterback rating.

While other teams are dealing with murder scandals and bare-assed quarterbacks, Leslie Frazier’s Vikings are keeping things pretty quiet these days, which is every bit as important as it is boring.  Still, despite being in witching hour of the NFL offseason, there are some interesting notes from around the web to bring to your attention:

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Brian Robison didn’t have a bad year in 2012 by any means, but he is looking forward to getting healthy and contributing even more during his contract year.  His shoulder injury did not require surgery, but he says it did bother him particularly during the playoff game in Green Bay, and he is a permanent reminder of the injury in the form of a quarter-sized bump on his shoulder.

“I’ve still got a little deformity there with the bone popping up. It’s still there and it’s going to be there,” Robison told Viking Update.  “They say it’s pretty permanent. It’s been good. I’ve been getting strong in the weight room and been feeling good on the field so far, so it’s been going well.”

“Pretty well” might be a bit of an understatement for Robison after Wednesday’s practice session where he intercepted quarterback Christian Ponder not once, but twice.  On one occasion, rookie corner Xavier Rhodes tipped the pass back towards the line and Robison was able to make the heads up play.  On the other, he was simply able to get into the air and snatch Ponder’s pass before walking into the endzone.  While that isn’t exactly the news we want to be hearing about our quarterback, it is always good to hear that our defensive line is making some splash plays at the line.

Robison ended up with an arm harness last season and a brace for his elbow, which was a separate injury which he admits also impacted his game.

“A lot. It really did. There was some times out there where that, paired along with the elbow brace that I was wearing, I felt like a lot of times I was playing with no arms out there and it was kind of a weird deal,” he said .  “You can really see in the playoff game when I came back and then six days later we had to play another game, it was one of those deals where it just wasn’t ready to go, but the competitor in me didn’t want to sit out.”

Robison has never reached double digit sacks, with 8.5 last season being his career high, but he is a burst type of player that seldom seems to be a goat and has made his share of big plays from the left end position.  Like Jared Allen, Robison faces a contract year in 2013, and he will be expected to take a step or two towards improving even more.

 

When discussing the possible reasons for Percy Harvin’s departure from Minnesota this offseason there is a grab bag full of options to choose from.  One speculative reason that kept coming up, and was fueled in part by Harvin’s unwillingness to deny it, was that he had no faith in Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder to take the Vikings to the next level.

This week, however, Harvin was asked directly about Ponder on Jim Rome’s radio show and he made sure to say all of the right things.

“That was false,” Harvin said of the speculation. “Me and Christian had a great time together. I respect him a whole heck of a lot.”

“I never had a problem with (Ponder),” he continued.  “I’ve never stated I had a problem with him. I’ve never seen a problem he has had with me. He has never said he’s had a problem with me.  (Ponder and Harvin were) on the same page, it’s just a lot of articles that tried to pick up on things that weren’t there.”

Harvin may have never publicly slammed Ponder, but he had many opportunities to endorse his quarterback since the end of the 2012 season, and never did.  There was also the March 11th article from Yahoo! Sports reporter Jason Cole that said Harvin had “bemoaned” that his quarterback was “not good enough.”  In the nearly three months since that article was posted, Harvin did not deny that those feelings existed, either.

In the end, Vikings fans are moving on from Harvin and are excited about the team’s three first round picks, and they have little choice than to go into 2013 hoping Ponder can up his game in a meaningful way.  Other than some added drama to Minnesota’s November 17th trip to seattle, Harvin’s thoughts on the matter are now irrelevant.

 

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