Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fixing Ponder--For Better or Worse

Having tied their fortunes to Christian Ponder in all-in fashion by virtue of anointing their 2011 first-round draft pick the uncontested starter at quarterback--come hell or high water--the Minnesota Vikings are now facing at least high water.  Absent an attempt to jolt Ponder to attention by at least pretending that his hold on the quarterback position is tenuous, the Vikings need to address Ponder's ills differently than they currently are doing.

At six feet tall and with a penchant for throwing off the back foot and sinking his shoulders when behind the line of scrimmage, Ponder plays more like a weak-armed 5'8" player.  To correct this, the Vikings could spend the rest of this season and innumerable additional seasons attempting to get Ponder to stand tall, square his shoulders, and step into his passes.

Or, the Vikings could work with the player that they drafted--the player who shows signs of good play when he rolls to the right and is not forced to be a pure pocket passer.  That decision is on the Vikings.

For Ponder to succeed, he must roll out of the pocket a significant percentage of the time--more than most NFL quarterbacks.  Rolling right allows Ponder to properly square up on his passes and to use the squaring up process to get sling on his passes.  That means some zip on downfield passes rather than the usual eephus toss that Ponder exhibits as a back-foot passing pocket passer.

Having to anticipate the rollout also requires opposing defenses to reconsider blitzes and forces defenses to keep a spy on Ponder.  That takes pressure off of the offensive line and allows the Vikings to work more with Ponder on his pocket passing in a lower pressure environment.

Ponder likely would have longer NFL shelf life as a pocket passer.  That, along with a desire to maintain the freshness of the offensive line, is undoubtedly one of the primary reasons that the Vikings prefer Ponder as a pocket passer.  But that's not what he is--certainly not now.  And continuing to pound the square peg in the undersized round hole will prove increasingly counter-productive.

Up Next:  Receivers, Quarterback, or Coaching?  Plus, a funny thing happened on the way to assessing Joe Webb.

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