What a difference a year can make. Last year at this time, Vikings QB Christian Ponder was preparing for his first NFL season away from Winter Park due to a lockout. Calling teammates he’d never met to organize workouts, working with coaches who wouldn’t be with him during the upcoming season and learning a playbook without the help of those who put it together.
A year later, the situation is much better. Ponder began preparations for his second NFL season by going through the Vikings nine-week offseason program and working closely with coaches and teammates.
By design, Ponder and the offense were a slow-go at first, struggling through OTA #1 with too many mistakes and not enough completions. But there was a quick bounce-back, and that’s key for a young QB looking to develop a long, successful career.
One moment that illustrated Ponder’s progression early in OTAs came during a 7-on-7 period. On the first play of the period, Ponder had a deep pass intercepted by CB Chris Cook. On the next play, Ponder dropped back and rifled a pass into the center of the field to hit WR Stephen Burton between two defenders. As Ponder jogged back to the huddle, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave barked “Way to bounce right back!” Later in the 7-on-7 drill, Ponder found Burton once more on a perfectly-placed intermediate pass among three defenders to the right side and he finished the drill by finding a speedy Jerome Simpson running a dig route.
Ponder’s ability to learn from mistakes and respond to adversity has everyone at Winter Park optimistic about his future.
“I think his decision making has gotten a lot better,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said last Thursday. “Just seemed where he was a little frantic early on in OTAs, getting the ball out a little too soon or not recognizing things as quickly as we would like for him to. Now, things have kind of slowed down a little bit for him. He’s able to identify things in pre-snap a lot better, which is something we were all hoping for.
“We think as we give him more reps and keep throwing more things at him, he should get a little bit better in that area but the decision making is a key ingredient to being successful at quarterback and that’s an area we want him to get better and we’ve some improvement in these OTAs.”
Ponder agreed with his coach’s assessment that the offense made great strides during OTAs and minicamp.
“Just to see from day one of the OTAs to the third day of minicamp, we’ve progressed so much,” Ponder said after the team’s final minicamp practice. “It’s unbelievable, especially on the offensive side of the ball. You can tell everyone’s so much more comfortable and confident in what they’re doing, even myself.”
In addition to making improvements on how he operates the offense, Ponder also commented that he’s beginning to develop a rhythm with those who will catch his passes this season.
“I think we’ve built a ton of chemistry, especially with Jerome [Simpson], obviously with him being new,” Ponder explained. “I thought what we did together was really great and also with Jarius [Wright] and Greg Childs, those new guys. I think we’ve all learned a lot and I think, for me, picking up blitzes and learning how to do that and recognizing things a lot better. I think the game’s really slowed down in just these ten OTAs and three days of minicamp.”
Tags: Christian Ponder, Leslie Frazier
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