Vikings QB Christian Ponder is by all accounts a reasonable guy. He doesn’t point fingers at coaches or teammates, he is cordial to the media and he is friendly to the fans. But this past offseason, Ponder set a goal for himself that many thought was unreasonable – completing 75% of his passes on 1st and 2nd down this season.
“We want 75 percent completions on first and second downs,” Ponder said. “That’s the number we’re shooting for. Obviously, we were in a lot of third-and-long situations a year ago, and we want to get out of that.”
Being efficient and 1st and 2nd down to avoid 3rd-and-long situations is certainly reasonable. The unreasonable part, for many, comes at the suggestion of a 75% completion rate on 1st and 2nd down. Consider, Drew Brees set an NFL record for overall completion percentage at 71.2% last year, and he was 73.1% on 1st down and 70.4% on 2nd down. So if the guy who set an NFL record for overall completion percent wasn’t able to attain the goal, is it realistic for Ponder to do it in his first full year as a starter? Some may say no, but what’s the point of setting a goal if that goal isn’t ambitious?
It’s only one week, so it’s wise to temper the enthusiasm somewhat. But Ponder attained his goal in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On 1st and 2nd down, Ponder was 17 of 20 (85%) for 218 yards. The numbers break down to 6 of 8 for 63 yards in the 1st half and 11 of 12 for 155 yards in the 2nd half. Ponder was sacked twice (both in the 2nd half), fumbled once, and hit 6 different receivers on his 1st and 2nd down passes (Aromashodu, Asiata, Harvin, Jenkins, Peterson, Rudolph). The Vikings average yards-to-go on 3rd down was 6.4.
The Vikings were not able to convert efficiently on 3rd downs against the Jaguars – they were just 2 of 10 – but the good news is that it wasn’t because of inefficiency in the passing game on 1st and 2nd down. The next step in this process is to continue the success on 1st and 2nd down passing, and to follow that up with better execution on 3rd downs.
Tags: Christian Ponder
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 22 Comments »