Week 1 vs. San Francisco: Att/Comp – 4/9 | Comp% – 44.4 | Yds – 80 | TD – 0 | INT – 0
Week 2 vs. Buffalo: Att/Comp – 10/13 | Comp% – 76.9 | Yds – 136 | TD – 1 | INT – 0
Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings first-team offense dealt with some struggles against a very formidable San Francisco defensive unit in its first week of preseason play. Ponder, the former Florida State Seminole, led a couple point scoring drives and was able to move the ball. Unfortunately, the No. 12 overall pick in last year’s draft was unable to finish drives with touchdowns, settling for a pair of field goals. The high-point of Christian Ponder’s effort against San Francisco was a 52-yard aerial connection with second-year wide receiver Stephen Burton. Although the pass was underthrown a hair and didn’t allow Burton the opportunity to catch-in-stride, it was a nice display of arm strength for Ponder, who’s had that aspect of his game questioned rather heavily by some. He looked poised and clearly has a very good grip of the offense, while staying in-control for the most part. Ponder’s pocket mobility remains ‘plus’. All in all, it wasn’t a bad performance, nor was it anything worth praising. For the first (exhibition) game of the year, you’re able to take away a few positives, as well as identify a few distinct areas to work on.
The second taste of preseason action for Christian Ponder came when his Vikings hosted the Buffalo Bills – a notably upgraded, but unproven defense to this point. Doing an excellent job moving the ball, he was able to finish in the redzone with a short touchdown pass on the goal line to fullback Jerome Felton. Completing an array of throws and not being overly flustered by occasional pressure from the Buffalo front, Ponder continued to look poised and composed, displaying an innate ability to feel pressure and keep his eyes down field. After being sacked twice (by Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams) on the opening drive, Ponder still managed to go 3/3 with 56 yards and a touchdown pass. The sophomore signal caller improved his ball placement on a number of passes against Buffalo in contrast to (preseason) week one vs. San Francisco. One of the quarterback’s new targets, wide receiver Jerome Simpson certainly took notice of the effort as well.
“Christian (Ponder) did an awesome job in there. He was so poised, and I’m so proud of him. He just took leaps and bounds this game,” said Simpson.
Early on, Ponder connected on a sharp 33-yard crossing route with Simpson, who once again put his leaping ability on display, hurdling Bills safety Jairus Byrd.
Perhaps the most notable statistic of all: the Vikings offense did not punt once while Ponder was in the game. While his preseason numbers indicate he could stand to finish drives a little better, his ability to consistently get points is highly encouraging.
Despite a frighteningly small sample size, and relatively meaningless, we evaluate quarterbacks on a weekly basis in the NFL, and the talented youngsters especially. Christian Ponder, thus far, has had moments of looking overwhelmed, and moments of brilliance. The difference in competition level certainly plays a part in the evaluation, but with another significant test coming up against the San Diego Chargers, there will be another opportunity to see what Ponder has truly improved on, and what may have been a product of circumstance.
This is what the preseason is for, in my view.
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