The Vikings are 10 days away from the beginning oftraining camp and for the next 10 days, we will look at the top story linesheading into camp.
Can Christian Ponder become more than agame manager?
The play of the third year quarterback is one of the biggest questions fora team that eyes another playoff appearance. Ponder was strong out of the gatein his first four games, then played less than stellar in the middle eightgames only to come on strong in his last four games.
In the biggest game of the year against Green Bay, Ponder was good enough toget his team the win and secure a playoff berth. He completed 16-of-28 passesfor 234 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That was the good, now for the bad.
Earlier in the year, in back-to-back divisional road games in Chicago and GreenBay, he combined for 278 yards, to touchdowns and three interceptions and aquarterback rating of 58.2 and 41.9 respectively. With Ponder under center, theVikings finished with a 3-5 record on the road. In those eight games, hefinished with seven touchdowns and six interceptions with a quarterback ratingof 71.51.
So who exactly is Christian Ponder the quarterback?
Consider that for the final seven games of the season, Ponder played withouthis top receiver. Percy Harvin caught 62 passes for 677 yards in the nine gameshe played and was the top target for the second year signal caller. With Harvintraded to Seattle, the Vikings brought in a couple of new targets for Ponder inveteran and former Packer Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.
Ponder enters his third season and second in the full time job. Typically,quarterbacks take a big step forward in their third year in the NFL. If thegame slows down for him, Ponder will easily eclipse the 18 touchdowns from aseason ago and will also bring down the 12 interceptions as well.
The team brought in veteran Matt Cassel and quickly slapped the back-up tag onhim. The move gives the team a competent veteran presence behind Ponder thatcan be used if there are injuries or inconsistencies.
Having the reigning league MVP in the backfield with him certainly helps takesome of the pressure off of him, but if the Vikings are going to make a run atthe Meadowlands in February, it will be the arm and decision making of thequarterback that gets them there.