As a rookie, Christian Ponder became the Vikings’ starting quarterback less because he was ready than because Donovan McNabb was lousy, and when Ponder was put on the field he struggled through growing pains. But Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson says this offseason, Ponder has experienced more growth than pain.
“I think there’s no question, he’s come light years,” Johnson said of Ponder in an interview with 1500 ESPN. “Obviously getting a chance to work out a lot of the kinks, a lot of the problems that you find out as a young player, that’s when you get a chance to work on them is usually in the first offseason afterwards. Having been through this with a couple of other quarterbacks, I kind of know how it goes. They go back [and say], ‘I can’t believe I did this,’ or, ‘Oh my God, this is so clear now.’ You kind of have to put them through the paces for them to understand what’s good and bad about each play. I think he’s really done a good job with that. . . . He’s making the mistakes like other guys do, but as he’s going through them he learns how to work through them and he’s making many fewer mistakes because the game is starting to slow down. That’s what you look for.”
Johnson said it was gratifying during the Vikings’ minicamp to see Ponder take things he had been taught in the film room and apply them on the practice field.
“There’s no question there were three or four sequences [in minicamp when] I saw him, he came back and threw the ball, exactly what we talked about, and it was right there. Right where we wanted the ball to be,” Johnson said.
With a 54.3 percent completion rate last season, the ball wasn’t right where the Vikings wanted it to be often enough when Ponder passed last season. But the Vikings sound confident that Ponder will be the quarterback they need him to be this year.