The Minnesota Vikings report to training camp next week, so I figured what better way to prepare for the 2012 season than to look at who will be competiting for a roster spot. First up, the most important position on offense: quarterbacks.
Without improvement from Christian Ponder at QB, the Vikings will remain in the cellar of the NFC North. In case of an injury to Ponder, Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels and/or McLead Bethel Thompson need to prove during camp they can run the Vikings offense.
2011-2012 stats — 11 games:
- 158 completions — 291 attempts — 54.3% completion rate
- 1,853 yards — 6.37 average yards/pass
- 13 touchdowns
- 13 interceptions
Christian Ponder will be entering his second season in the NFL, but only his first with a full off season of OTAs after last years lockout.
“It was weird being a rookie. Not only a rookie, but a rookie that shows up right at training camp,” Ponder said in May. ”It’s hard to establish yourself as a leader….Now being in a position where I can comfortably say, ‘This is my team,’ it definitely helps.”
Ponder heads into the season being the starter, unlike last year where he lost reps in practice due to the fact the Vikings also had newcomer Donovan McNabb also learning the playbook. This training camp Ponder will likely see all first-team reps to get up him to speed with all of his wide receivers, tight ends, and his offensive line, including fourth overall draft pick and blind side protector, Matt Kalil.
Best moments of his rookie season:
- 24-21 Win versus Carolina Panthers and rookie sensation Cam Newton — Ponder completed 64.3% of his passes for 236 yards. He finished with one touchdown and a rating of 102.7
- 32-25 loss versus Denver Broncos: Ponder and Vikings get Tebowed — Ponder completed 61.7% of his passes for 381 yards. He finished with three touchdowns and a rating of 90.8
Where Ponder needs to improve: 1st downs, completion rate, and staying on the field.
Christian Ponder struggled mightily on first downs in his first pro season. He completed 50.9% of his first down passes, which ranks him 32nd-of-34 eligible QBs. Not good my friends, not good. It get’s worse too. Ponder’s QBR on first downs came in at a brutal 20.5. OUCH! That ranked him 34th in the league — THAT MEANS TWO QBs WHO WEREN’T EVEN STARTERS WERE BETTER THAN HIM!!
“For me and the offense, the number one priority is doing a lot better job on 1st down,” Ponder said in May. “We want to be completing 75% of our passes on 1st down. That’s going to help us be so much better on third down and eventually points scored per game.”
Ponder also struggled on other downs as well. He only completed more than 58% of his passes in FOUR games (win @ Carolina, loss versus Oakland, loss at Atlanta, and win at Washington). Ponder also completed less than 50% of his passes FOUR times (loss versus Green Bay, loss at Green Bay, loss versus New Orleans, and loss versus Chicago).
“Just [need to make] smarter decisions, I think,” Ponder said on May 30th. “Not trying to force the ball down the field. I think if we have go routes called, if it’s not open, have the patience to be able to check it down. It all comes down to patience and knowing your reads and finding the open guy. You’ve just got to find the open guy and get the ball to him….I’ve got to do a better job of moving around the pocket and not taking off so early and getting a feel for the pocket.”
Ponder also enter the NFL with an association to being injury-prone. He didn’t dispute this title during his rookie season with injuries to his right hip, right hand, and a concussion which slowed Ponder down.
Ponder enters season with a chip on his shoulder following ESPN’s Trent Dilfer’s criticism. Dilfer criticized that when Ponder is in the spotlight, he doesn’t have the instincts nor the composure to play well.
“(Ponder) has a little chip on his should this year,” said WR Percy Harvin.
All-in-all, Christian Ponder is the Vikings’ starting QB when the 2012 season begins.
Likely back-up to Christian Ponder, Joe Webb will enter the 2012 season with his focus solely on taking snaps at quarterback. Webb is a freak athlete and can make plays when he is on the field. It’s up to the Vikings to get him on the field, either in the wildcat or something, and add some flare to the offense.
Career stats — two seasons:
- 88 completions — 152 attempts — 57.9% completion rate
- 853 career yards — 5.61 yards/completion
- 3 touchdowns — 5 interceptions
- 66.6 rating
If the Vikings want a veteran backing up Joe Webb and Christian Ponder, Rosenfels will likely round out the QBs on the roster heading into the 2012 season.
- 351 completions — 562 attempts — 62.5 completion percentage
- 30 touchdowns — 29 interceptions
McLead Bethel-Thompson signed a futures contract with the Minnesota Vikings in January. He spent the 2011 season with the Sacromento Mountain Lions (which he started the final two games for them). He also spent some time on the Miami Dolphins practice squad late in the year. Bethel-Thompson seems like a long shot to make the roster.
Who makes the final roster?
Starting QB – Christian Ponder
2nd string QB – Joe Webb
3rd string QB – Sage Rosenfels