The last time Vikings QB Christian Ponder headed to Detroit, last December, was not a happy time for the rookie. He was regressing slightly up to that point, having suffered a hip injury, and he fell even farther in a three-pick benching against the Lions.
But Ponder returns this weekend having healed both mentally and physically. He’s playing strong football right now, having completed more than 70 percent of his passes entering Week Four. That’s not shocking considering the number of short passes the team has executed, but credit goes to Ponder and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for making the offense work efficiently without any defined deep threat.
That changes with the addition of WR Jerome Simpson, who is done with his three-game league-imposed suspension. Simpson will add some 7- and 9-route possibilities to the offense, and with solid protection in front of Ponder, it allows Musgrave to use seven-step drops and longer-developing play-action pass plays.
One clear aspect of improvement in Ponder’s game is his feel in the pocket. There were times last season that he allowed his toughness to cloud his judgment. Ponder often hung tough in the pocket, which is not a bad thing, but he would try to force passes rather than throw balls away when the situation called for it. Doing so from inside the pocket, even with his athleticism, shows that Ponder has learned and developed.
The Vikings’ offense might just be starting to take shape. With the O-line gelling, Simpson back in the fold, TE Kyle Rudolph expanding his game, RB Adrian Peterson regaining his burst (it’s coming slowly) and Ponder showing progress, the best results this season might lie ahead.