Christian Ponder took the starting quarterback reigns from Donovan McNabb in Week Seven of the 2011 season, and he’s been the starter for the Vikings ever since.
In his 10 starts last season, Ponder completed 54.3 percent of his passes.
In his six starts this season, Ponder has raised that percentage quite a bit.
So far he’s hitting on 68.6 percent of his throws, which ranks him second behind Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (70.2) in completion percentage among quarterbacks.
From a personal standpoint, Ponder has seen a big transformation in his game from his freshman season to his sophomore season.
“The difference between this year and last year is so different,” Ponder said. “I loved the experience I got last year, [but] I was disappointed in the way that I played, I wish I would’ve played better.”
Ponder says he watched a lot of film on himself during the offseason, and saw all the mistakes that he says were “easily correctable.”
Ponder says he also spent time with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson, working on his reads and a “bunch of stuff,” which he says has made him a lot more confident this season.
Ponder and wide receiver Percy Harvin have created some sweet music for the Vikings and their fans so far this season.
Harvin currently leads the league in receptions with 49, and despite the fact that Harvin (Florida) and Ponder (Florida State) went to rival schools, they’ve been able to keep the relationship strong at the pro level.
“We’ve looked past the whole Florida/Florida State deal,” Ponder said jokingly. “He’s a heck of a player, and right now he’s arguably the best player in the NFL, the best all-around player and he’s playing at an exceptionally high level.”
Ponder says it makes his job easier knowing Harvin’s capable of breaking it for a score anytime he touches the ball.
“He’s running so much better routes this year,” Ponder said. “He’s not just an athlete, he’s playing the wide receiver position really well, and running great routes and catching great balls and he looks really good.”
Having a running back named Adrian Peterson doesn’t hurt either.
Peterson (499 yds) currently ranks sixth among running backs in rushing yardage, which is quite amazing considering he’s coming off major knee surgery just months ago.
“I’d be surprised if it was anybody else, but it’s Adrian Peterson,” Ponder said. “He’s obviously very gifted and talented, but he works his butt off. He’s worked his butt off ever since last Christmas Eve (vs. Redskins) when he had that injury to get back.”
This is a scary thought for the Cardinals defense, and all defenses in the NFL: Ponder expects Peterson to get better as the season goes on.
Ponder has been breaking down film, looking at the Cardinals defense, and he sees a battle ahead on Sunday, as the Cardinals will face the Vikings at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis, Minn., a place Arizona hasn’t won at since 1977.
“They’ve got a number of guys that are able to get to the quarterback,” Ponder said. “We’re gonna have a tough job on our hands to be able to protect, and our offensive line’s gonna have to do a good job.”
Ponder singled out O’Brien Schofield, Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington as the three main players they’re going to have to key on if they want to be able to move the ball and get scores on Sunday.
The Cardinals defensive schemes have also caught Ponder’s eye as he’s been preparing for them. He says they’re especially tough to move on when third down comes along.
“They’re very good at what they do,” Ponder said. “A lot of times when you see teams that show a bunch of different looks, they aren’t really sound in what they do, but they’re really sound in what they do.”
Both the Cardinals and Vikings are 4-2 heading into Sunday’s contest.
Ponder believes neither team is a “flash-in-the-pan” team, as many critics may tend to believe.
“I think we both suspect that we’re really good teams,” Ponder said. “Obviously, we’ve made jumps from last year to this year, and I think as Minnesota Vikings, we expect this will continue and that we’re going to be playing in the playoffs. I assume that that’s exactly what the Cardinals think as well. They’re [Cardinals] going to keep getting better and better and keep stringing wins together, and that’s kind of what we suspect as well.”