Christian Ponder underperformed in the 2011 season; that can be stated quite plainly. Although he only played in 11 games, had Ponder started the entire season he would have accumulated 2,700 yards, 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. These numbers are at least mediocre, however, the completion percentage of 54.3% and quarterback rating of 70.3 are subpar.
How could Christian Ponder possibly ascend to a Pro Bowl level?
With the a lot of shifting pieces in Minnesota, look for the Vikings to become a potent aerial offense in 2012 with Ponder at the helm. Here are the reasons why:
It seems as if the media and its slew of analysts forgot about the complete lack of an offseason prior to the 2011 season. Though many teams eventually got the ball rolling, rookies like Ponder never had the time to prepare for the next level.
Out of Florida State, Ponder was largely heralded for his intelligence and preparation, which were sorely disrupted. Also, as the official starter, Ponder will have the full focus and attention of the Vikings' coaching staff.
Look for Christian Ponder and the playbook to become very close friends in the near future.
In 2011, Percy Harvin was the only target that Ponder had to throw the ball to. Visanthe Shiancoe could not hold onto the ball, and with Sidney Rice bolting to Seattle, Minnesota had to lean on the likes of Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu to support Harvin.
With a high draft pick in each round, the Vikings will hopefully be able to select a No. 1 receiver who can push Harvin back into the slot: where he is most comfortable and deadly. This would also free up Shiancoe for a (hopefully) resurgent year as well.
Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were not the only horses in the stable for the Vikings in 2011, as Christian Ponder contributed 219 yards on 28 attempts, scrambling for an average of 7.8 yards per attempt.
Wise beyond his years, Ponder did not flee the pocket as often as many scrambling rookie quarterbacks typically do. The ability is there though, and enables Ponder to gouge pass-rush heavy, coverage-weak defenses for big plays.
The NFC North was supposed to be so much better on defense than 2011 indicated, particularly in the pass coverage department. Ranked 32nd, 28th and 22nd in passing yardage defense, the Packers, Bears and Lions were consistently vulnerable to the pass.
However, it should be noted that the Packers, Bears and Lions were all in the top six in the league, with over 20 interceptions on the year apiece.
If Ponder makes the right decisions, he should have his chances in 2012 to put up big numbers within the division.
Possibly the most important element of Christian Ponder's eminent breakout is the breakdown of Adrian "All Day" Peterson. After tearing his ACL, Peterson's return to the field in 2012 is possible, but how the superstar will perform is an entirely different story.
The Vikings know they will need to develop and emphasize the passing game with the status of their workhorse unknown.
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford all threw for over 4,500 passing yards in 2011, with quarterback ratings over 92. Christian Ponder will have his work cut out for him, but the elite nature of his competition may open the door to the Pro Bowl.
There is a significant chance that one of the above quarterbacks bows out in order to prepare for a bigger "Bowl."