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Very few positions were hurt by the lockout more than the rookie quarterbacks. While Cam Newton was unreal and Andy Dalton did well until he fell apart near the end of the season, most of the first year quarterbacks struggled when they saw the field.
Jake Locker was OK, Blaine Gabbert was a complete mess and Colin Kaepernick never even saw the field.
Ponder was meant to sit for a year but once Donovan McNabb imploded, he was thrown into the fire.
Bad enough for a young quarterback—any inexperienced youngster, not just a rookie—to be thrown into the fire after never getting first team snaps.
Just about impossible when there were none of the usual preseason events which help cushion a rookie's decent into the NFL.
Ponder jumped into the starter spot after having little Training Camp, no OTAs, no minicamps, no rookie camps.
It may seem like a small thing, but those days are critical in getting a player started on the very difficult process of learning NFL-level offensive and defensive plays. They also help prepare a player with conditioning and other important aspects if life as a Pro.
This year, Ponder is getting the full treatment, and can approach it with the eyes of a somewhat experienced veteran. He knows his weaknesses and can use the time to eradicate them, or at least reduce them.
I'm a big proponent of most quarterbacks sitting their first year but the fact that he's gotten a lot of his firsts out of the way—first hit, first sack, first pick, first touchdown—means he can concentrate on just playing.
There is almost no other factor which should contribute to your optimism more than this one. You may not think it's vital but I assure you, it is.
There is one thing, sort of attached to this, which is even more cause for joy and will make camp even more effective....