Ponder comes into this season as the uncontested No. 1 quarterback. It is his offense, and the second-year player out of Florida State is ready to take the next step.
Here are five reasons why Ponder will improve in 2012.
Minnesota's offensive line, which was a major issue for the team last season, got a big boost in the offseason.
The Vikings fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Matt Kalil, provides a potential franchise player at the left tackle position. The 23-year-old was widely considered the top tackle in the draft and is the younger brother of the Carolina Panthers' All-Pro center Ryan Kalil.
The addition of Kalil also moves Charlie Johnson from tackle to guard, which should bolster the line further. John Sullivan will begin his first year of a five-year contract he signed in December.
The biggest concern is health, and if the line can avoid injuries, it should provide a great foundation for Ponder and the passing game.
The Vikings 2011 season started off on a sour note offensively. The offseason lockout coupled with the addition of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave meant little time to fully prepare the offense and newly acquired quarterbacks for the season ahead.
Last year also proved difficult due to the quarterback controversy throughout the year, pitting veteran Donovan McNabb against rookie Christian Ponder. Guard Charlie Johnson discussed how it has been a much easier offseason for the offense.
It's night and day of just knowing what we're doing. Being able to step on the field Day 1 and know the plays that are being called. And to have an understanding of what to do, that helps, obviously. It's to be determined on what type of results we're going to have, but it's been a little easier coming out to practice.
In 2012, the offense belongs to Ponder, and familiarity with the offense will bring added success this season.
Percy Harvin caught 87 balls in 2011, amassing 967 yards and six touchdowns. He's a big-time wide receiver but was the only real threat in the passing game. No other player had 40 receptions for the team last year.
Jerome Simpson will change that.
The 26-year-old was signed in the offseason after a solid year with the Bengals where he hauled in 50 passes for 725 yards. Known for his athletic ability, Simpson can make highlight-reel plays in the open field and take some of the focus off Harvin.
Unfortunately, Simpson will miss the first three games of 2012 for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. But when he returns, Simpson and Harvin will give Ponder two legitimate big-play receivers and provide a major improvement over last year's aerial attack.
The offensive line, a new receiving target and a familiarity with the offense will bring Ponder added success in 2012. The biggest impact on his game, however, may be his maturity and experience coming into the season as a second-year player. Ponder commented on his thoughts coming into this season, already having a year of experience under his belt.
That's why, again, I feel so much more comfortable this year, because I'm so much more knowledgeable and comfortable with my reads. I spent so much time with Coach Musgrave, and he did a great job of making sure that I knew what I was doing with the ball before the snap ever happened. That allows me to get the ball out quicker and be decisive and it's helping me out.
Ponder should continue to improve throughout 2012 and show the difference a year can make.
Sure, preseason games don't count. But the way Christian Ponder has played thus far, it's hard not to get excited about the upcoming season. In two games, Ponder has completed 14 of 22 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers put his passer rating at an impressive 111.2, and the offense has been formidable. Ponder talked about the offense through its first two games.
We'd definitely like more touchdowns. We've had a lot of field goals. But the good news is we haven't punted as a [first-team] offense, and that's a good sign. There's a lot of stuff we have to work on, but we have two weeks to do it and we'll be ready to roll.
If they can perform better in opposing territory and be efficient in the red zone, the Vikings offense could surprise a lot of teams this season.