Chargers vs. Vikings: Why Christian Ponder Will Continue to Improve

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 24, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 10: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter during an NFL pre-season football game at Candlestick Park on August 10, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thus far in the 2012 preseason, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder hasn't disappointed, and he will continue to improve and impress on Friday night against the San Diego Chargers.

In the absence of superstar running back Adrian Peterson, Ponder has had to step up big time as the leader of the team.

Last week, the 2011 first-round pick completed 10 of 13 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown, receiving good protection against the ferocious front four of the Buffalo Bills.

When Ponder has been given the opportunity, he has flashed plenty of talent. Entering this season, the Vikings—consistently projected as one of the worst teams in the league—have been given zero chance in the loaded NFC North.

You wouldn't know it by watching Ponder in the preseason, though. He even showed poise against the San Francisco 49ers vaunted defense and doesn't shy away from making big-time throws down the field.

With dynamic playmakers such as Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson and gigantic tight end Kyle Rudolph at his disposal, as well as a presumably good running game, Ponder may stack up against his divisional quarterback counterparts better than expected.

The selection of No. 4 pick Matt Kalil has solidified the left tackle position for Minnesota, protecting Ponder's blindside.

Not only has Ponder had adequate time to process the offensive scheme, but he is now the unquestioned starter under center. Donovan McNabb was the starter early on in 2011 due to the lockout-shortened offseason, and Ponder was thrown into the fire on a bad team riddled with injuries.

Now, with better protection in front of him an improved supporting cast on the outside, Ponder is starting to take control of the offense.

For the Chargers, highly touted rookies Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes haven't cracked the starting lineup, although Ingram does face competition for snaps with Jarret Johnson.

Still, the defense hasn't substantially improved and sports a suspect secondary whose only rock-solid player is free safety Eric Weddle.

With a relatively weak run defense, the Chargers will allow Toby Gerhart to establish a running game early on for Minnesota, which will open up play-action passes for Ponder.

Thanks to his exceptional mobility, Ponder can be extremely dangerous on the perimeter when he rolls out of the pocket, and he definitely has the arm to execute those play fakes into big plays.

The other most encouraging sign for Ponder: zero turnovers in two preseason games.

After an uninspiring 13-13 TD to INT ratio as a rookie, it looks as though Ponder is tightening his ball security.

With another stellar performance on Friday night in the Metrodome, Ponder may quietly establish himself as the most improved quarterback of the offseason.

Analysts may then want to ponder their decision to write off Ponder and the Vikings in 2012.