Peyton Manning was considered a lock to take home the the Most Improved Player award after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. However, voters would do well to check out Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
There was plenty of criticism that was levied at the Vikings front office after taking Ponder in the first round. It appeared to be a reach for a team that was desperate to find a quarterback they could rely on.
After a rough start to his career, Ponder is showing signs that he can be that man. The season is still young, but check out three reasons why Ponder has the look of a quality starting quarterback.
The biggest marker of a quarterback's effectiveness is his accuracy. Ponder has taken a giant step forward in this department.
He completed a pedestrian 54.3 percent of his passes in his rookie campaign. This year, he has improved the placement of his throws, as evidenced by his 75.8 percent completion rate.
He isn't likely to continue completing passes at such a clip. Only Drew Brees finished the 2011 season with a percentage higher than 70. However, through two games, Ponder has shown that he has the proper touch needed to be an effective NFL starter.
Besides completing passes, a quarterback is trusted to take care of the football. Unless your team has Ed Reed, the offense is generally relied on to put up points, for which they need the ball. Consider your mind blown.
Ponder struggled with turnovers in his first year. He threw 13 interceptions and had five fumbles in only 11 games. In 2012, he has yet to throw it to the opposing team, but he has put the ball on the ground twice.
He's also shown the mental fortitude to use his athleticism when an opportunity presents itself. Ponder left multiple San Francisco 49ers in his wake on a nifty 23-yard touchdown run. If he continues to take yards when the defense gives him space to run, the threat of him running should open up passing lanes.
Confidence and Poise
There are few quarterbacks who get drafted that don't have the physical tools to play in the NFL. The mental makeup is what separates the busts from the gems. Ask JaMarcus Russell.
You can see it when Ponder walks to the line. He looks like a man in control of the pocket, staring down the tough 49ers defense and professionally working his way through his progression.
His first touchdown pass was a one-play snapshot of just how far he has come. Off the play-action fake, he was being chased down by a defender. As opposed to buckling under the pressure, he continued to backpedal while keeping his eyes down the field. As soon as his target opened up, he threw a precision pass off his back foot for the score.
Three games won't make Ponder a Hall of Famer, but it's certainly enough to notice he is trending upwards.