2011 NFL Draft: Why Christian Ponder Is Perfect for the Cincinnati Bengals

Taylor GreenContributor IApril 11, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Christian Ponder #7 of the Florida State Seminoles throws for a first down during a game against the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals hired Jay Gruden to guide their offense this offseason.  According to Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gruden has said, “We're not going to spread out and go no-huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game.  I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball," leading many to believe the Bengals will not throw near as much in 2011.

Gruden may not plan to pass as much in 2011 but he is still a West Coast offense guy, evidenced by this description of his offensive system that he made shortly after he was hired.

"A lot of quick throws involved in the West Coast offense," Gruden told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "Let the receivers do some work after the catch. The backs, tight ends catch the ball, run up field and make them miss and do things after the catch. It's very important to have very good receivers and obviously good tight ends and backs that can protect and run routes. Everybody has to play a major role." 

Gruden will diversify the Bengals' passing attack by using more backs and tight ends and will rely on the running game to set up big plays off play-action fakes.

Besides getting a new offensive coordinator, who runs a new system that will take time for everyone to learn, the Bengals are most likely going to have to do it without Carson Palmer.  Palmer has requested to be traded several times but Bengals owner Mike Brown refuses to trade him.  If Palmer is not traded then he has stated that he plans to retire. Either way the Bengals are without a quarterback. With Gruden’s new West Coast offensive the Bengals will need someone to be able to get the ball to first round draft pick AJ Green, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham.

With a re-emphasis on the run game, Ponder could be an attractive pick for the Bengals to replace Palmer. He has all the tools to run Gruden’s West Coast system.  It's easy to argue that Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett don't have the style of quarterbacking to play the West Coast system, having mainly played out of the shotgun offense.

Head coach Marvin Lewis and Gruden were on hand at Florida State's Pro-Day.  According to the Tallahassee Democrat Gruden said, “With Christian, especially with the issues he had with his arm and his elbow, we just want to see that he’s spinning it and that he’s been working.  You want to see what kind of velocity he has on the ball and his accuracy”.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network watched the Pro-Day work-out as well, saying that Ponder has an "Above average arm, and that was the knock for him, he's got plenty of arm strength to play in the NFL, his footwork is excellent, and he's got an advantage over the other spread Quarterbacks...because he's been under center, because he's been in a play action game where he turns his back to the line of scrimmage.  I really do believe he's ascending".

Ponder played in a pro-West Coast offense system at Florida State. Out of all the quarterbacks in this year's draft class, not one of them is capable of stepping into the Bengals new offensive system and make a difference immediately like Ponder.  Ponder's leadership skills could benefit the Bengals in the huddle and in the locker room, especially now that Palmer has thrown in the towel.