Christian Ponder's Chance: A Look at First Step into Minnesota Vikings' Future

Devin Rubink@@drubinkContributor IOctober 20, 2011

Rookie Christian Ponder will make his debut as the Vikings starting QB Sunday against the Packers
Rookie Christian Ponder will make his debut as the Vikings starting QB Sunday against the PackersTasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Most frustrated Vikings fans have been waiting for rookie first-round draft pick Christian Ponder's first career start.

The former Florida State quarterback made his debut late in last week's embarrassing 29-point loss to the Chicago Bears. This week, he'll be playing from the first snap against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers

Ponder looked functional in the short span of time he played last week, completing 9-of-17 passes for 99 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

The most important thing is that when he threw the ball to receivers, they had the opportunity to catch it. So many times this year has former starter Donovan McNabb skipped a pass towards the feet of a receiver. 

The Vikings are severe underdogs against Green Bay this week, and most fans aren't expecting a miracle upset. The one thing fans will be looking for, however, is how different the offense will look with a young Ponder at quarterback instead of the aging McNabb. 

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said, according to The St. Paul Pioneer Press, he will not scale back the offense for Ponder.

The Packers plan on bringing the blitz early and often, so they might keep extra blockers in the backfield to help keep Ponder upright. If he can get the ball to the receivers, the Vikings might have a chance to open up the playbook even more than with McNabb. 

Throughout the first six weeks of the season, the Vikings' offense hasn't looked terrible; they just haven't been able to stay on the field long enough to make big plays. If Ponder can get the ball into the hands of the receivers instead of throwing it low or behind them, the team will be able to move the ball more.

The receivers have had difficulty getting yards after catch this year because of McNabb's errant throws. Usually they have to make an adjustment to get to the ball and go to the ground right when they catch it. 

This could be a great opportunity to see what Ponder can do in this offense. Green Bay's defense hasn't been as solid as it has been in recent years, with the secondary giving up huge chunks of yardage.

The only way the Vikings are going to pull off the upset is if they can get the ball into the end zone, because even though the Packers have given up huge yardage numbers, they've been able to tighten-up just enough when opposing teams reach the red zone. 

Ponder did show a few promising signs in the action he saw last week and in the preseason. For one, he looked as if he was able to run when pressure was coming. He converted a first down with his feet against the Bears, was able to avoid a sack and made a couple other plays. 

He also seems to know where to place the ball. On most of the passes he completed, he was able to hit the receiver in stride or place the ball where only the receiver could get it.

During the Vikings' last preseason game against Houston, he threw a perfect touchdown pass to fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph in the front of the end zone. 

Although he's seen right now as the team's future quarterback, there will be bumps along the road. The Packers' defense has been very strong in the turnover department, so it wouldn't be wise to expect a mistake-free game from Ponder. 

Ponder may or may not be the answer at quarterback for the future of the Minnesota Vikings, but the only way to find out is to see what he can do. If he disappoints and doesn't look like he can cut it, the team will have to take a chance on someone else next year.

If he looks promising and shows improvement over the rest of the season, the Vikings might be able to avoid signing an aging veteran quarterback next summer.