Christian Ponder is too smart to come right out and say it but he knows the lack of pass protection was a big part of why he struggled in 2011. Too often Ponder was forced to leave the pocket before having a chance to go through his progressions, and when teams blitzed him – as teams will do to a rookie QB – things got even worse. Not only did Ponder’s stats take a pounding as a result of the inconsistent pass blocking, so did his body.
The Vikings knew full-well what was needed to remedy this situation and that’s why they drafted Matt Kalil #4 overall. That’s why, despite the manure some reporters tried spreading before the draft, some of us always believed Kalil would be the pick. It made too much sense.
Like I said, Ponder is too savvy and too much of a team player to explicitly blame his 2011 issues on the pass protection. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday the young leader put the onus squarely on himself, saying, “A lot of time last year, it didn’t necessarily have to do with the protection. A lot of times I wasn’t comfortable getting to my third, fourth reads, checking the ball down. Instead of just checking it down when a guy is wide open, I’d just run.
“That’s something I have to get away from. It’s easy to break the habit. It’s just going to make it so much better having full confidence in the protection. Offensive line is looking good. They got stacked up pretty quickly and they’ve got a lot of depth now. I’m excited about that as a quarterback.”
That statement could easily be twisted around into a shot at the 2011 offensive line but why bother making an issue? It’s all water under the bridge. Now’s the time for looking forward. With Matt Kalil on-board, a couple new receivers in the fold, a pair of dangerous receiving tight ends at his disposal and of course a top-flight running game, Mr. Ponder figures to improve by leaps and bounds in 2012.
And if he doesn’t? There’s always Joe Webb. And if things go badly enough, Matt Barkley or Landry Jones. But I’m sure it won’t come to that.