Hi, I'm Quantifiable Bladderhorns, and I'm a Ponder hater. Okay, not really. I like to think of myself more as a "Ponder nonbeliever". Those of you who have seen me around the DN know that I don't care much for Ponder, nor do I think he's a starting caliber QB in the NFL. I'm writing this fan post however, because I actually saw some encouraging signs from yesterday's game that I didn't see from most of Ponder's terrible games last year. Don't get me wrong, I still think he played well below-average, but I at least saw some improvement in some areas (or at least attempt at improvement).
Obviously it was the deep passes to Simpson. Now some people might argue he didn't place those passes in the best of spots for Simpson to catch them, especially the 2nd one where Simpson had to somewhat dive for it, but you have to think of it all in relativeness to what we've seen from Ponder in the past. Just remember that last year Ponder had a tendency of sailing those deep throws well over the heads of his receiver. The mere fact that he made those 2 deep passes yesterday even catchable at all has to be encouraging. It shows improvement if anything, and that's all you can ask when you're already close to rock bottom. So after 1 game of the 2013 season, Ponder has 2 completions of 40+ yards. He had 3 all of last year. Just think about that for a second. Ponder has played 1/16 the amount of games he played last year, and yet he's already duplicated 2/3 of his deep play production. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
Ball placement. It was shaky all game long. The tipped INT on the slant to Simpson was in my opinion, a fairly poorly thrown ball. It was catchable, yes, but the high and out front ball placement put Simpson in a tough spot to make the catch as you can see in the screenshot.
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Perhaps Ponder's 2 worst placed passes outside of the Rudolph INT to end the game were both intended for Greg Jennings (I wonder how frustrated he is right now). The 20-yard dart Ponder completed to Jennings required him to make the toughest catch in all of football.....a ball thrown low and away from the momentum of the receiver. It's nice to see Ponder step up and fire those 20 yard bullets, but the accuracy definitely needs to improve. And then also later in the game, Ponder threw a slant pass well behind Jennings for an incompletion.
Decision making. I think you know which play I'm talking about. Seriously, these bonehead plays NEED to stop. That play with 2:30 left in the 2nd quarter with us up 14-6 completely changed the game. Yes Ponder's arm was hit on the play, but he still released the ball way too late and probably should have just dumped it out of bounds. Some people have been blaming Musgrave by saying it was a designed roll-out left, but that is completely false. It was a regular play-action play, and when Ponder saw the pressure he quickly rolled out left. Here is Ponder standing up in the pocket on that exact play, just an insta-second before he felt the pressure and rolled out left.
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And lastly, the ever-forgotten dropped pick 6 where Ponder stared down Jarius Wright from the time he snapped the ball to when he released the ball. Seriously, at this point it might be wise to bring in Brett Favre to help teach Ponder some of the tricks of the trade when standing in the pocket. Favre was a master at using eye fakes, shoulder fakes, pump fakes, etc... to throw off the defenders and get his receiver extra space. Ponder needs that extra creativity when he's standing in the pocket.
Overall, like I posted up top, I was somewhat encouraged. The deep pass plays show that Musgrave and Ponder know they have to get more explosive in the passing game. I think they did that somewhat successfully yesterday. It wasn't ideal by any means (the 4 minute offense in the 4th quarter was pathetic), but it was a good 1st step. Ponder's completion% (64%) and yards/attempt (8.4) were both higher than Ponder's season averages last year of 62% and 6.1 yards/attempt. If he can continue to attack the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense while managing the number of turnovers and bonehead plays, I think he has a chance at becoming something.