Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 6/20/13
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For all of the offseason maneuvering, free-agent signings and new draft picks, the Minnesota Vikings' 2013 season hinges on the continued development of quarterback Christian Ponder. It's the basic premise of the NFL: A team's success is dependent on the quality of its quarterback play. Minnesota knows the inescapable truth. Ponder, often maligned and sometimes spectacular, enters his third season in the NFL and his second year as the full-time starter. Drafted No. 12 overall in 2011, he is as important to the Vikings' 2013 season as MVP running back Adrian Peterson. Ponder's progress will be scrutinized, but Minnesota's coaches and players like what they've seen from Ponder through the offseason program, which ended with the final day of mandatory minicamp on Thursday. "I really like the way that he has matured mentally, just seeing how he has kind of taken the reins from a leadership standpoint," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's more vocal than he has been in the past. His football above the neck has been impressive in the time that we've been out here on the field practicing. He's got the athletic ability, but you want him to make good decisions under the center, and some of the things he's done in these practices kind of leads me to believe, along with our staff, that he's grown a lot in that area; making better decisions with the football, which should in turn help us down the line." This summer has been Ponder's second full offseason with the Vikings after the lockout wiped out the offseason program in his rookie year. He said his comfort level has grown with each season and each practice. "As you get more experienced, the game slows down a little bit," Ponder said. "And being in the third year of the offense and knowing how (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave calls plays and what we're doing as an offense, I think that comfort level has definitely grown. At the same time, I know I can get better and keep progressing. And that takes a lot of work. And also being uncomfortable, knowing that it's still going to take more." Time could well be running short on Ponder. He's entering his third season. General manager Rick Spielman feels three years in the league is the amount of time needed to properly judge a draft pick. Ponder has been, at best, inconsistent in his two-plus seasons as a starter. He owns a career 77.1 quarterback rating and has thrown 31 touchdowns to 25 interceptions. When Ponder was at his best last season, Minnesota was winning and among the best teams in the league. The Vikings were 4-1 at the beginning of the season with Ponder avoiding interceptions. They won their last four regular-season games to make the playoffs, with Ponder not throwing an interception in the final three games. He had perhaps his best game as a pro his last time out when he threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns to beat Green Bay. A deep triceps contusion caused him to miss the playoff game the following week. Minnesota expects growth from Ponder and believes it's seen more from him this offseason. "There are much fewer unknowns for him at this stage than there were a year ago," Musgrave said. "He knows more of what to expect, and can kind of let himself go a little bit and not be so guarded." Ponder said his offseason improvement comes in two ways: decision-making and accuracy. "For me to help my decision-making, that's getting more experience in the OTAs, during practices, watching more film, getting more familiar with our offense, the ins and outs, and then also watching more film on defense, understand defensive schemes," Ponder said. "Accuracy just comes down to all fundamentals. That's footwork and everything from head to toe." Ponder's performances in offseason practices have been a mix, as well, just like his first two seasons. He's missed on a few passes and had some decisions he likely wishes he could have back. He's also had good moments, such as hitting two deep passes during practice Wednesday to Jerome Simpson and Stephen Burton. The deep balls, in particular, are encouraging to see from an accuracy standpoint. Ponder's completed 59.2 percent of his passes in his first two seasons. "I think he's much better," Frazier said of Ponder's accuracy. "He's worked his tail off, trying to improve his accuracy. Our coaches have put him through a bunch of different drills, and through his hard work, I think he's improved in that area. Now, we've got some things we've got to get done in training camp, but he's put in the work to improve, and we're seeing that." The Vikings are doing their part to ensure the development continues on the right path, surrounding Ponder with new passing options like Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, and hoping for more from receivers Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson. Jennings, who's played with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, sees the potential in Ponder. "I love him," Jennings said. "I love his personality. I love his demeanor on the field. The one thing we talk about, and I've shared with him more than anything, is the trust factor. Because he has everything he needsthe skill sets, he has it. It's just about trusting the other guy. "That's the one thing that kind of takes that split second off our timing. Other than that, once we develop that trust, and that comfort, the sky's the limit. And after talking a bit about what makes Rodgers so special with the Packers, Jennings added: "But Christian, I'm excited. He's a great quarterback. He's going to shock people." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Pablo Sandoval apologizes for comments about Giants

LeBron James seems to respond to Kyrie Irving's trade request

Senator jokes that President Trump should nominate Tom Brady for ambassadorship

Report: Cubs interested in Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy

Marc-Andre Fleury took Stanley Cup on a road trip, protected it well

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cardinals say Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald won't play in Hall of Fame Game

Chiefs LB Tamba Hali goes on Twitter rant, seemingly wants out

O.J. Simpson still invited to attend Hall of Fame ceremonies

Carson Palmer threw football so hard that David Johnson needed stitches

WATCH: 49ers and Seahawks players working out together

WATCH: Vince Carter throws out first pitch for 'SagerStrong Night'

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

Best of Yardbarker: General managers take the spotlight

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

The unexpected rise of the Connecticut Sun

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

Kicking It: USMNT struggles to find consistency in Gold Cup as World Cup qualifying nears

Three Up, Three Down: The Dodgers are a complete juggernaut right now

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

Who won the Open Championship in the year you were born?

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

Box Score 7/21: Stay cool this weekend sports fans

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

The 'Yoan Moncada era starts now' quiz

The Orioles need to unwind past deals if they are going to rebuild

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Sam Hinkie is calling the shots

The 'No one is betterer than Roger Federer' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker