While first-round draft pick Christian Ponder patiently stands on the sidelines waiting for his opportunity, he is well aware of what happened with Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton in the season opener.
Newton was the only one of the four rookie quarterbacks selected in the first round to start the season opener, but his performance certainly made a case for the possibility that rookie quarterbacks can have success. Newton threw for 422 yards, an NFL record for a rookie, in his first regular-season start.
Ponder admitted there was a little bit of surprise that a rookie quarterback could have that much success in his first start.
"Yeah, I think so. Obviously, he's really talented and everything, but as a rookie – I don't think people expect any rookie to go out and throw for 422 yards," Ponder said. "I think they were playing man-to-man coverage trying to take away the run the whole time and he was just eating them up."
Newton completed 64.9 percent of his passes, averaged 11.4 yards per completion, had two touchdowns and an interception, but also took four sacks. He also rushed eight times for 18 yards and a touchdown. His 422 yards were second only to Tom Brady's 517-yard performance in Week 1.
Newton, the top overall pick in April's draft, gave some more confidence the No. 12 overall pick, Ponder, that success can be had as a rookie quarterback.
"I definitely have confidence in myself if something happens and I go in," Ponder said. "It was a heck of a performance by him. Steve Smith [helped] him on that long ball. I think it just shows that rookies can do it."
Ponder is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, but the Vikings have certain packages for No. 3 QB Joe Webb to be inserted. Webb played two downs Sunday when Donovan McNabb was left in the game to try to confuse the defense, but those two plays – a run by Webb and a run by Percy Harvin – netted zero yards.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he has confidence in all three of his quarterbacks.
"I think all three of our quarterbacks can throw for a bunch of yards. They have in the past and I know they will in the future," Musgrave said when asked about Ponder. "We're confident in all our quarterbacks. We know that Donovan will get Donovan back on track and make up for some lost ground."
Ponder said Musgrave still consults with all the quarterbacks about their favorite plays by down and distance.
"We still all fill out a little sheet, what our favorites are. Just be prepared because you never know what's going to happen. I think he knows that, so just be prepared," Ponder said. "We do two from each category – third-and-long and third-and-short, short red zone, deep red zone. There probably ends up being probably about 16 plays on there."
Standing on the sideline Sunday, Ponder said Musgrave trended toward McNabb's favorites for that game.
"He comes up with a list of what the first calls are going to be in a certain situations, like in a third-down situation this is usually going to be his first call and it's usually what Donovan put down as one of his favorites," Ponder said.
But, just in case Ponder is needed, Musgrave also has his favorites for the week. And both of them now have proof that a 2011 rookie quarterback can succeed in his first start, thanks to Newton's performance.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Newton shows Ponder rookie QBs can win
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