Adrian Peterson is two games and 294 yards away from the NFL rushing record. Christian Ponder, meanwhile, is struggling despite Peterson’s insane performance, as Minnesota has had more rushing yards than passing yards for three straight weeks, and six times this season. Adrian Peterson is actually averaging a higher yards per carry (6.3) than Ponder is averaging yards per attempt (5.9).
So is there any hope for Ponder, since he cannot even take advantage of the defensive fronts that Adrian Peterson commands? Well, yeah. The yards per attempt is a concern, but while it may not seem intuitive, the fact that the yards per attempt is coming despite having the advantages of a strong running game is not.
From 1970 to 2007, twenty-one quarterbacks threw at least 300 passes at age 24, and averaged a yards per attempt less than 6.5.
In looking at the list, there is no relationship between the rushing game for those young quarterbacks, and how their careers turned out. Among those with the best rushing games, we have Terry Bradshaw, Doug Williams, and Drew Brees. The middle of the pack features Brett Favre and Steve McNair, while Troy Aikman, Donovan McNabb, and Jeff George show up among those with poor rushing games.
When we look at the identity of the lead backs, well, there is no case that struggling with a star running back is a bigger problem when evaluating a young quarterback. Drew Brees had a virtually identical 5.9 yards per attempt as a 24-year old; he was playing with LaDainian Tomlinson. Terry Bradshaw had Franco Harris. Steve McNair was playing with the really good version of Eddie George as a young quarterback. Troy Aikman played with a rookie named Emmitt Smith.
This certainly doesn’t mean that Christian Ponder is going to turn into the next Drew Brees. It does mean that Adrian Peterson’s success shouldn’t be held against Christian Ponder, or lead writers to say things like Mark Sanchez would still be starting if he had Adrian Peterson instead. It’s too early to give up on Ponder despite his subpar play this season, and that’s true regardless of who his running back is.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]