Christian Ponder is the Raiders starting quarterback. Temporarily, anyway. The title won’t last long, with Derek Carr expected back in a few weeks.
A right hand injury has No. 4 out for a spell, which has elevated Ponder to the catbird’s seat during OTAs. He’s keeping the first chair warm with Carr out, but throws a good ball and is the best backup quarterback the Raiders have had in a few years.
Ponder signed a one-year contract this offseason to support Carr and reunite with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who guided his career with the Minnesota Vikings. The pair went 10-6 in 2012, and while Ponder didn’t keep his starting gig the following season, they have chemistry that was productive for a time.
The extra snaps have been beneficial for Ponder, who has a leg up after working with Musgrave in the past.
“This offense is a little different than what I ran in Minnesota, but some of the things carry over,” Ponder said on Tuesday. “It is nice to be out there getting reps. I didn’t get many last year (in Minnesota) with Matt Cassel and Teddy (Bridgewater). When you’re in a new situation, the added playing time certainly helps you get your feet wet.”
Thus far, Ponder’s transition has been smooth. Ponder and Carr are similar personalities, which has made for a quality quarterback room.
Being a backup has been an adjustment from the 2011 first-round pick out of Florida State, who took over as a starter halfway through his rookie year. There were ups and downs in his prominent role, which was lost near the end of the 2013 season.
“Going through those experiences have definitely made me better,” Ponder said. “Nobody wants to go through struggles, but it toughens you mentally and you learn from a lot of those things. There’s added perspective, and it has certainly helped my football IQ. It stinks to lose your job and find a new team, but I believe things happen for a reason and things have worked out for me so far.”
Matt McGloin is in the mix as a reserve as well, but it’s clear that Ponder gets first crack at the No. 2 slot.
“He’s a guy who was quarterback of a team that won 10 games,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “That’s not easy to do in this league. He’s got some experience and has been in big moments before. That experience is beneficial for him and, if anything were to happen, he and Matt have taken snaps in games and that’s a good thing for us.”
In a perfect world, Ponder won’t take a snap in the regular season. Having that safety net is important, and this offseason the Raiders have gained confidence that Ponder could play well in a pinch.
“He’s stepped right in and made some good throws and good plays,” receiver Rod Streater said. “You can tell he has a great feel for the offense. We really didn’t miss a beat with him. That’s what you want in a (No. 2) quarterback.”