In their first preseason game, the Vikings looked just okay as they traveled to San Francisco to play the 49ers. Last week, in their second preseason game, the Vikings looked much, much improved. You know what? I’ll just say it: The Vikings looked great against the Bills at home. This week, the Vikings will get another chance to show that they are an improved unit when they host the Chargers tonight at Mall of America Field.

As it is the third preseason game, the starters will likely play an entire half. (And maybe even a drive into the second half.) We should get a really good idea of what our team could look like come the first regular season game September 9th. With that being said, I just found out this morning that neither Phillip Rivers or Antonio Gates will be starting for the Chargers so our defense will be working against backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

So, as we head into the game tonight, here are some things I’ll be specifically looking for. Don’t forget to check back here sometime after the game for my notes and analysis.

Can Christian Ponder keep it up?

I know this probably seems like a cop-out. And I know you’re probably tired of hearing us talk about on VT about how this year is about Ponder. Blah, blah, blah… But really, Ponder had a great game last week. It was very, very impressive in my opinion. And since tonight’s game will be the preseason game that is most like a regular game, I’ll be watching him closely again. Almost as a confirmation that what we saw last week wasn’t some sort of fluke or something. The poise he showed in the pocket. The decisions he made. The way he went through his reads and directed hot routes at the line. Those are all things that I want to see again tonight through the first half.

I’ll also be watching to see how he does with Jerome Simpson being on the field less. Leslie Frazier said earlier this week in a press conference that the Vikings were going to start throttling his involvement because of his three game suspension at the beginning of the regular season. All indications at this point are that Ponder and Simpson seem to have a pretty good connection and have done well together. It will be interesting to see what happens when Simpson is absent and another wide receiver (Aromashodu?) needs to step up.

Audie Cole and Jarius Wright

Kind of two different stores with these guys so far, huh? On one hand, you have Audie Cole who has been very splashy so far in preseason. Last week he had two interceptions returned for touchdowns (within 17 seconds of one another). The prior week he had a sack against the 49ers. Jarius Wright, on the other hand, has been incredibly quiet. He hasn’t had a single reception and has only returned one punt for decent yardage.

I’ll be looking for Audie Cole to show more this week. While I doubt he’ll get much playing time in the first half, if he can come out in the second half and make some big plays again, I think it is a lock that he will make the roster.

Jarius Wright just needs to show some sign of life if he is going to make this team. I was high on the Wright pick in this year’s draft and I’m really hoping he turns out to be a weapon for this team. Hopefully, in the second half of tonight’s game he can come down with a few grabs and/or show some of that speed on a punt return.

Who will be RB3?

There are a lot of names in the basket for the third running back spot on the roster. The Vikings Age pointed out that Rick Spielman has said he would prefer the third running back to be a running back/full back hybrid. While you would think Lex Hilliard would fill that role quite nicely, he hasn’t really shown anything in the preseason to solidify his place. Matt Asiata, on the other hand, looked really good last week against the Bills (as I mentioned in last week’s notes and analysis). If he can come out and have another really good game, I definitely think he deserves consideration for the role.

Other quick notes

  • There is a battle going on at the tight end position. With John Carlson out with an injury, other guys like Allen Reisner, Mickey Shuler and rookie Rhett Ellison have been stepping up. One of them will probably end up getting cut in the next couple of weeks, though. Who will it be?
  • Is Erin Henderson really being pushed by Marvin Mitchell for the Will spot? I’ll be watching these two tonight.
  • Chris Carr will get to start in place of Chris Cook who is out with concussion concerns. Carr has looked pretty bad so far in preseason. Can he improve tonight as a starter?
  • Who will get the nod at backup quarterback tonight? Joe Webb has looked ghastly in preseason so far. Does he get another shot tonight or does the team decide to give veteran Sage Rosenfels a shot for the QB2 position?



  1. having rivers and gates out diminishes tonight’s game. you’re right about ponder being the focus, and we’ll get a better idea of where he’s at in this game. it’s only pre-season, but i’m just glad i can watch it on regular tv here. chargers’ o-line is banged up, so our D should have fun. 20-6 vikings at the half

    • so, the defense held them to 6 in the first half, but the offense sucked! what happened to last game’s performance? i figured the defense would maybe score a TD with the SD O-line hobbled and rivers and gates not playing, but no dice. young teams are gonna be inconsistent

  2. To be fair Rivers (and were without AP) isnt playing at his best anyways and maybe Whitehurst will be more of a challange. My number 1 focus on tonight’s game is also the passing game. I beleive ponder more than capable of running this offense, I just want to see how well our recievers can do without simpson. I beleive simpson is going to be a focal point of our offense this season and without him on the field I dont expect last weeks performance, but I still expect 3 out of 4 drives to result in points on the board.

  3. Even though I would rather see Mcleod Bthel-Thompson play the second string qb tonight, we will see Webb. I sure the Vikings are hoping he shows some improvement, maybe for trade bait. And I really think the Vikings will be watching the waiver wires for QB’s.

  4. Nice… Game is blacked out. Won’t be able to watch it tonight… That means the notes/analysis won’t come until the end of the weekend. Game isn’t looking too good though from what I’m hearing online.

  5. Ponder played average. Receivers weren’t getting open. The running game was horrible in the first half. As the offense settled down and started making some plays we repeadetly fumbled the ball. Defense is looking good though the way were playing we can have between 5 and 8 wins

  6. Pretty crappy game to watch, the entire team didn’t look too interested in playing a football game tonight. I think Ponder played better than his stats showed. The INT was a bad play all around, but he did a good job going through his reads for a majority of the game and he hit Percy in stride deep on two occasions (if Percy hadn’t dropped the 2nd one Ponder would have had another 50 yds and a TD on his stat sheet. I thought it was a rougher night for the rookies, Harrison’s personal foul on the last drive was a bonehead play, but better to get it out of the way in the pre-season. Asiatia was one of the few bright spots and he of course had to put the ball on the ground in the red zone. Todman had a nice catch out of the backfield late in the game. I thought defensively they had a couple opportunities to make interceptions and came up empty again which is concerning. Frankly after that performance I would make the starters play the first quarter next week.

  7. P.A. and Pete Bercich suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How many plays did they call the wrong person making the tackle? To many to count. And we could only see about half the players during plays. Hard to tell how certain players were playing when they were off screen most of the game.

    • dan fouts called the game for here, was laughing at the refs, pointed out a missed call on that game-winning last drive when SD had 12 men in the huddle

  8. Just finished watching the first half… I agree on Ponder. Overall I thought he looked okay. Definitely not as bad as some people are making it sound out there. Overall I though his passes were pretty darn accurate. Wasn’t getting a lot of help from receivers. I’ll expand more on his play overall sometime this weekend.

  9. If they dont get the reffing thing fixed, that will be THE story of the season. If that had been a regular game, people would have exploded over some of tbe calls/non-calls.

    • You got that right Coach. Geez where did they find those bozo’s? This has to be the worst officiating I’ve ever seen. The regular refs are far from perfect but they need to be hired back asap.

      • these replacements won’t work to get better, either, cuz there’s no incentive. it’s just a matter of time until the regulars are back

    • Yeah Cal too bad on Coleman, would’ve been a great story but he didn’t show much at the NFL level. Not really surprised at any of the cuts so far.

  10. If there were regular refs, Mike “stone knuckles” Jenkins would have surely caught the ball last night.
    If there were regular refs, Cheech Harvin would have surely caught that easy TD pass.
    If there were regular refs, we wouldn’t have fumbled once last night.
    If there were regular refs, our offensive line wouldn’t have been dominated on a regular basis
    If there were regular refs, JJ Jumpin’ Joe Web would have… well, Joe don’t need no regular refs.
    If there were regular refs, Coach Frazier wouldn’t have looked like he’s getting B cup man boobs.

    The team sucked last night. The refs just played down to the Vikings level.

  11. too bad former U of Hawaii player Solomon Elimimian didn’t make the team, he had his shot. oh well
    His younger brother Abraham Elimimian was a better player (d-back) but got into coaching
    Jezebel Elimimian, who’s trying out for Miss Universe, was seen leaving Trump Tower in the early a.m.
    Lastly, Talmud Elimimian was gettin’ stoned, in the biblical sense. Not good.

  12. Elimimian didn’t stand much of a chance the way Mitchell, McKenzie, and Super Cole are playing, but I feel bad when injuries take away reps from guys and they end up getting cut. I’m hoping Todman gets a lot of reps on Thursday, I really want to see what he can do in a game setting. I still think he’s the 3rd best back on the team but like what Asatia is doing as well.


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