The Vikings host the Buffalo Bills tonight at Mall of America Field in their second preseason game of the year. Last week when the Vikings traveled to San Francisco, I saw some positive signs of improvement but I also saw some all too familiar shortcomings. While watching the game tonight (7:00 PM CDT), I’ll be paying close attention to the items below and, in general, looking for more signs that this is an improved unit who can surprise some doubters this year.

1. Harrison Smith

The Vikings invested pretty heavily in the Notre Dame safety this past draft. And while reports from training camp say Harrison Smith has looked great so far, we’ve yet to really see what he can do in-game. Tonight though, we should get that opportunity as Harrison Smith is set to make his first start for the Vikings.

What I’ll be looking for: Intensity. Some of the buzz surrounding Smith is that he brings a certain edge to the Vikings secondary that hasn’t been around for a while. It was even reported a while back that the rookie got into a minor scuffle with Percy Harvin during practice after repeatedly trying to strip the ball out of his hands. After the shoving match, Smith said, “I don’t think it was me standing my ground. It’s just football… Football is an aggressive sport played by aggressive people.” I want to see that aggressiveness  in game. I want to see Smith attack defenses. Be quick to the ball on rushing downs and be quick and responsive in coverage. The Vikings really needs their secondary to make improvements this year and I’ll be looking for any glimpse of them tonight.

2. Run Defense

Simply stated, the Vikings defense got torched on the ground last week against the 49ers. The team had a hard time filling gaps and just looked a little sluggish getting to the ball overall. The caveat was that the Vikings defense was missing major contributors who probably wouldn’t have allowed it to get so out-of-hand (or out-of-hand at all). Tonight, there will be no excuses as all healthy players are expected to play. That means Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison will all be in with the first teamers. Antoine Winfield, known for his run-stopping and tackling, will also be starting tonight.

What I’ll be looking for: The Vikings not getting ran over. The defensive line needs to show that what happened last week is not a representation of what this defense is going to do in the regular season. The Bills don’t have the best running backs in the NFL, but Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are both very capable. And if the defense performs like it did last week, we could expect to see a similar result.

Beyond stopping the run, I expect Jared Allen to really get after Ryan Fitzpatrick as last year’s leading sacker will be going up against rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn.

 3. The Offensive Line

Much has been made over the offseason about how improved the Vikings offensive line is this year. With the addition of first round pick Matt Kalil and the shuffling around of other pieces, the unit is expected to be much better than last season. Last week against the 49ers, the first team offensive line performed pretty well overall against one of the toughest defenses in the league. Tonight, they will be tested even further going against what could be one of the best defensive lines this season. A defensive line that features Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and, Buffalo’s big offseason signing, defensive end Mario Williams. Phil Loadholt, the lineman in charge of covering Williams, will definitely be tested tonight as goes up against one of the best ends in football right now (behind our Jared Allen, obviously).

What I’ll be looking for: I’m looking for Kalil to continue to impress and show everyone why he was worth such a high pick in the draft. I’m also looking for Ponder to not even come close to being touched. He should have adequate time to complete his drop, go through his reads and get the ball out before defenders are in his face. If that can happen tonight against the Bills first team defensive line, I think it would be safe to say that our new and improved offensive line is legit.


Make sure to check back tomorrow for my in-depth analysis and notes from the game.

26 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a very important point you make, Brett, regarding the attitude of the defensive backfield. Over the last couple of years, both that group and the OLine looked like they were almost apologizing for being out there (perhaps rightfully so). This game can’t be played that way at any level. The OLine needs to protect their territory, both physically and mentally, and so do the DB’s. If Percy doesn’t like them swatting at the ball, well, too damn bad. Like Harrison said, thats football. Let me just say that Mick Tinglehoff, Grady Alderman, Ed White, Milte Sunde and Ron Yary were not as nice of guys as some people thought, and I mean that in a good way. And then you had Hackbart and Kassulke in the defensive backfield… I know there were opponents on offense who didn’t see it as all bad when they left the field after not converting on third down.

  2. Brett, Guion was hurt early against San Fran. He is the one that plugs up the middle. And he won’t be playing this week or probably next. So you might not get a true look at d-line.

  3. holy crap….how bout that game…we looked really good…webb can run but still doesnt have hope passing…ponder looked really good..harrison smith had some sweet plays…simpson fricken sweet catch….but how bout audie cole? I mean dam..wow

  4. Webb sucks as a qb!!! Can’t pass the ball at all. Sure can run. But passing sucks. I hope Vikings try to trade Webb.

  5. yeah, that was a really fun one, even if it was pre-season. ponder looked good and so did the defense

    idk what else a guy has to do to make a team. unless he does something very stupid, i’ll say welcome to the roster, audie cole. damn, that was 5 minutes of electricity

    buffalo might not be the best team, but i was impressed, and there was no AD. next week we’ll get a better sampling

    • You can lose a roster spot with five minutes of play, Cal, but I’m not sure you can earn one. A good run for Mr. Cole, no doubt, but making the roster involves a lot more than a couple INT’s again a #5 QB. May have earned a closer look and a few more reps in practice, at least.

  6. Young kicker Walsh looks very very good. Looks like he can kick it out of the endzone anytime he wants. also looks like he can kick, kickoffs anywhere on the field he wants. Strong leg.

  7. Toby Gerhart is a beast!!!!! ANd Vikings coaches say he get stronger with the more snaps he gets. And he ca catch the ball out of the back field. No reason to rush AD back!!!!!

  8. Interesting game. O-line got a B against one of the best d-lines in the NFL. First team offence got an A-. First team defense got an A-. If the Vikes keep playing like this my mind might change about my prediction.

  9. The secret is now out in the open, the former #83 is now #57
    Jeff Meta Universal Peace = Audie Cole

    That SpeilMillen sure is a sneaky bastard

    How the heck can they cut this guy, he’s leading the team in TD’s

    • Ole you might be right, But Freds would contend that Artie Cole = Joe Webb. Joe is such a great athlete and so versatile that he can change his skin color, grow his hair long and play linebacker all while the rest of his offensive team is on the sideline resting.

  10. The good
    ————–
    1) Mentsrual Raymond – played like he might have a clue. Freds thinks Coach Denzel might have given Ray a lesson in geometry, let’s hope our guy has worked out his issues with figuring out angles.
    2) Jerry Simpson – as Brads used to say, this guy has a little wiggle.
    3) Chris Ponder – Dude hit most of his receivers in stride. Sounds like a little thing, but tell that to TJack.
    4) Cheech Harvin – Part time Percy is ready, dude is quick.
    5) Artie Cole – Who knows if he will be any good or not, but at least he can catch a 5 yard in pattern.

    The Bad
    ————
    1) JJ Jumpin’ Joe Webb – IF the Vike really intend to have him as the number 2, it’s going to be a long year. He has the same issues TJack had, unless the receiver is standing still, he always throws behind him. Hey Joseph, stop throwing the ball out of bounds on the deep side line routes.

    2) Ben Leber’s work as the sideline reporter during the game. Yikes!

    The Ugly
    ————-
    1) The Viking cheerleaders all have “great personalities”. Who in hell is picking out this star studded group of gals? Freds might have to up his Colt 45 intake during game time. Don’t get Freds wrong, the gals seem to have their diets in order and have done a good job completing their Jane Fonda work out tapes, but can’t we can a few more with nice looking faces? For the love of God, there are a ton of nice looking women in Minnesota, we have to do better than that.

    For example, please watch below the Carolina Panthers cheerleader try out tape below. Smart AND beautiful.

    • Boy, that’s painful to watch, Freds. Absolutely brutal. That young lady’s last name isn’t Palin or Bachmann by any chance, is it?

  11. We’re not as bad as the first game and not as good as the second game. Even so, there were some encouraging signs.

    – When I see Harrison Smith I think John Lynch. Boy do we need somebody like that sooooo badly!!
    – This offensive line has real potential – everybody looks like they truly care about their performance and their teammates.
    – Walsh looks good, yes, but we really won’t know anything until he lines up in a regular season game for a 48-yarder with us down by two and 3 seconds left in the game.
    – Joe Webb reminds me more and more of TJack, which of course is not a good thing. To be fair though, he has not yet been on the field with the first unit.

    • I really hope he turns out like John Lynch. I still like Joe better than T Jack tho. Probaby because having more painful memories with him.

      I really hope he doesn’t end up like Tarvaris…

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