Week three of the preseason always captures the attention of fans more than any other, even though week four tends to be make-or-break time for bubble players, because the first teams see their most extensive playing time.
As the Vikings prepare to play the Niners this weekend, after two very flawed games thus far in the preseason, I have a list of things I hope to see. Here are the top five:
5. Something, Anything, Out Of Ponder
On one hand, what Christian Ponder does in the preseason simply does not matter. He’s the week one starter, barring injury or suspension, so how he plays impacts the depth chart very little. Heck, if he lights it up in the preseason, it matters equally as little because what he needs to prove is that he can quarterback his team to wins on a consistent basis. He can’t prove, at least to me, whether or not he is “the guy” during these preseason games. He’ll have to wait until the regular season before he can make a real case for himself, or before critics can truly call for his head.
However, on the other hand, it sure would be nice to see him perform at a higher level than he has been. A nice solid game out of him would go a long ways towards giving us some confidence about the pending playoff race.
4. Taking It Out Of Their Hands
I couldn’t believe it when Jamarca Sanford actually came up with an interception last week. Granted, this ball didn’t hit him in the chest like the ones he normally drops, but I was still encouraged by the fact that he actually capitalized on an opportunity.
The Vikings seem to be a team, in the last few years, that consistently misses out on turnover opportunities. That has been a major emphasis for the defense this offseason, according to the coaching staff, and it would really be nice to see that come to fruition against the Niners.
3. O-Line Solidification
I am surprising myself by not putting this at #1 after last week’s train wreck. The play of our offensive line was ridiculously disappointing against Buffalo, which hopefully served as a wakeup call at the right time. The Niners may or may not play as aggressively as the Bills did, but they certainly have the pass rushers to provide another good test for Matt Kalil and company.
My hope is that last week was an aberration, a product of being unprepared for such a blitz-happy defense in August, and that we see more competence out of our high-priced offensive line.
2. Neutralizing Kaepernick
Last season, all of the Vikings losses were served up by quarterbacks with good mobility, and runs from RGIII and Colin Kaepernick will forever be mainstays in the personal highlight reels. The Vikings have a high number of mobile quarterbacks on the schedule this year and cannot afford to struggle with containment once again. Kaepernick should provide a good test, a gauge for whether or not this defense is better prepared to deal with quick feet, and the hope is that the defense can better contain him.
Added athleticism from guys like Desmond Bishop (added), Everson Griffen (increased reps?), and Sharrif Floyd (rookie) could go a long ways towards solving this problem, but I want to see it so that I can believe it.
1. Healthy Adrian Peterson
Coach Leslie Frazier has indicated he plans to put Adrian Peterson on the field this week, and I really couldn’t disagree more with that decision. I understand this offense needs a confidence boost. I understand the argument against having the regular season be a player’s first time on the field due to injury concern. I understand all of the reasons for Frazier wanting to do it. I just disagree.
With that being said, what I want most out of this coming game is for all of our players to come out of it unscathed, especially the reigning MVP.