Before Fridays preseason opener against Houston, we took time to check up on how the Vikings three first round selections were fairing in training camp.  Wide out Cordarrelle Patterson impressed on offense and special teams during the contest, while defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd made a pair of splash plays before exiting with what is believed to be a minor knee injury.  Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was held out of the action for precautionary reasons, but the expectation is that he will play this week.

So, as we get a week deeper into the preseason, I wanted to move a little farther down our draft board and see how the next three rookies are doing thus far in their very young careers.

GERALD HODGES, LB

After spending a fourth round selection on the fairly celebrated Penn State linebacker, many Vikings fans were excited about seeing him compete for a starting job on the weakside.  Deals with Marvin Mitchell and Desmond Bishop might just delay that from being a year-one reality.  On Friday, Hodges was a part of a third string unit that didn’t hold up very well, but both Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman went out of their way to praise him following the contest.  Spielman, however, stressed that both Hodges and Michael Mauti had put things on tape that weren’t so great and that they needed to learn from.  Hodges ended the game with three tackles, including one for a loss, and appears to be on the fast track to a special teams role and backup linebacker duties.

JEFF LOCKE, P

Chris Kluwe saw an unprecedented amount of support from fans and members of the Minnesota media when the Vikings elected to use a fifth round selection on UCLA punter Jeff Locke, but for those that still harbor hard feelings it seems like just a matter of time before “Kluwe who?” becomes a tagline during the 2013 campaign.  Locke was rumored to have boomed some ridiculous punts during training camp, some in the 80 yard range, but we didn’t get to see that on display against Houston.  Instead, we saw some mediocre punting (39.2 yard average on 5 attempts) and a guy plenty capable of holding the ball for placekicker Blair Walsh.  Locke did manage to pin Houston inside their own 10 on two occasions, which is also encouraging.

“We’re trying to work a little bit with the directional punting with him,” Spielman said of Locke’s performance. “Where he did shine was in those pooch situations where he does that Aussie-style kick. The next time you’re watching it, watch the flight of the ball because it almost has a reverse spin on it, almost like a kickoff.

JEFF BACA, G

The Vikings have a plethora of young offensive lineman that are vying for just a couple of vacant roster spots and it can be hard for a casual observer to differentiate between these guys, especially when the line as a whole performs as poorly as they did against Houston.  Still, it appeared as if (and a number of camp reporters seem to agree) that sixth round selection Jeff Baca perhaps currently holds the upper hand in earning one of those remaining spots.  Baca has good size and a certain toughness about him, and a day doesn’t seem to go by where he isn’t noted as a standout in practice, and that included today where he man-handled tackle Anthony McCloud in pass protection.

I’d be very surprised if Baca doesn’t end up with the primary backup spot to the guard positions.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Certainly they are not playing any meaningful games yet….but this class looks to be even better than last years. High character, high performance players….including at least 4 instant starters….and several other contributors. The days of Erasmus James, Dimitrius Underwood, and Troy Williamson as top of the draft guys seem a distant memory.

    If Spielman doesn’t get Exec of the year after yet another stunning draft…..it will be highway robbery.

    • 4 instant starters? not to be pessimistic, but at best we’ll have 2 instant starter this year, later in the year maybe 3.
      Locke is not a starter, he’s a special teamer, sorry to be rude, but that’s not a starter.
      – Floyd won’t start, and I think he’ll at best see about 40 % playing time in his first year.
      Rhodes is injured right now, but he’s the most hopefull of this group and could demand a starting spot at the beginning of the season (especially if we start out in nickel at times).
      There is no way I see Patterson leaping over jennings, simpson and wright before halfway throught the season. He will get playing time, but I doubt he’ll be starting.

      • Freds is a bit confused. Who is the starting punter for the Vike this year Malte? By all accounts it’s Locke. No?

  2. I like the rookies!
    Floyd taking 40% of 50% of the snaps away from K Williams is a big deal. He would be an instant starter on most teams. Rhodes should change the whole complextion of the Vikings’ defense if he can stay healthy. Patterson looked like a man among boys last week. I don’t see any reason why that will not continue.
    If this was a bad game for Jeff Locke, I will take it. His first 2 punts were from the Texans’ 43 and 45 yard lines… so, he really didn’t get a chance to get his foot into it until late in the game. Yes, his last 2 punts of 39 and 38 yards, when the Vikings were back on the 20 yard line, were nothing special. But I am not willing to write him off after 1 preseason game. His first 3 punts were very good under the game time circumstances.

    These rookies, even the late round guys, will get plenty of playing time and make significant contributions. I for one am looking forward to this rookie class being regulars on the weekly highlight clips.

    • I am not saying that I don’t like these rookies. I like them a lot. But saying there are 4 instant starter was jumping the gun a bit I think.
      However I agree with you, Floyd will be a big deal this year, but even more so in the future. Rhodes most likely will be on every snap this year, if not injured, but right now Patterson is the 4th receiver, and if he even gets 40-45 yards receiving per game, and on avarage 10 yard rushing per game (with end arounds and so on) then I actually think he has done a decent job to good job for a rookie WR. 600 – 700 yards receiving is pretty good for a raw rookie receiver.

      All I’m saying is we perhaps should temper our expectations a little bit. Give them time to learn.

      • Malte,
        Wright will get most of his regular season playing time in the slot. Jennings will see most of his action at the flanker position… so that means Patterson is only behind Simpson right now on the depth chart as our outside WR.

        Patterson could win that “starter” position as the outside wide receiver in the next 3 preseason games.

        With that said, Malte, I agree that tempering our expectations for the rookies is a smart move… unfortunately, I am past the point of no return… no hope for me… my expectations are already to the moon.

        • I know he only has to jump Simpson, But Frazier lately said that Patterson won’t be in the rotation with the first guys. Actually I think Simpson is ahead of Jarius Wright at the moment, but I still think Wright is better.
          But with Simpson’s experience he has the upperleg. I know he only has to leap infront of 1 or 2 guys (seing how minnesota runs a lot of 2 TE set and always a RB on the field)
          I still think Patterson will be much better, but this first year will properly have a lot of growing pains for him.

  3. our draftees the last two years have been excellent and we’re gonna keep improving, but if we don’t have qb play to match, we’ll suffer greatly for that and waste AD for another year. ponder had better get his act together or he’ll be replaced by cassell, regardless of what the team has said about ponder being ‘the guy’, and then we’ll have to draft another qb. it’s early, there’s a lot of time before the regular season starts, and i really hope ponder improves, but i haven’t seen anything yet from ponder to make me believe that we won’t see another sub-100-yd. game from him this year

  4. Cal,

    You are correct Ponder is the key. Let’s hope for progress.

    Your old pal Fragile has done some extremely detailed breaking down of films and based on Ponders extensive play in the first game of the pre season. If we take his game stats from his last outing and spread them out accordingly over a full 16 game season and we assume he will attempt 483 passing plays as last year, he will end with 241 interceptions, zero touchdowns. The good news is that he will pass for over 3,500 yards and won’t get sacked all year!! 241 interceptions is probably a little bit higher than we all might want it, but no one is perfect.

  5. Fair points Malte…..Rhodes/Floyd/Patterson will be go to guys immediately….and Baca, Hodges and Mauti certainly look to be big contributors. If Locke is anywhere near Walsh (which early reports confirm), it is a stellar pick.

    I would think that the Vikings will have the most productive rookie class in the NFL. That is impressive, again.

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