Friday, January 30, 2015
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christian ponder

The other day I hit a squirrel.  I didn’t mean to and I did everything I could to safely miss the thing.  I went right and so did the squirrel.  I went left and the squirrel reversed course and stayed right in front of me.  This went on for a number of slight swerves when suddenly a definitive “THUD” made the outcome of this little episode quite clear.

On Sunday afternoon, the Detroit Lions played the part of my car, doing seemingly everything they could to keep that squirrel (the Minnesota Vikings) alive.

In the end:  THUD.

Things started out fairly promising.  A botched field goal attempt led to the Vikings first offensive snap, which Adrian Peterson took to the house from 78 yards out, but it was all downhill from there.  Here are my graded observations from the action:

GRADE A

Watching Adrian Peterson take that ball 78 yards for a touchdown really gave me hope about this game.  Hope is officially dead for a week one win, but runs like that still give me hope for the rest of the season.  In the hours following this loss I had to keep reminding myself just how ugly that loss to Indianapolis was last year and that the 2012 Vikings were able to turn things around, so the 2013 version might be able to do the same.

Some of the noteable guys from last years squad that didn’t make my cut are: Brandon Burton, Larry Dean, Tyrone Mckenzie, Matt Asiata, Joe Berger, and Stephen Burton.

MBT and M Sherels won a spot on my list after a solid game Thursday night against the Titans.

Greg Childs is on the PUP list until week 6, after that he will either go on IR for the rest of the season or he could take a roster spot from Joe Webb or MBT.

Special Teams (3)

Jeff Locke, Blair Walsh, Cullen Loeffler

QB (3)

Christain Ponder, Matt Cassel, McCleod Bethel-Thompson

FB and RB (4)

Jerome Felton, Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Joe Banyard (keeping the seat warm for Felton the first 3 weeks will be Zach Line. The Vikings have 3 weeks to choose between Line or Banyard)

WR (5)

Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, Corrdarrelle Patterson, and Joe Webb

OL  and TE (11)

Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt, Jeff Baca, Demarcus Love, and Seth Olsen (keeping the seat warm for D Love while he is suspended will be Kevin Murphy or Brandon Keith, too close for me to call) Jeff Baca or Seth Osen will play backup center. Bad snaps by Joe Berger in preseason cost him his job.

DE and DL (9)

Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Sharrif Floyd, Brian Robinson, Everson Griffen, Letroy Guion, Fred Evan, Christain Ballard, and D’Aundre Reed. (Keeping in the seat warm until Ballard returns is Everett Dawkins or Chase Baker, too close for me to call)

Linbackers (7)

Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell, Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti.

DB’s (11)

Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo, AJ Jefferson, Bobby Felder, Marcus Sherels, Robert Blanton and Mistral Raymond.

With two preseason games down, and two to go, I found myself considering a number of changes to my prediction of who would make the Vikings final 53-man roster.  The last time I wrote a prediction was just before the open of training camp and quite a bit has happened since then.  The players that made my previous cut, but no longer do, are marked with a strike.  The players that are new to my list are bolded.

Quarterback: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson

Analysis:  No changes here.  MBT solidified his spot above Vandenberg with a solid performance last week, while Vandenberg didn’t even see the field.  Bill Musgrave recently made some comments about Joe Webb that have me considering only two quarterbacks making the roster, leaving Webb as a last resort, but I think that approach would be too unorthodox.

Running Back: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Bradley Randle

Analysis:  That third running back spot is still a mystery because there are a few players, including Zach Line and Joe Banyard, that are making cases for themselves.  Still, I feel like Randle provides the Vikings with the most upside and some serious special teams value.  Randle is penciled in very lightly at this point, though.

Fullback: Jerome Felton

Analysis:  Felton’s recent surgery has many assuming Zach Line will be on the opening day roster, but he is expected to ready by week one and Rhett Ellison acts as a quality backup at the position.  I just don’t see the Vikings dedicating two spots to fullbacks.

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.

Another week of preseason “action” has come and gone and Vikings fans have, for the most part anyways, not grown any more confident in the Christian Ponder led offense.  In fact, most seem to be getting less comfortable with how this offense is shaping up after Friday’s 16-20 loss in Buffalo.  The game was overall pretty sloppy, and it was hard to peer through the slop to try and learn anything, but I’ll give it a whirl anyways.

GRADE A

  • While the first team offense looked like Friday was perhaps their first time playing the game known as football, the defensive starters really did a nice job overall.  Were there a few blemishes throughout their time on the field?  Sure, but they were able to cover for each other and really limit Kevin Kolb (11 yds, 1 INT) and C.J. Spiller (27 rushing yards on 7 attempts).  Like we saw many times last year, the first team defense kept the game close while they were on the field, allowing only three points despite the offense hanging them out to dry on a number of occasions.
  • Last week I noted the lack of turnovers by out defense.  I really think they are close to being one of the NFL’s absolute best defenses, but they have to learn how to force turnovers and capitalize on opportunities before they’ll come close to earning such respect.  Jamarca Sanford seems to often be in the right place to make such plays, but frustratingly turns into Mr. McGoo when it comes to catching the ball.  After rookie corner Xavier Rhodes disrupted a Kevin Kolb pass on Friday, however, it was Sanford that made the diving grab that gave Minnesota possession of the ball.  We will need plenty of plays exactly like that one throughout this season to reappear in the playoffs, but we’ll need them against quarterbacks far more talented than Kold, too.
  • I know that the offense needs confidence.  I know that Adrian Peterson makes a big difference when he is on the field.  Still, I think one of the best things to come out of this game is that the NFL’s current MVP came out of it unscathed because he never played.  Leslie Frazier said Peterson is int he game plan for this coming preseason contest, but I can’t say I approve of playing him at all.

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