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.
- 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.
- The Vikings seem plenty concerned with giving this offense as many passing reps as possible in the preseason, presumably hoping to fast-track the unit into being formidable, but few consistencies have made themselves known. Tight end Kyle Rudolph dropped an inexplicably easy pass on Friday, but he was also the most productive receiver on the field despite the drop. He ended up with 39 yards on three catches and (fantasy players take note) seems to be Ponder’s favorite target.
- Joe Banyard had a really nice game. He rushed for 47 yards on seven attempts and provided a highlight reel run of 38 yards for a touchdown. Banyard was the only Vikings running back to truly stand out on Friday, although Gerhart did some nice things, and the third running back job might currently be his to lose.
- McLeod Bethel-Thompson might have spent his time playing against scrubs as the Vikings third quarterback, but he did a very nice job of it. He ended his night completing 10 of 17 passes for 107 yards which included a 35 yard touchdown strike to Rodney Smith. That touchdown play should help both of their chances of being employed by the Vikings come September. MBT performed better that either Ponder of Matt Cassel (again, yes, the level of competition) and Vikings fans noticed. It seems likely that he is cemented as the third quarterback.
- The combination of Jeff Locke and Bobby Felder seems pretty legit when it comes to pinning the opponent against their own endzone. They put on a show late in the game and Locke greatly improved his play, while Felder showed he can contribute as a special teamer. Felder has been out of position on a number of occasions as a corner, and history suggests he will eventually be called on to play on defense if he makes the team, but he has proven himself an asset on special teams.
- The Vikings almost came out of this game in as good of shape as they went in. A concussion suffered by receiver Jarius Wright, however, provided a damper on the evening. In the short term, it is likely that Wright will find the field again relatively quickly, but in today’s NFL era it is never good to see any player suffer a concussion. It seems that head injuries are derailing more and more careers every year, and for good reason. Wright caught to passes for 15 yards against Buffalo.
- The Vikings only had three penalties all game, but one of them was huge. Stephen Burton showed some serious potential on a kickoff return for a score, but the touchdown was called back thanks to a holding penalty on linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. That is inexcusable and will be a big mark against him as final cuts draw nearer.
- Joe Webb caught two passes for 13 yards against Buffalo, but has not been standing out at all among the receivers group. He hasn’t been contributing on special teams either. Webb needs to either step up in a big way in the next two weeks or pray that his versatility can save his job.
- Dear Blair Walsh, you missed. Stop it.
- From watching Matt Asiata‘s pass blocking display against Buffalo, I have a hard time seeing the coaching staff giving him any big votes of confidence. Watching him try to pick up blitzers against Buffalo was like watching Ashton Kutcher try to be a serious actor. Failed attempts, one after another. With so many other talents behind him playing fairly well, Asiata has to know he’s dispensable and performances like that do nothing to help his cause. He carried the ball four times for 10 yards and caught single pass for two yards.
- While I gave them an “A” for sidelining Adrian Peterson thus far in the preseason, there are other players whose status is cause for concern. For example, Christian Ballard is on the “left team” list and hasn’t been with the team since the preseason opener against Houston. Frazier gave veiled answers to questions about the situation and says that Ballard is dealing with personal, family issues. We’ll keep tabs on the situation and let you know if more information becomes available.
- Joe Berger snapping to Matt Cassel. There’s something we hope we never see in a regular season game.
- This offensive line has me very worried. They look like a joke. From the very first play, when Matt Kalil got burned inside for a sack, and throughout the came which featured a number of miscues. The bad snaps. The pressure allowed. The sacks allowed. Ugh, it is the stuff nightmares are made of, and the stuff excuses are made of for the Ponder sympathizers out there. Sure, Buffalo brought a lot of heat that they wouldn’t bring if Peterson were lined up in the backfield, but I’d prefer our line to just be able to take care of business no matter who the running back is. Get your act together, guys.