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Report Card: Preseason Week Two

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.
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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. adam, that last point about the o-line is an important one. no matter who they’re lined up against, the first-teamers have got to hold their own, they have to be the bad asses on the field. i think they’ll come around, but if the line doesn’t protect, whoever is playing qb is screwed, which brings us to the all-important qb position

    i loved seeing somebody at the qb spot show improvement for us, thank you mbt. that was very encouraging. gotta keep him around. vandenberg looks like an average rookie. cassel is better than webb and better than -100ponder. cassel has got to be licking his chops, but as a vet who isn’t seen as a long term solution, he’s probably hit his ceiling in his career. ponder, unfortunately, hasn’t blossomed, nor has he shown he’s a failure, he’s just kind of, still here. ponder could have plenty more upside, or not. for sure, we can’t give up on ponder yet. i’m still really hoping that he is consistently good for us this year. at least now we’re somewhat better off at qb than we were last year at this point. last year in august, we didn’t know webb would suck in a playoff game, especially when musgrave quit using him the best way he could have, which brings us to our coaches

    i like frazier, i think he’s improved. i like our defense. i like williams, i’m glad he’s stressing turnovers. if the bears can do it, we can do it. if our passing game can be average or just a little above average, we could be dangerous. i think musgrave is our weak link on our coaching staff. maybe he doesn’t deserve all the blame, but he’s not inspiring at all. he seems timid and makes poor choices. and where’s the qb development he was supposed to bring with him? maybe no one can make ponder anything more than a reach. maybe musgrave and his staff are making progress with mbt. spielman has done a great job with the draft the last two years. frazier has gotta see that the offense doesn’t cost him his job. if ponder languishes, i wouldn’t mind seeing mbt get a shot at starting. if mbt doesn’t pan out, at least get rid of musgrave. in fact, i’d dump musgrave before i’d demote ponder. if we can’t work out our current qb situation, we waste AD (at least he got to play in an NFCCG with favre), and then we gotta start all over with the draft, and UGH, wait for that guy to develop, maybe with all new coaches

    1. 100ponder? Damn that’s good Cal, lol! I can’t help but wonder if the o-line has lost confidence in 100ponder?

      1. that’s gotta be embarrassing. just make your damn 10-yd. throws be completions. all these little dump offs don’t cut it

        1. If I’m the opposing defense I keep 8 or 9 in the box and blitz on every play. Easy formula to stop Vikes offense. I just don’t see ponder making a defense pay

  2. We should probably relax a bit about that performance. We had a rookie head coach on the other sideline that decided he wanted to show half the blitzes in his arsenal in the second pre-season game. I don’t think that excuses how bad the oline played, that first sack for instance on Kalil was just a speed rush to the inside. It was a one-on-one play and Kalil got embarrassed by a former first round bust. I didn’t like that Ponder held the ball on a few plays and he scrambled right into one of the other sacks, so he’s not without blame, but the whole offense looked like crap to start the game off. The one thing I did think, MBT has the best presence out of the QB’s. I liked that he showed a little fire when his receivers weren’t doing what he thought they were going to and I love that he actually stepped into a hit in order to deliver an accurate pass down the field. He got rid of the ball quickly and was anticipating his receivers routes instead of waiting for everything to open up. I’m not ready to start banging the start MBT drum, but I did think that was the best I’ve seen him look and it wasn’t just because of the lower level of competition that was out there.