Minnesota Vikings' 5 Biggest Preseason Disappointments so Far
And the world drops to its knees as if to celebrate: The Minnesota Vikings have a mere two preseason games left before the real thing starts.
Breathe in. Breathe out. We're that much closer to actual football.
But until then, we have two more preseason games to endure.
And until that next preseason game (Sunday, Aug. 25), we have two preseason games and training camp to assess where the heck this 2013 Vikings season is going.
The Vikings are 0-2 in the preseason. But it's just the preseason. Can't get too worked up over the preseason?
Yes. And no.
It's a two-way street filled with cars on each side of the road.
Here, we're looking at the five cars taking up the most amount of space—the five problems from training camp and the two preseason games that are most concerning.
This could be performances by coaches, players or units in training camp or preseason games, depth chart situations, health statuses or anything else alarming that could set back Minnesota in its 2013 campaign, based upon expectations entering training camp.
There is no order here. Only concerns that need solutions.
The biggest question of Minnesota's offseason centered around who would quarterback the defense.
Would it be Erin Henderson? Would it be Brian Urlacher leaving the Chicago Bears? Or would it be Plan X?
By signing Desmond Bishop away from the Green Bay Packers, many thought the former inside linebacker would be the interior solution.
He had recorded consecutive 100-plus tackle seasons in 2010 and 2011 before a torn hamstring ended his 2012 season during the preseason.
The man was a proven playmaker. IF health wasn't an issue.
And sure enough, health has been an issue in his short tenure as a Viking.
His hamstring has been fine. The Star Tribune reported on Aug. 1 that the hamstring wasn't affecting Bishop at training camp.
What the Minneapolis newspaper didn't see forthcoming was a groin injury.
That setback has pushed Bishop onto the second defensive unit, for now, and has Marvin Mitchell manning the outside linebacker spot opposite Chad Greenway.
Mitchell has spent one season in Minnesota's system and is a nice little player. But he shouldn't be a starter on a team with playoff aspirations.
Minnesota needs Bishop to get healthy and take back the spot he was signed to fill.
The Offensive Line Performance vs. Buffalo
What was one of the bigger question marks entering training camp in 2012 was supposed to be one of the biggest strengths entering 2013.
I graded the offensive line as an "A-" entering training camp. But in the unit's first extended look against a non-purple opposition, that grade couldn't hold water if it tried on Friday.
Granted, the entire offense was out of sync. But unless you have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the entire offense will struggle if the offensive line can't get its act together.
That offense will struggle further if its productivity is rooted in a strong running game. Adrian Peterson may be superhuman, but he can't run through every defender. He needs some help.
Now, with a group anchored by the trio of Matt Kalil, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt, the talent is there to be successful in 2013 like in 2012.
As many have pointed out, Minnesota may not have expected the Buffalo Bills to blitz as early and as often as they did in a preseason game. The Vikings may not have been prepared for that.
It's something to keep an eye on in Week 3, when the starters will play into the second half.
Chemistry Between Christian Ponder and Greg Jennings
When Minnesota dealt its top offensive option not named Adrian Peterson to the Seattle Seahawks, it knew a replacement was needed.
But that shiny, expensive new toy is invaluable to third-year quarterback Christian Ponder if the two can't get on the same page.
Jennings has spent his career receiving passes from Hall of Fame-caliber players in Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.
Ponder isn't at that level and may never be.
Harvin has been the best receiver Ponder has thrown to, and he wasn't known as a fundamentally sound receiver as Jennings.
Jennings doesn't possess elite athleticism like Harvin and has to be fundamentally sound to be a playmaker. That's something Ponder must adjust to.
If that duo can't get its act together, then the passing game will take a hit, as Ponder will have to rely on Kyle Rudolph's size, Cordarrelle Patterson surprising as a rookie and a HUGE dose of Peterson.
That could breed success, but Minnesota's best chance is for Ponder and Jennings to click.
Blair Walsh's Struggle to Adapt to Jeff Locke as Holder
As the Minnesota franchise knows better than most, one kick can make or break a season.
After 35 field goals without a blemish in the regular season, Gary Anderson missed a field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game. That miss from 38 yards, in part, cost Minnesota an opportunity to win that year's Super Bowl.
Now, this is only the preseason and Blair Walsh's struggles have come in training camp. But as Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press points out, Walsh hasn't instantaneously jelled with rookie punter/holder Jeff Locke.
In preseason games, Walsh is 3-of-4 with makes from 22, 34 and 36 yards. His lone miss came from 49 yards in the first quarter of Friday's game vs. Buffalo.
The Pioneer Press reported, in its story, that Walsh drilled 7 of 10 field goals in a scrimmage and special teams coach Mike Priefer told the newspaper that Walsh wasn't comfortable with rookie punter/holder Jeff Locke, who is replacing veteran Chris Kluwe.
"That's something that's ongoing," Priefer told the Pioneer Press. "It takes a couple weeks of training camp to get back into the rhythm and timing to be successful."
That's all well and good, but for a team that's likely to play in many close games, clutch field-goal kicking will be...well...clutch.
The Vikings aren't likely to blow out opponents in 2013, which means a strong, reliable field-goal unit is needed once again.
There's still time for Walsh and Locke to get it together, but the Vikings need that duo to be ready to go by Week 1.
Part of what made the Minnesota Vikings so successful in 2012 was their ability to avoid the sting of the injury bug.
And while it hasn't dealt Minnesota anything infectious, there are situations to keep an eye on.
Late Monday, it was reported by 1500 ESPN that Sharrif Floyd underwent a procedure on his left knee and would miss the remainder of the preseason.
Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton is already out the remainder of the preseason after undergoing an appendectomy.
Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes missed time with a pulled hamstring, which has left him as Minnesota's No. 3 cornerback (as the depth chart stands today).
And Desmond Bishop, previously mentioned on this slideshow, missed significant time with a groin injury.
Felton, Rhodes and Bishop were all expected to be major contributors to the Vikings. Floyd was expected to be in the regular rotation of Minnesota's defensive line.
Now, there's no reason to believe that all of those players live up to the expectation for their roles in 2013.
Felton and Floyd are expected back for Week 1.
Rhodes is working is way back from his hamstring pull, but is currently third on Minnesota's cornerback depth chart when he was expected to start alongside Chris Cook.
Bishop was expected to become Minnesota's third linebacker with Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway. Now journeyman Marvin Mitchell has the lead in the race for the weak-side linebacker.
Injuries happen; they are part of the game. Minnesota just has to hope its players recover, as expected, from injuries, and they contribute as expected.
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