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Minnesota Vikings' Preseason Week 1 Positional Report Card

Kelly ManginContributor IIIAugust 16, 2011

Minnesota Vikings' Preseason Week 1 Positional Report Card

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    The Minnesota Vikings looked a little rusty on Saturday during their preseason debut against the Tennessee Titans, losing 14-3. 

    With many of the Vikings' starters playing only a couple series (or sitting out the game entirely), head coach Leslie Frazier used the game as an evaluation tool for the players who are battling for a roster spot.

    There are several position battles that are taking shape and could be determined by preseason game performances.

    Here is a position-by-position look at how the Vikings fared in their first game of the 2011 preseason. 

Defensive Line

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    With Jared Allen and Kevin Williams sitting out, the Vikings' coaching staff was able to get a closer look at some of the younger players.

    Brian Robison, who is set to take over for Ray Edwards this season, looked fast out on the field, but only finished with one tackle.

    Remi Ayodele had his share of ups and downs. There were times when he would get pushed around, but he did make a few good plays.   

    For a rookie with only nine padded practices under his belt, Christian Ballard looked good in his NFL debut. He recorded the Vikings only sack of the game when he burst through the Titans' offensive line and pushed Jake Locker to the ground.

    Saturday's game showed that the Vikings still have good depth along the defensive line.

     

    Grade: B 

Linebacker

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    As expected, Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson both looked ready to play when they stepped on the field. 

    Erin Henderson, the front-runner to replace Ben Leber, showed his athleticism while flying all over the field and making plays. He led the Vikings with 10 tackles, but looked lost at times in coverage. 

    Jasper Brinkley, who is competing with Erin Henderson for the starting weak-side linebacker spot, was not overly impressive. He finished with only two tackles, and whiffed on an easy sack of quarterback Jake Locker.

    The Vikings' linebackers are in good hands with Mike Singletary, and should be a position of strength on the defense.

     

    Grade: A- 

Defensive Backs

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    The Vikings' starting cornerbacks, Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, both sat out on Saturday, allowing Chris Cook and Asher Allen to continue their battle for the nickel cornerback position.

    Allen and Cook both had their share of miscues. 

    Cook got caught with his eyes in the backfield when Jake Locker dropped a snap, leaving Titans' receiver Yamon Figurs wide open for a 45-yard touchdown. Cook also missed a few tackles.

    Allen missed an open-field tackle on a screen play, and the next play he let a receiver get behind him for a long pass down the sideline.

    Rookie Brandon Burton looked pretty good in coverage, but had trouble locating the ball in the air. 

    Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford, who are competing for a starting safety position, both saw plenty of playing time against the Titans. However, neither player made a strong case to win the job.

    The Vikings secondary failed to impress during the preseason opener, granted they were without their two studs. There were too many missed tackles and blown assignments to be pleased with the performance.

     

    Grade: D+ 

Offensive Line

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    The offensive line struggled against the Titans. No matter who was on the field, the Vikings' quarterbacks were running for their lives. 

    The unit is still trying to learn the new blocking schemes put in place by offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, and should improve over time. Instead of the zone-blocking scheme that Brad Childress swore by, the Vikings showed some power running plays against the Titans. 

    New starting left tackle Charlie Johnson wasn't great, but he looked better than he did in camp. There were a few plays that he got pushed around, but he is steadily improving and should be playing at a higher level when the regular season starts.

    They didn't have a very impressive night, especially in pass protection, but with two new faces in the starting lineup and a new scheme, that is to be expected.

     

    Grade: C- 

Quarterback

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    Donovan McNabb had a decent outing in his Vikings debut. He completed six of his 11 pass attempts for 40 yards. Not great, but not terrible. He also showed some mobility while escaping pressure. 

    Joe Webb only completed four of eight passes for 48 yards and one interception. He made a terrible decision on his interception, but he also displayed his great athleticism while rushing for 33 yards on five attempts.

    Christian Ponder had some success, completing eight of 13 passes for 84 yards. He showed good accuracy while on the move, but couldn't convert on two red-zone possessions.

    McNabb looks ready to prove that there is still some gas in the tank. Ponder out-played Webb, but the battle for the second quarterback spot continues.

    The playbook was straight vanilla, as the players get more comfortable in Bill Musgrave's new offense. Expect McNabb and the two youngsters to continue to improve as they get more reps in the new system. 

     

    Grade: B 

Wide Receiver

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    The Vikings receivers are still trying to get their timing down with their new quarterbacks. They are also trying to learn a new offensive system, so I won't be too hard on them. 

    Harvin only caught one pass for three yards, while Berrian had two receptions for 12 yards. Michael Jenkins was not targeted during the game. 

    Jaymar Johnson only had one catch for 14 yards, but he also had a 40-yard punt return that put the Vikings offense in good field position. 

    Juaquin Iglesias had the longest catch of the day for 26 yards. 

    Devin Aromashodu only made one catch, but he made a good play on a poorly thrown ball to prevent an interception. 

    The Vikings offense is a work in progress, but things will improve as time goes on.

     

    Grade: C 

Running Back

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    Adrian Peterson only got one carry on Saturday. We all know what he brings to the table, so there is no sense taking any unnecessary risks. 

    Toby Gerhart only ran for eight yards on three carries, but he also caught an eight yard pass that resulted in a first down. He ran hard, and if the Vikings offensive line can open some running lanes, Gerhart will be a very nice compliment to Peterson.

    One of the stars of the game was Lorenzo Booker, who the Vikings signed out of the UFL. Booker led the team in rushing and receiving yards. He gained 47 yards on nine carries and caught three passes for 32 yards.

    Undrafted rookie fullback Matt Asiata looked good at times. He picked up the blitz nicely on the play where Webb threw that ugly interception. He also caught a pass for two yards. He could fight his way onto the roster if he continues to impress. 

    The Vikings have a great trio in Peterson, Gerhart and Booker. Look for the Vikings to run the ball a lot this season.

     

    Grade: A

Tight End

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    Visanthe Shiancoe didn't play because of a nagging hamstring injury, opening the door for Kyle Rudolph to show his stuff. 

    Rudolph only managed one catch for 10 yards, but he will likely be a major contributor once the regular season rolls around.  

    Undrafted rookie Allen Reisner, who was impressive at camp, had one catch for 16 yards. Reisner could be an excellent practice squad player, but then again, remember what happened when the Vikings tried to put Mickey Shuler on the practice squad last season (the Dolphins signed him).

    Jim Kleinsasser caught one pass for five yards, but he also lined up in the backfield. It is entirely possible that the Vikings use Kleinsasser as a fullback at times this season.

    The Vikings have a couple talented, young tight ends. When Shiancoe returns, we should see more from the tight end position.

     

    Grade: C+ 

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