Minnesota Vikings: First NFL Preseason Game Player Review

Drew Tull@@drewtullContributor IIAugust 13, 2012

Minnesota Vikings: First NFL Preseason Game Player Review

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    Any preseason game successes or failures shouldn't be tied to the final score. This is a chance for coaches to continue to evaluate players as they prepare for the first roster cut on Sunday, August 27.

    While Friday's game against the San Francisco 49ers didn't produce a Minnesota Vikings win, there are positives and negatives we can take away from the game that are far greater than the scoreboard.

    There were many key Vikings players on both the offense and defense who did not play in this game.  

    In fact, there were five players that have made the Pro Bowl that were absent on Friday. Four of those players were veterans held out by Coach Leslie Frazier in Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield and Percy Harvin, with the fifth being the injured Adrian Peterson.  

    Also missing the game due to injuries were rookies Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton along with G/T Geoff Schwartz, T DeMarcus Love, TE John Carlson, RB Jordan Todman and WR Kamar Jorden.

    Veteran QB Sage Rosenfels did not play either.

    Missing this many players, many likely first-string, will make a tremendous difference when the Vikings get a rematch at the Metrodome against the 49ers in Week 3.

    The Vikings play their next preseason game on Friday, August 17th against the Buffalo Bills at the Metrodome. The team will have the opportunity to regroup back at Mankato through Thursday due to their lengthened training camp schedule.  

    The second preseason game still may not feature the likes of Harvin, Winfield, Allen, Williams or Peterson as veterans normally only play in week 3, but the team will have time to work out some of the deficiencies that we saw on Friday.


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    Christian Ponder

    Ponder started the game and played two series with 11 passing plays for the Vikings on Friday.  He looked very good in the pocket which coincides with reports this offseason.  Almost as important is that Ponder was not sacked once on Friday.  In 2011 Ponder was sacked 30 times after playing in only 11 games.

    The offensive line continually gave Ponder three to four-second pockets to work in.  The offense didn't tip its hand to the 49ers, but Ponder seemed confident operating in it anyway.   

    Ponders biggest pass play was the second play of the first series.  It was a play-action pass  where he found WR Stephon Burton for a 52 yard strike.  It could have gone for six if Ponder hadn't slightly under-thrown the pass causing Burton to stumble.

    An area that Ponder excelled at in 2011 was his work in the red zone.  He had a 114 quarterback rating in the red zone in 2011.  

    While both of his drives led to field goals, only the second drive found the Vikings in the redzone. Ponder had two pass attempts in the red zone and didn't complete either one.

    The first was a throwaway due to solid coverage and the second Michael Jenkins was cutting over the middle but was dropped.  The pass was slightly behind Jenkins but still catchable.  

    Though disappointing that they didn't score a touchdown, the first team offense moved the ball down the field against a very good 49ers defense that was only missing Pro Bowl DT Justin Smith.  

    A healthy Peterson and Harvin will make a difference.     

    Ponder finished 4-9 for 80 yards but was had three passes dropped.  He also ran for seven yards on two carries.    

    Joe Webb

    While Webb did not pass the eyeball test on Friday he did work with a second string unit that continually had him under pressure especially at the tackle spots.  

    His elusiveness is unquestioned which he had to display too frequently on Friday.

    "We wanted to continue to look at (Webb) and we wanted to give him as many opportunities to continue to show that he's in the right spot playing quarterback," coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. "We'll do the same thing next week -- give him opportunities to continue to grow as a quarterback, and throughout this preseason."

    Webb is certainly not without fault as he did misfire badly on passes to Michael Jenkins and Ryan D'Imperio.  

    Webb ended up 4-11 for 20 yards and was sacked twice.  Webb is locked in as the backup quarterback for now and will keep getting looks in the preseason.  

    McLeod Bethel-Thompson

    The Sacramento State product has gotten plenty of buzz in training camp specifically about his 'cannon arm'.  Bethel-Thompson didn't play until the fourth quarter and was very up and down working with the third and fourth-string units.

    Highlights include a completion to  WR Kerry Taylor for 28 yards in very tight space and a 14 yard completion to Allen Reisner on a bootleg.  His big mistake was a poorly thrown ball that turned into an interception.

    Bethel-Thompson was 3-7 for 49 yards with one interception.  He was also sacked twice.

    Sage Rosenfels

    Rosenfels was held out of the game on Friday.  Presumably, this was to get an extended look at Webb and Bethel-Thompson.  Rosenfels could see time in the second game against the Bills

Running Backs

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    Running Backs

    Adrian Peterson

    Peterson was placed on the Active/PUP list last week and was inactive for the game.  

    On Sunday Peterson was activated from the PUP list and resumed practicing in 11-on-11 team drills at Vikings camp.  

    Activating Peterson from the PUP list means that Peterson cannot be placed on the reserve/PUP list when the regular season opens. 

    According to reports, Peterson is already working with the first team at Vikings practice.

    He could see work in the third preseason game in the Metrodome against the San Diego Chargers on August 24th.

    This is great news for the Vikings as their superstar is clearly on pace to be available against the Jacksonville Jaguars when the regular season starts.   

    Toby Gerhart

    Gerhart was very solid as the featured back in the first two offensive series.  Averaging over six yards per carry in limited opportunities he showed that he is ready to handle an increased role if necessary.  

    Gerhart also did a great job in pass protection when called upon and even pancaked 49ers MLB NaVorro Bowman on one play.

    Gerhart finished the night with 31 yards on five carries.  His longest run was 16 yards where he broke two tackles and averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

    Lex Hilliard

    Hilliard was the second back in the game and did nothing exceptional to standout.  Hilliard is a veteran that can play many positions and is competing with Jordan Todman and Derrick Coleman for the third-string spot.  

    Hilliard did not get any reps on special teams by my counts (yes I did my best to identify each special teams player).  With Todman's injury and Coleman's inexperience he would seem to have the edge but his non-participation on special teams will not help his efforts.

    Hilliard had 12 yards on four carries and had one catch for minus one yard.  He did well in pass protection when working with the first team.

    Derrick Coleman

    Coleman is an undrafted free agent out of UCLA that has an uphill battle to earn a spot.  

    Coleman played primarily with the third-string offense but has hot and cold in this game compared to Hilliard.

    He finished with a better average (3.8 to 3.0) than Hilliard but fumbled once and dropped a pass.  

    Coleman did not jump up the depth chart with this performance.

    Jordan Todman

    Signed in December off of the Chargers practice squad, Todman is a scat-back type runner who was brought in to be a threat in the passing game and on special teams.

    Todman was inactive on Friday as he is recovering from an ankle injury.  Todman will need to get healthy to show he has the complimentary talent to play behind Peterson and Gerhart.

    Hilliard may have the edge but Todman could be the earn the spot once healthy.

    Jerome Felton

    Felton was in the starting lineup and worked with the first team at fullback.

    He was serviceable as a lead blocker on Friday and seems to be in favor with the coaching staff.  

    Felton was arrested for a DUI in June but still remains on the team even with a possible league suspension pending.

    Ryan D'Imperio

    The fullback played well as a lead blocker behind Felton.  D'Imperio saw a lot of action on special teams on kickoffs coverage, returns and on punts.  

    Special teams will be D'Imperio best chance to make the 53-man roster and he did well in that role on Friday.

    Matt Asiata

    Asiata was limited in playing time which does not bode well for his place on this roster.  He saw time in single back setting with the fourth team as well as a small amount of special teams assignments at the end of the game.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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    Wide Receivers

    Percy Harvin

    Harvin was not active on Friday which is not uncommon for veterans to sit during the preseason. Harvin may not suit up in the preseason until game three.  

    After Frazier lost Greg Childs for the year to a double patellar tendon tear he will be looking to give all options a long look in training camp. 

    Stephen Burton

    Burton earned the start in absence of Harvin and had some big moments.  Burton had a very good training camp and the coaching staff wanted to get a long look at him.

    In the first series, Burton had a 52 yard reception from Ponder but struggled after that.  

    On a pass over the middle he looked very timid and dropped it in traffic. 

    Burton also saw time on punt returns returning one two for yards.  He showed some elusiveness on the returns but nothing to prove he's earned the job.

    He ended the night with one catch for 52 yards on two targets over 17 snaps.

    Jerome Simpson

    Simpson played 15 snaps in his Vikings debut.  The super-athletic receiver signed to a one-year deal was only targeted one time and dropped the pass.  

    His 15 snaps were second only to Burton. 

    Dropped passes plagued Simpson throughout his career in Cincinnati so the Vikings had better hope for better things in future.

    Jarius Wright

    Wright, the rookie fourth-round pick, saw quite a few snaps in three and four-receiver sets with the first teams.  

    Wright has missed some time in camp and has been trying to get caught up.  

    He saw three targets and caught none on eight snaps.

    Michael Jenkins

    Jenkins is the veteran of the receiving core and did okay on Friday.  He dropped a key third down pass in the red zone from Ponder, though it was slightly behind him.

    His lone reception did result in a first down.

    With Jerome Simpson facing a three-game suspension to start the regular season and Childs lost to injury, Jenkins will be expected to step up and earn a roster spot.

    He finished with one catch for six yards on three targets over nine snaps.  He saw most of his looks in three and four receiver sets with Simpson and Burton starting.

    Devin Aromashodu

    Aromashodu worked a lot with the second team while Webb was under center.

    Aromashodu was targeted three times but did not record a catch.

    The veteran is in his second season with the Vikings and is battling for a final roster spot.  He did not receive any special teams snaps.

    Kerry Taylor

    Taylor was signed off of the Green Bay practice squad but has had a pretty solid camp.  He had been seeing snaps at flanker over Jarius Wright.

    On Friday, he was working with both Webb and Bethel-Thompson and showed flashes.  

    Taylor was targeted twice catching both passes for 35 yards.

    Taylor certainly was one of the bright spots at receiver on Friday.

    Emmanuel Arceneaux

    The former CFL standout entered the game in the third quarter but was never targeted.  

    Arceneaux came on at the end of OTAs but didn't get a chance to make a play on Friday.  

    He will need to take advantage against the Bills to challenge for a final roster spot.

    Bryan Walters, Kamar Jorden, AJ Love

    Walters did not see a snap on offense but did get a chance to return two punts.  Both punts were fiar catches that he did not field.

    Jorden was injured and did not play.  He could be back against the Bills this Friday.  Love was not active after just being resigned when rookie Greg Childs was waived and place on the IR. 

    Love is likely to be mixed in against the Bills but is obviously a long shot at this time.

    Tight Ends

    Kyle Rudolph

    Rudolph lived up to the billing as Ponder's favorite target hauling in two passes.

    Rudolph showcased great hands in these receptions as he beat 49ers S Donte Whitner on both receptions.

    As suspected, OC Bill Musgrave used Rudolph all over field seeing snaps as a receiving threat at fullback, in-line at tight end, in motion and split out at receiver.  The Vikings showed some two-TE sets with Rudolph and Ellison with Rudolph even staying in to block with Ellison running a route.   

    Rudolph finished the night with two receptions for 22 yards on two targets over 15 snaps.

    Rudolph should be poised to breakout if Ponder can keep progressing.

    John Carlson

    Carlson is injured and was not active for Friday's game.  He is rehabbing from a grade 2 MCL sprain and hopes to be active by the first regular season game.

    Carlson is a veteran that will be counted on to play a significant role in the offense in two-te sets.

    Rhett Ellison

    The reports on Ellison out of camp were that his hands were better than expected.  

    He certainly showed that hauling in two passes.

    Ellison was drafted with the anticipation that he would replace retired Viking Jim Kleinsasser and that is exactly how the team used him.  Ellison was lined up all over the field from fullback to tight end. 

    He lined up on all special teams units showcasing his versatility.

    Ellison had two catches for 17 yards on three targets.

    Allen Reisner

    Reisner played behind Ellison and saw only one target that he did catch.

    Reisner did work on special teams with Ellison and did a solid job.  

    At this stage he is behind Ellison but still has a shot to earn a roster spot as the third tight end. 

    Mickey Shuler

    Shuler was the fourth tight end and saw no targets on Friday.

    He is clearly behind Ellison and most likely Reisner.

    He still has time to showcase his skills in camp but was virtually non-existent on Friday.

Offensive Line

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    Offensive Linemen

    First Team

    Starting with the first-round pick, Matt Kalil, he played very well overall, missing only one block against Aldon Smith.  His play was solid as he and the other first-string players played the first two series with Ponder.  

    There were few things to mention about the rest of the line which is good.  Charlie Johnson did well back at left guard and seems to have found a home.  John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt played well and kept Ponder from taking any sacks.

    Second Team

    This unit made Joe Webb's job extremely difficult on Friday.  

    RT Patrick Brown is first on the depth chart behind Phil Loadholt but he was beat consistently on Friday.  The injured veteran G/T Geoff Schwartz has starting experience at guard and tackle, which makes the mistakes of Brown less worrisome from a depth standpoint. Brown will need to take huge steps forward to earn a roster spot.

    Even worse than Brown was Kevin Murphy at left tackle.  Murphy is third on the depth chart behind Kalil and the injured DeMarcus Love.  Murphy was overmatched and will need a huge rest of the camp to earn a spot at this point.

    At left guard was Chris DeGeare, right guard was Austin Pasztor and center was Joe Berger.  The interior linemen were not nearly as bad as the tackles who were beaten consistently by the 49ers pass rush.

    They couldn't buy a block and did not display anything that would make the coaching staff comfortable with them playing in real games.

    Third team

    The last offensive line featured center Quentin Saulsberry, guards Grant Cook and Bridger Buche and tackles Tyler Holmes and Levi Horn.

    This unit held up better than the second team against the pass rush with only Levi Horn giving up a sack on Bethel-Thompson. 

Defensive Line

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    Defensive Linemen

    Jared Allen

    Allen was inactive for Friday's game.  The reigning NFL sack leader may play in game three but his absence is not concerning.

    Bran Robison

    Robison only saw one series and did very little with it.  

    He didn't record a tackle or a sack. 

    D'Aundre Reed

    Reed drew the start with Jared Allen being inactive.  He held up well providing flashing some pass-rush abilities.

    Reed played quite a few snaps on defense and saw some action on special teams as well.  Reed would seem to have the edge as the third DE depending on what the team does with Everson Griffen. 

    Letroy Guion

    Guion recorded two tackles and did okay up the middle before leaving with a PCL injury.  Guion will miss one to two weeks with the injury.

    Fred Evans

    Evans did a good job in replacing Guion and recorded a sack and three tackles.  

    The Vikings need the tandem of Evans and Guion to fill-in next to starter Kevin Williams.

    Christian Ballard

    Ballard was the starter at under tackle for the Vikings as Williams sat out.  He along with the rest of the defense struggled stopping the run.  

    Ballard recorded two tackles and is cemented in as the backup to Williams. 

    Jeff Charleston

    Charleston played quite a few snap but was unable to generate any pass rush.

    Charletson is in the mix against Nick Reed, D'Aundre Reed and Everson Griffen for a roster spot.  

    He did not do enough on Friday to earn a spot but it was just the first game.

    He finished with three tackles.

    Nick Reed

    Reed did not have his best game with the low light of the night was being sucked inside on the Colin Kaepernick 78-yard touchdown option run.

    Nick Reed had one tackle.

    Anthony Jacobs

    Jacobs is an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota.  Jacobs was one of the few Vikings defenders that made some memorable plays.  

    Jacobs recorded a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit before his night was finished.

    Jacobs will go into the matchup against the Bills looking to continue to impress.

    Tydreke Powell, Trevor Guyton & Chase Baker

    The two undrafted tackles did nothing to set themselves apart with the fourth-string defense.  Powell did not record a tackle while Baker had just one. 

    Guyton was a seventh round pick that worked with the third string but didn't register a tackle.


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    Erin Henderson

    Henderson was rather disappointing on Friday as he had opportunities to contain the run and didn't.

    The starting weak-side linebacker should bounce back.

    Henderson did finish with three tackles.

    Jasper Brinkley

    Brinkley, like the rest of the starting linebackers, did not do enough on Friday against the run.

    Brinkley at times showed some flashes of being a solid run-stopper for the Vikings, but other times was caught out of position.

    Brinkley ended the night with only one tackle and was consistently replaced on passing downs with Henderson and Greenway remaining in the game.

    Chad Greenway

    Greenway along with Robison at DE only played the first series.  

    Greenway was the only Pro Bowl player on the field for Minnesota and did not have any plays ran his way.  

    Greenway did have one tackle.

    Tyrone McKenzie

    McKenzie showed why he was the injury replacement for Brinkley during OTAs.  He displayed solid tackling skills and a nose for the ball.  

    McKenzie seems to be a favorite to win a roster spot.

    McKenzie tied for a team-high six tackles. 

    Marvin Mitchell

    The veteran Mitchell had four tackles and seemed to be around the ball.  He was the replacement for Henderson and played well in passing downs.  

    He ended the night with four tackles and one QB hit.

    Audie Cole

    Cole, a rookie seventh-round draft pick, opened some eyes to fans that haven't seen him play yet.

    On a night when the defense seemed to struggle his QB sack seemed to standout.  

    He finished with three tackles (one for a loss), one QB hit and a sack will go a long way to increasing his chances to make the team.

    Everson Griffen

    Griffen played this game primarily at linebacker and looked good.  Most of his snaps at linebacker were against the third and fourth string.  As expected, he did well when asked to rush the passer but didn't get much pressure on Friday.

    His lone tackle did come in coverage as he had to track down a receiver on the sideline.  We didn't get to see Griffen in coverage much to get a good read on his abilities.  

    I would expect the Vikings to give him increased looks against the Bills.

    He also saw an early first team snap at DE with Robison moving to tackle alongside Ballard.

    Larry Dean

    Dean is the special teams standout that seems to have taken a step at linebacker.  He worked a lot with the second team unit and was around the ball all night.  

    He finished the night with 3 tackles.

    Solomon Elimimian

    The CFL's hardest hitter did a fair job at linebacker.  He had a big interception in the fourth quarter after fourth-string quarterback Scott Tolzien was hit as he released the ball by Nick Reed.

    Elimimian did play a lot on special teams and finished the night with two tackles, one interception and one pass defended.

    Tyler Nielsen, Corey Paredes

    Neither undrafted free agent did anything to standout as they worked with the fourth-string defense.  

Defensive Backs

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    Defensive Backs

    Chris Cook

    Cook is the starter next to Winfield who sat out this game.  Cook did not give up on the passing game.

    He is locked in as a starter and should continually get better.

    Chris Carr

    The veteran had a tough game.  He gave up a touchdown pass to a fifth receiver in the first half.

    He did start and lined up in the slot quite often when a third cornerback was needed.  

    While he won't nose dive on the depth chart after this subpar performance he does need to improve.  

    Carr had one tackle on the night.

    Marcus Sherels

    Sherels saw a lot of snaps on defense and special teams on Friday and did not disappoint.  

    He showed a great ability to wrap up and tackle and improved coverage skills.  

    In the return game, he was solid and helped his cause to earn a roster spot on Friday.

    Zack Bowman

    Bowman found his way into the rotation early and did well in coverage.  

    He played a lot on special teams which isn't surprising and played very well.

    He ended the night with no tackles but one pass defended.

    Reggie Jones

    Jones was one of the most talked about players as a sleeper coming into the game, but Showtime did not show up for the most part.  

    Jones did have three tackles but didn't stand out.  He did get some action on kickoff coverage as well.

    Brandon Burton

    Burton saw a lot of balls his way but didn't give up any big plays.  

    He had four tackles and saw some action on special teams.

    Bobby Felder

    Felder saw surprisingly very few snaps in the secondary.

    He played some on special teams with the punt return team but replaced Jones in the fourth quarter.

    Hopefully we get to see the skills that had camp buzzing against the Bills this Friday.  

    Corey Gatewood

    Gatewood was undrafted and didn't play well.  He is far behind the other corners at this point.

    Josh Robinson:

    Robinson along with Antoine Winfield missed Fridays game.  The rookie with electric speed has been nursing a hamstring injury.

    Robinson has blazing speed and once healthy should receive plenty of snaps at quite a few players' expense.  Most of those players didn't do a lot with the opportunity to showcase themselves.


    Mistral Raymond

    Raymond was the starter along with Sanford on Friday but struggled both against coverage and the run.  

    Raymond took poor angles on many plays.

    He ended the night with two tackles.

    Jamarca Sanford

    Sanford started but was torched even more than Raymond on the run.  His low light was the Kaepernick option run that resulted in a 78-yard touchdown run where Sanford took an awful angle.  

    Sanford shines on special teams were he uses hit hard-hitting abilities and mentality to succeed. Those skills are recognized by the coaches and should make him a valuable piece to the puzzle.

    Sanford finished with two tackles.

    Harrison Smith

    Smith is a first-round pick who was the first safety off the bench but outplayed the starter.  

    Smith showed great smarts and abilities that were highlighted on a reverse play that resulted in a tackle for loss.

    Smith could earn a starting job as soon as next week.

    Eric Frampton

    Frampton is a special teams standout who led the team in special teams tackles in 2011.  On Friday he did another very good job on special teams but didn't show much in the way of improvement at safety.

    A favorite of the coaches he will get more opportunities to show that he belongs.

    He finished with three tackles.

    Andrew Sendejo

    Sendejo played a lot on special teams and did very well.  The Vikings used him on a blitz and he recorded a QB hit.  

    He showed solid tackling skills and finished tied for a team-high with six tackles.

    Robert Blanton

    The rookie had an injury that kept him out of the first preseason game.  The converted cornerback needs to have a good showing to rise on the depth chart.

Special Teams

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    Special Teams

    Blair Walsh

    Walsh did a great job putting fears to rest in the kicking game.  He made both of his field goals (26 & 39) in very windy conditions.  He also showed a tremendous leg strength on kickoffs.  

    Chris Kluwe

    Kluwe was solid but unspectacular as the windy conditions were hard to work in.  Kluwe shouldn't be worried about his position with no competition on the roster.

    Kluwe punted six times with an average of 40.6 yards per punt.

    Kickoff Coverage

    Blair Walsh helps make this unit much better.  They did a very good job in coverage on Friday which was an area of concern in 2011.  

    The primary coverage team was McKenzie, Frampton, Sanford, D'Imperio, Sendejo, Bowman, Jones, Dean, B. Burton and Sherels.

    Punt Coverage

    The cover team gave up some big yardage early but settled in as the game progressed.  

    The primary coverage team was Frampton, Loeffler, Griffen, Bowman, Dean, Mitchell, D'Imperio, Sanford, Sendejo and Ellison.

    Kick Return

    Sherels was okay but not great. He will at least split the job with Percy Harvin but could lose it to injured CB Josh Robinson or WR Jarius Wright who are more explosive.

    The blocking was average in the four returns.  

    After Sherels, and Stephon Burton as well, the blocking team was D'Imperio, Dean, McKenzie, Reisner, Frampton, Charleston, Berger, Bowman, Ellison and Sendejo.

    Punt Return

    No returner fielded a punt with Sherels, Wright and Walters seeing opportunities.  This obviously led the the blocking team not to get any chances either.  

    The blocking team was Smith, Frampton, Dean, Griffen, D'Imperio, D Reed, Coleman, Bowman, Ellison and Felder.