PV wrote about the good and the bad from the Minnesota Vikings preseason win Friday night against the Buffalo Bills. Here is my take:
Like PV, I too, was encouraged by what I saw from the wide receivers in this game. I also liked the tight end's performances. Of note – there were several explosive plays made by Vikes WRs (in my definition, an explosive play is any catch that goes for 20 yards or more). I counted five such plays: Harvin (21 yard catch); Simpson (33 yard catch); Jenkins (35 yard catch); Burton (26 yard catch); Arceneaux (48 yard catch).
The plays came against a variety of competition, but in 2011 the Vikings rarely had any receiver (besides Harvin) that could make an explosive play – the kind that turn ho hum drives into points. Jerome Simpson looks the part so far. But the Vikings still need somebody else to emerge as a downfield threat. Burton, despite the fumble on his 26 yard catch, keeps intriguing me.
It is also refreshing to see Viking cornerbacks and safeties do more than simply watch opposing players catch passes in front of them (or behind them) and then attempt to tackle them. I saw a lot of people tweeting about Harrison Smith's blitz and pass deflection against the Bills, and fellow rookie Josh Robinson made a couple of nice plays on the ball. But how about Mistral Raymond? He made several plays against the Bills after a poor effort against the 49ers last week. The Vikings 2012 secondary is starting to look like a functional NFL unit.
Christian Ponder looked good. I will say though that the second-and-four play at the Bills four-yard line where he missed seeing a wide open Rhett Ellison and instead threw a bad corner fade to Kyle Rudolph is the kind of opportunity Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler or Matt Stafford would never miss. Other than that, a solid effort by Ponder.
Joe Webb continues to vex me. He threw some passes that were either behind his receivers or just plain bad. Then he'd throw a bullet on the money. And, of course, there is his scrambling ability. He's just a very inconsistent – yet very exciting – player. Still, I agree with the Vikings decision to go with him as the backup quarterback over Sage Rosenfels. You've got a team that's likely going 5-11/6-10 this season and Webb's shown he can win games even when he doesn't really know what he's doing back there. If they could coach him up and refine his game??? This is the year for experiments is what I'm saying.
Rookie left tackle Matt Kalil had some struggles, I think. He got beat on some speed rushes, which you wouldn't think would happen to a guy who is supposed to be so mobile. But I also saw a couple of plays where he locked on to his man and stayed locked on to him for the entire play. That is impressive. In the Bryant McKinnie era, when a pass rusher went wide on Big Mac, he often would just push the guy out wider and then stop moving his feet and watch. That was fine if the Vikings QB got rid of the ball quickly. But if the play got extended for whatever reason and the pass rusher showed some hustle, McKinnie's laziness often led to sacks. You won't see that from Kalil. He plays until the whistle is over.
Some other thoughts from Friday's scrimmage:
– Last week I wrote that defensive end D'Aundre Reed didn't do much against the 49ers (even though I hadn't been able to watch the game). I also implied that maybe he was a guy who shines in practices but not in games. I take that back a bit. Reed showed great hustle when he played, got at least one QB pressure that I noticed and he did this even though the Vikings played him inside quite a bit, which isn't his normal position. I'll need to see more from Reed to be convinced he's a player, but I can see why the Vikings like him.
– Another Reed who stood out to me on Friday was defensive end Nick Reed. Granted, he did his damage playing against fellow scrubs from the Bills, but he generated consistent pressure from the outside all game. I think he's too small to stick with the Vikings. He might be a guy worth stashing on the practice squad though.
– Seventh round pick Trevor Guyton is a lot thicker than I imagined and he made a couple of plays against the Bills. I'm not sure what that means, but the Vikings have questions on the interior of their defensive line. Maybe Guyton is one of the answers.
– In his roundup of the Vikings-Bills game, Kevin Seifert asks whether rookie linebacker Audie Cole will make the Vikings. In limited playing time, Cole already has a sack and has intercepted two passes that he's run in for touchdowns. Yes, those two passes were thrown by Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith, but I've watched a number of passes bounce off the hands of Vikings linebackers, corners and safeties in recent years. On a defense that lacked playmakers in 2011, how can Cole not make the team after what he's done?
– I'm still waiting for rookie Jarius Wright to flash potential. So far, no dice.
– The fight for the third running back spot on the Vikings has been billed as a battle between Lex Hilliard and Jordan Todman. I think you've got to throw Matt Asiata into the mix. He's listed as a fullback, yet he ran with the burst of a running back against the Bills (seven carries for 43 yards). Todman can't get on the field because of a bum ankle, and Hilliard's done little with his touches so far. Asiata should be in the mix to make this team.