When the Minnesota Vikings face the Houston Texans Thursday night to cap off the preseason, there will be no Christian Ponder. Or Adrian Peterson. Or Matt Kalil. Or Jerome Simpson. Or Kevin Williams, and on and on I can go.
Basically we're going to be watching a bunch of guys who will likely never start in the NFL or play in the NFL. Despite that, I will still be taping this game (I won't be able to watch it live) and watching it.
Part of the reason for that is that is that I'm starved to watch guys wearing purple and yellow jerseys play football. But there are also a couple of things I'm legitimately interested in seeing.
1. Cornerback and safety performance: We saw this week how quickly depth can be eroded at a position. And because we're depending on a 35-year-old cornerback to play a lot of snaps in 2012, and because Chris Cook has had trouble staying on the field his first two seasons, and because Jamarca Sanford started at safety for the Vikings last year, I'm looking for some other defensive backs to show up Thursday night. Can any of the lesser known players – say a Reggie Jones or a Bobby Felder – play confident and not look like a deer in the headlights? (Basically how Mistral Raymond looked all last season). We also haven't seen what rookie safety Robert Blanton has to offer because he's been out with a bad hammy for a month.
2. Wide receiver performance: The Vikings coaching staff wants to see the wide receivers who will play Thursday night make a play. I keep hoping either Stephen Burton or Emmanuel Arceneaux (but mostly Burton) will emerge. I'm losing hope. I think we know what Devin Aromashodu can do and it isn't much. Rookie Jarius Wright has shown me nothing thus far, which has been very disappointing. I expected a guy who's 5'10 or so and plays the slot to be a shifty, darting player. I haven't seen that from Wright at all. He doesn't really even look that quick. If he weren't a fourth round draft pick, he would have been part of the first round of cuts.
And that's about it when it comes to things I'm intrigued to see Thursday night. I'm not fixating on Joe Webb's performance. He's looked like the same guy he's always been to me. I'd like to see Matt Asiata make a convincing case to be kept as the team's third running back, but with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart around, whoever that guy is won't play much. I've also got enough concerns about the first-team offensive line that I don't even care how the backups do.
For me, September 9th can't come soon enough.