|Stephen Burton hauled in this 52 yard catch|
in the first quarter of the Vikings preseason
debut at San Francisco.
The Vikings began preseason play with a 17-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers Friday evening. We witnessed several positives and negatives, but that is to be expected in our first live action of the season. We also have to remember that the Vikings play the 49ers in the third week of the season, so it was understandably a very "vanilla showing" by both teams.
Christian Ponder had a solid preseason debut, completing a 52 yard post to Stephen Burton on only the offense's second play from scrimmage. Ponder completed only 4 of 9 passes, but two of those incompletions were clear drops by Jerome Simpson and Stephen Burton. Dropped passes were an absolute concern in the first preseason game. This was a major concern Simpson displayed while with the Cincinnati Bengals last season. Jerome Simpson had eight drops in 2011, which placed him in the top ten in the league in that category. Our team tied for the fewest drops in the league last season with 20 and this needs to get mended quickly.
Ponder also displayed his chemistry with Kyle Rudolph, who was targeted several times across the middle of the field. I'm very glad to see our tight ends be utilized more because they weren't used correctly last season. I'm hoping with the addition of John Carlson with Rudolph, the tight end position will become a strength on our roster. We must remember that we didn't want to display our full set of formations to a team we will play in several weeks during the regular season. This game wasn't a fair judge of what our offense or our defense will look like during this season.
Toby Gerhart looked impressive last night and was effective in front of the new and improved Vikings offensive line. Gerhart carried the ball five times for 31 yards, including a power toss play on third-and-6 that went for 16 yards as he broke two tackles. Gerhart will continue his great play as a backup to Adrian Peterson, after Peterson is ready to resume full activity. Per 1500ESPN.com's Tom Pelissero, A possibility under consideration is taking star runningback Adrian Peterson off the active/physically unable to perform list on Sunday, where he has been since the start of training camp as he recovers from knee reconstruction. This would put Peterson's comeback in motion for the first time since his ACL tear in December of last season.
The defense played without defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield, all of whom were scratched for security purposes. Our running game was gashed giving up nearly 200 yards in the first half alone. Primarily the yardage was established by a 78-yard touchdown by Colin Kapernick against the main portion of our second team defense. Safety Mistral Raymond and cornerback Chris Cook each took poor angles and could not wrap up Kapernick during the long run. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings focus on fixing the run defense during this week's set of practice at training camp.
Through the poor performance of Mistral Raymond, we have solidified that the Vikings must elevate Harrison Smith to a starter as soon as possible. Raymond is terrible in run support and this is understandable because he hasn't had a ton of experience at safety. He was drafted as a cornerback out of college and didn't experience the safety position until the middle of his rookie season last year. Raymond is not meant to be a safety in this league, so it is time to place 2012 first-round draft pick Harrison Smith in the starting role. Smith was a major upgrade when he came into the game last evening. He brings a level of physicality this team doesn't have otherwise.
Rookie placekicker Blair Walsh drilled attempts from 39 and 26 yards and also had two touchbacks. This was a nice brightspot for the Vikings in our first game of the 2012 campaign. Walsh not only has a monster leg on field goals, but he was excellent in booming the ball on kickoffs. The 49ers did not start past the Vikings 20 yard line at all during the the game last night. This is much improved over last season where the average opponent drive start was at the 35-yard line.
I was very concerned about the peformance of backup quarterback Joe Webb last night. He ran around like he didn't know the offense very well and it reminded me of several Tarvaris Jackson perfomances. It seems like Joe Webb's mentality is run first and pass second, which doesn't work in this league. Webb couldn't execute during three drives on third downs. McLeod Bethel Thompson looked better in just several possessions that he was at the helm. He did throw an interception, but it was a result of poorly ran route by rookie Jarius Wright. Bethel Thompson expected Wright to run a comeback route and he threw the ball where he anticipated Wright would be.
Solomon Elimimian had a nice interception last night after Nick Reed got to 49ers quarterback, Scott Tolzein. Elmimian was a big hitter in the CFL and was named the "Biggest Hitter of 2011 in the CFL," but Elmimian was very non-descript in that category last night.
Audie Cole looked impressive in his first NFL appreance. He recorded as nice sack, looked great in coverage, and made a nice tackle across the middle of the field. I like Cole's soft-spoken presence vocally, but how he works hard on the field. Cole put on a nice perfomance for the coaching staff and has a nice shot to make the team if he continues to execute.
From an injury standpoint, the Vikings came away very well last night. Letroy Guion sustained a PCL injury that Coach Frazier explained, will sideline him for one or two weeks.
Overall, the Vikings didn't give us a clear look at what our team will look like this season. We will begin to get a grasp of this once the third preseason game comes along in two weeks versus the San Diego Chargers.
We will keep you informed on practices that take place at Vikings training camp this week up until the next preseason game on Friday night versus the Buffalo Bills.
Thanks for reading!