Daniel House provides his preview of the Vikings second preseason game vs. the Buffalo Bills. He adds his thoughts, television information, injury reports, and the top battles to watch during tonight's game.
Vikings vs. Bills Preview
Television: Kare (Channel 11 in Minneapolis)
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman/Ben Leber
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman - 5:00 p.m. CT
NFL Preseason Live via NFL.com (subscription required)
Vikings vs. Bills History:
* The Vikings and Bills have played 10 times during the preseason with
the Vikings holding a 7-3 series lead.
* The Vikings own the advantage in the regular season series. The teams
have met 12 previous times in the regular season with the Vikings holding
an edge at 8-4-0. They have never matched up in the postseason.
* The last time the Vikings and Bills met in the preseason was on 8/17/12,
a 36-14 Vikings victory.
Quarterbacks- This is the first chance we will see Christian Ponder record a quarter of action since the end of the 2012 season. He saw short action in preseason game number one vs. Houston, but left after two passes and an interception on a tipped ball. As I have mentioned, Ponder has displayed a much improved training camp campaign and has been proving himself, especially in the corner velocity passes. Of course, practice is different than a game and it isn't fair to even evaluate Ponder in the preseason, he needs time in the regular season. Nonetheless, Ponder will hit the field and we can get a closer look at his fundamentals in a game setting.
Running Backs- Toby Gerhart has disappointed me thus far during training camp and the first preseason game. Tonight, he will see more action with the first-team and I will be interested to see how he responds. As discussed weeks ago, the Vikings may showcase Gerhart, in an attempt to bait him in a trade. If he can perform markedly well during the preseason, I wouldn't be surprised if a team inquires about Gerhart. Bradley Randle will also hit the field for his second appearance in a Vikings uniform. He led the team in rushing during the last preseason game and was used on kickoffs, but wasn't kicked to. This is a role Randle could utilize if he can display a talent on special teams.
Wide Receivers- The battle between Stephen Burton and Joe Webb will continue for the second consecutive week. Burton displayed great hands, agility, and made plays happen frequently vs. Houston. In practice, he has shown all of these abilities, and is a proven run blocker. Joe Webb will see his second stanza in wide receiver game action. He made several nice catches, especially during one thrown behind him, but he never solidified himself as a potential suitor. In the next two weeks, he needs to show he can be an asset, rather than a mirage.
Tight Ends- Will John Carlson continue to be a focal point of the offense. In the last game, Carlson was utilized in short posts, drags, and curls, which moved the chains and posed another threat on the goal-line. He will receive more action with quarterback Christian Ponder and the first-team, which should provide an interesting look from a schematic standpoint.
Offensive Line- The first-team offensive line has no problems contributing and could arguably be considered the best group in the league. The main concern is when the Vikings head to the second and third string options. The Vikings spent a draft-pick on Jeff Baca and the hope is for him to be utilized in a rotational basis. He went under-the-radar in the first game, but I want to see more from him before I consider him a "lock" to make the 53-man roster. Travis Bond was another Vikings draft-pick in 2013 and has been concerning for me. He was constantly beaten off the ball and was poor at maintaining inside leverage. Can this become habit, or is he simply a "talking piece?"
Defensive Line- Everson Griffen is one of the players I can't wait to watch during the 2013 season. His motor and relentlessness are keys to becoming an elite pass rusher in this league. He looks bigger and faster this season, which adds to the intrigue from a player entering his fourth season in the league. From a second tier standpoint, I will keeping a close eye on players such as Christian Ballard, George Johnson, and Lawrence Jackson. The group of players I listed, are very uncertain to make this roster and could be battling for one or two spots on the 53-man roster. Right now, I believe Johnson and Ballard are ahead of Jackson in the race. Who will separate themselves?
Linebackers- For the first time, we will get a chance to see Desmond Bishop in purple. Will his groin and hamstring pose a problem? If there is any doubt, the Vikings won't risk losing a young player such as Audie Cole, solely because they will wait for Bishop. Cole will be battling with Michael Mauti, who displayed great skill and awareness in his first action last week vs. Houston. I look for the battle between Cole, Mauti, and Bishop to intensify heading into the third preseason game vs. San Francisco.
Defensive Backs- This area holds one of my biggest worries heading into the 2013 season. Chris Cook is the most experienced cornerback in the secondary, which is concerning. Josh Robinson is filling Antoine Winfield's slot role and needs more reps to develop. Rookie Xavier Rhodes has been battling a hamstring injury, but will be debuting tonight vs. the Bills. His skills need to be evaluated and further developed through playing in the NFL speed. He will be placed under the microscope and the Vikings need him to produce immediately.
Safety- Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford are locks as starters and Mistral Raymond is close behind Sanford. Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendejo will be battling for the final spot in the safety position group. Blanton has struggled covering vertically and is extremely inexperienced as a safety. Sendejo has been working relentlessly during the offseason and was one of the constant visitors in the Vikings weight room. This battle could result in one of the more surprising roster decisions during roster cuts.
Special Teams- I want to see Jeff Locke punt for more length in this game, especially when the Vikings are deep in their own territory. Let's face it, a long of 48 yards won't be successful during the regular season. The key is to pin the offense deep in their own territory, which results in the team needing to sustain long drives. Through work, I believe this problem will be resolved, but it is one of my main areas to monitor during tonight's game.