Questions Nag Vikings Heading into Third Preseason Game

Ideally, a team would like to use the third preseason game as a nice relaxing tune-up, and not as a platform for answering a bucketload of nagging questions.  Unfortunately, just two weeks before the start of the regular season, the Vikings find themselves still plagued by a swarm of unresolved issues.

Hopefully, tonight’s match-up with the Seahawks will clear up a few of these situations, and not create any more.

The big one, I think everyone agrees, is the wide receiver question.  Sadly, the only thing we know for sure here is that Sidney Rice will not be on the field for a very long time.  And here’s a brief listing of what we don’t know:

  • If Percy Harvin will even be able to play tonight.  Or any other night.
  • If Bernard Berrian is ready to step up and earn that #1 wide receiver money he’s been making.
  • If Javon Walker has anything left.
  • How newly-acquired Greg Camarillo fits into the offense.
  • If Logan Payne can nail down the sixth receiver spot.
  • When Brad Childress will stop having to tell everyone he has no intention of turning Joe Webb back into a receiver after using him at quarterback all summer.

There’s nothing like a multi-part question to make the head swim.

The second big one is directly related to the first though somewhat more simply-stated:  Can the Vikings’ offensive line protect Brett Favre?

They didn’t do a very good job last weekend against the 49ers, which is why Favre got pulled after only four plays.  Obviously, Favre needs to be in longer than that, throwing to his starting wide-outs, so he and we can get a feel for what this offense is actually going to look like.

Mostly what we want is reassurance, especially after the last game, which was more-or-less a disaster on the offensive side of the ball.

The third question also relates to offense:  Who in the world is going to step up and become our third-down back?

Neither Albert Young nor Toby Gerhart has given any indication that they are ready to fill even one of Chester Taylor’s shoes.  That leaves Adrian Peterson himself as the #1 candidate to pick up that considerable slack.

Unfortunately, during Favre’s limited action last weekend, Peterson’s blitz pick-up problem reared its head again.  AD needs to clean up that part of his game, or Chilly will have no choice but to replace him on third downs.  But replace him with whom?

See how vexing this gets?

Speaking of vexing, here’s question #4:  Who among our array of less-than-impressive second team offensive linemen wants to show that they can be counted on in spot duty should their services be required?

I’m not sure one half of preseason football is enough to remotely answer this one.  All I know is, I sure miss Artis Hicks.

And now we turn to the defense.  Thankfully, that side of the ball is much less fraught with issues.  So far this preseason, the line has looked as good as we expected, especially those fiery second-teamers, while the secondary has come along nicely.

One defense-related question – how will the starting right corner-nickelback situation be handled – was edged closer to resolution earlier this week when Benny Sapp got traded away.  That leaves three men – Chris Cook, Asher Allen and Lito Sheppard – competing for two spots.

It’s beginning to now look like the rookie Cook, whose physical tools are clearly impressive, will end up with the starting corner spot.  Of course, a few weeks ago, we thought Asher Allen had a line on that job.  And before that we we were sure Lito Sheppard would end up starting opposite Antoine Winfield.

Cook will reportedly get the start tonight, and I’m guessing that if he does well, he will be there starting against the Saints on opening night as well.  The veteran Sheppard provides an experienced fall-back option should Cook prove not up to the challenge.

Then there’s that safety issue, which doesn’t seem to have budged one way or the other all preseason.  Once again, Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson will duke it out.  The frustrating thing for these guys is, as Darren Sharper could tell them, this defense doesn’t really afford safeties many opportunities to make plays.  This makes it difficult for one guy to have the kind of big game that would definitively push him ahead on the depth chart.

Maybe Chilly should solve this with a coin toss.  Or rock-paper-scissors.  Or eeny, meeny, miney, moe.

Not to be left out of the question game is the special teams.  The big one there is, can Rhys Lloyd kick a few deep into the endzone, proving he really is Mr. Touchback and therefore worthy of a precious roster spot>

Obviously, for that to be answered, the Vikings have to score a bunch so Lloyd will get to kick off a bunch.  I personally think the Vikes should dump the kick-off specialist idea and use that roster spot on someone more important.  Like Joe Webb.  Then maybe they can carry four quarterbacks, which seems like a lot until you remember that Brett Favre is running around on a glass ankle and, oh by the way, has a grandkid.

And this brings us around in tidy fashion to the final question:  Can the Vikings get out of the preseason without any more drama?

Since this is the Vikings, the answer to that is almost certainly “no.”  But we can always hope.

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Tags: Adrian Peterson Albert Young Antoine Winfield Asher Allen Bernard Berrian Brad Childress Brett Favre Chris Cook Greg Camarillo Javon Walker Lito Sheppard Minnesota Vikings Percy Harvin Sidney Rice Toby Gerhart

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