Here are a few things I’ll be paying special attention to in tonight’s second preseason game:
1. Wide Receiver Battle
Percy Harvin is out (no biggie) and so is Greg Camarillo (sort of a biggie for Greg as he still hasn’t made this team). I’m convinced Jaymar Johnson has already made the receiver rotation as a result of his potential deep threat ability and his punt return skills, the latter of which he displayed last week. And then there’s Bernard Berrian. Many are still convinced Berrian is in danger of being cut, citing a vague statement by Leslie Frazier about not knowing who his #3 receiver is. On the basis of that, Michael Jenkins has as much reason to worry as Bernard. But in truth I don’t think either of those guys need to worry. Yes I realize the Vikings are still lacking cap wiggle room and cutting Berrian would slightly help that, but if you do dump him, who replaces him? It’s not like Braylon Edwards is sitting out there waiting for a job. And don’t even mention that name that rhymes with Mandy Goss. Like it or not, the Vikings and Berrian are stuck with each other. Tonight the Vikes need somebody to step it up and make an impression, otherwise they will go with Camarillo by default.
2. Jeff Dugan/Ryan D’Imperio/Allen Reisner
One of the three men listed above is not going to make the team. Of the three, I think Dugan actually has the weakest case for being a Viking in 2011. What does he really bring to this team besides a lovable rugged lunch-pail attitude? Everything he does, Jim Kleinsasser does better. And this isn’t the old Brad Childress offense where you needed fifteen fullback/tight end/H-back types. One will do. The case for keeping Reisner is stronger: He’s a young up-and-comer, he catches the ball and most importantly Visanthe Shiancoe has given him his official endorsement. In the long-run, Reisner brings more to the table than Dugan. If you must keep Dugan, cut Ryan D’Imperio, and just use Dugan/Kleinsasser as a two-headed power-set fullback.
3. Christian Ponder’s Development
Coach Frazier has promoted Ponder to #2 for tonight’s game, meaning he will likely play half the second quarter and well into the third quarter, if not all the third quarter. In his first action Ponder generated mixed results: He didn’t look very comfortable with the speed of the game and he made a couple bad decisions, nearly getting himself killed because he didn’t slide on one play, but he did improvise nicely on at least one occasion and overall he appears to be pretty nimble, plus he showed early chemistry with Kyle Rudolph (always like it when young QBs find the tight end). One other problem: He looked short. Did anyone else notice that? Oh, only every freaking person watching the game? Unless Ponder took some kind of magic growth serum during the week, I don’t think the height problem will be any better tonight. Hopefully he’ll improve some of the things he actually has control over, like pocket presence, decision-making, etc., I have a feeling it’s still going to be a little rough tonight – only reps can make the game slow down – but with any luck there will also be some encouraging signs, like a couple downfield completions maybe?
4. That Pesky Offensive Line
The first team O-line didn’t really look that great last week. I don’t know what exactly the Vikings have in mind for Game 2, but we may see Chris DeGeare at right tackle with the second team, possibly to push Phil Loadholt or possibly to get DeGeare ready to play there in case Loadholt has to be shifted to left tackle. Scott Kooistra has also been getting a look at right guard with Anthony Herrera still not ready to come back and DeGeare getting those tackle reps. As has been the case since the first second he set foot on the practice field, all eyes will be on Charlie Johnson. Bryant McKinnie will probably be watching the game somewhere, double-fisting buffalo wings and laughing every time Charlie gets beat. Come on Charlie, make McKinnie choke on those buffalo wings.
Asher Allen probably won’t play, which will mean more reps for Brandon Burton, who I have penciled in as the fifth corner. Then there’s the safety situation which has been getting slightly more interesting. Could Mistral Raymond actually elbow his way into the top four? I had Raymond as the last man out on my 53-man roster projection, but my blogging buddy Jon Merckle begs to differ, saying Raymond could end up starting before it’s over. I’ll say this: Eric Frampton and Jamarca Sanford are not so good that I would dismiss the idea of their being passed by Raymond. Whether Raymond shows enough this preseason to bump Tyrell Johnson is another story. Husain Abdullah is in no danger.
Bonus: Tarvaris Jackson!!!
I thought T-Jack looked terrible in Seattle’s preseason opener. The former Viking displayed his full repertoire of annoying tendencies vs. San Diego: Wanting to jump-pass, pulling down the ball and running instead of scrambling to buy time, staring down receivers, showing no accuracy whatsoever on his deep balls and generally looking clueless as a rookie despite his relative experience (he’s really been in that offense for five years?). As a reward for his predictably rotten play, Pete Carroll assured everyone T-Jack is still the starter. Charlie Whitehurst, what say you? Charlie may say a lot tonight with his play. In fact this whole thing could just be a ploy to motivate Whitehurst. I would hope T-Jack would be jacked-up to play his former team, but that won’t necessarily translate into better performance.