Normally I wouldn’t advocate anyone subjecting themselves to four whole consecutive quarters of mind-numbing preseason quasi-football, but tonight’s Vikings-49ers game is a special case. The Vikings, I don’t need to tell you, are a rebuilding team full of intriguing young players we haven’t gotten to see play very much. After a whole offseason hearing about these guys, I’m curious to get a look at them, hopefully in extended action. So, for tonight at least, there are actually some pretty good reasons to stick around till the end:
1. Young guys on the defensive line
Alan Williams wants to heavily rotate his defensive linemen this year and keep people fresh. The team will probably keep nine D-linemen and we don’t yet know if Everson Griffen, who is splitting time between DE and LB, will count as one of the nine. We know the locks: Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Christian Ballard. This means there are two spots open and possibly three depending on how they want to classify Griffen. D’Aundre Reed has the inside track on one back-up DE spot but nothing is guaranteed. Right now the Vikings have a bunch of rookie linemen fighting for these spots along with Reed and free agent pick-up Jeff Charleston. That’s a lot of guys in the mix. It will be worth watching into the fourth quarter just to get a preliminary look at all these line candidates. Some guy playing tonight late in the fourth – Chase Baker, Tydreke Powell, Ernest Owusu – could end up scoring a job.
2. Blair Walsh
By all accounts this guy has a booming leg. He’s been nailing long field goals in practice with fair regularity and sending kick offs consistently into the end zone. Obviously there won’t be any actual pressure on him with this being a preseason game, but it will be worth keeping the game on just to see what he does. Maybe he gets a shot at a 55-yarder late. A kicker makes the game worth watching? Am I being paid to sell this crap? I wish.
3. Robert Blanton
Haven’t heard a ton about this guy so far in camp. Right now he’s no better than #5 on the safety depth chart, well behind Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford and Harrison Smith. There had been talk at one time of pairing him with former Notre Dame teammate Smith in the starting line-up but that appears to have gone by the boards. I just want to see if he looks like any kind of a player at all because right now, I’ve gotta wonder. Did the Vikings seriously whiff on this dude?
4. McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Believe it or not, the fourth-string quarterback has a hype machine behind him. Okay so that hype machine isn’t exactly powerful. Right now it’s made up entirely of Paul Allen and his blogging stooge Mike Wobschall, who have become convinced that MBT has a shot at moving up the depth chart and maybe even challenging for the #2 QB spot. But if MBT has a good showing tonight against the Niners’ fourth string? That hype machine will begin to churn. Of course it’s always possible PA is just hyping MBT so people will get curious about him and keep listening into the fourth quarter of the radio broadcast. A media person having selfish reasons for building up a player? That could NEVER happen.
5. Derrick Coleman
The Derrick Coleman story is a great one. He excelled at UCLA as a running back despite being almost completely deaf and having to wear a hearing aid. No one drafted him but the Vikings brought him in as a UFA. Coleman doesn’t figure to make the team, but that doesn’t really matter. The fact that he’s even on an NFL squad playing in a preseason game is pretty dang inspirational. Coleman should see action well before the fourth with backs Adrian Peterson, Jordan Todman and likely Toby Gerhart sitting out tonight’s game.
6. Who doesn’t love a good practice squad preview?
Cause that’s pretty much what the fourth quarter of a preseason game is. Except for the guys who aren’t even good enough to make the practice squad. Then it’s an arena football preview.