Much has been made recently about who will make the Vikings this season and what can folks expect out of it’s rookie class (or the newbies on the roster who are under the age of 25). I’ve spent the last couple of hours re-watching the game to see how several players faired. Small sample size, I know. But it is actual… well preseason game footage that’s worth monitoring. Here come the grades…
Matt Kalil, Left Tackle: B-
Kalil deserves a little bit of a free pass on this one considering he’s practiced entirely versus a 4-3 defense where the defensive end plays along the line with his hand in the ground compared to San Francisco who runs a 3-4 where the left tackle is oftentimes asked to track a linebacker who plays standing up. But still too often Kalil waited for his assignment to initiate contact and wasn’t overly impressive on running plays either. Linebacker Aldon Smith also scorched Kalil, which lead to quarterback Christian Ponder having to throw the ball away. Still Smith is a lot to handle as a speed rusher who has an elite punch to diminish blocking, but the same could be said for Clay Matthews who he’ll have to face twice this year. Still Kalil is a massive upgrade over Charlie Johnson and will get another chance to hone his craft going against Mario Williams on Friday.
Harrison Smith, Safety: A-
Like Kalil being an improvement over Johnson at left tackle, Smith is significantly better than every safety the team had last season. While Smith did come in with the second team, he did play in control knowing where he should be on plays and came into the box showing assertiveness on running plays even generating a tackle for loss. Smith is set to start this weekend versus Buffalo and unless he face plants will secure a starting safety job this season. Let’s just not be in a rush to anoint him a starting safety for the next 10 years. Would be nice though.
Josh Robinson, Cornerback: Incomplete
Robinson missed the game with a bum hamstring, but apparently has been back in practice and looking great. Should be fun to watch versus Buffalo.
Jarius Wright, Wide Receiver: F
While a failing grade seems cruel and not fair, Wright was a non-factor in this game. He was easily jammed at the line by defensive backs, demonstrated poor route running ability, brings next to nothing as a blocker and finished with zero receptions on three targets. It’s a near certainty that Wright makes the team as a 4th round pick, however he has a long ways to go in the NFL from the hybrid spread offense Bobby Petrino ran in the fast paced SEC.
Rhett Ellison, H-Back: C
Ellison was boringly average in this game. He did finish with two receptions on three targets for 17 yards in traffic, but traffic it was not separating from defenders. Ellison’s blocking also appeared to be more mundane than nasty not blowing away defenders. Again, small sample size, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to be a blue-collar player that does everything okay and nothing great.
Blair Walsh, Kicker: A
The Blair Walsh Project is off to an encouraging start in Minnesota. He showed a booming leg on kickoffs capable of generating a number of touchbacks this season and was 2/2 on field goal attempts.
Audie Cole, Linebacker: B
Just like Harrison Smith this new member of our defense also appeared to be savvy on knowing his assignment on plays, showing ability to shed blocks and even got a sack. Maybe, just maybe, the team got a serviceable two-down linebacker in the 7th round.
Trevor Guyton, Defensive Tackle: D
Guyton had a golden opportunity to standout playing nose tackle with Letroy Guion spraining his PCL, however he was unable to take advantage. Guyton was able to get into the backfield on occasion, but failed to notch a tackle or make any impact plays.
Kerry Taylor, Wide Receiver: A-
Taylor wasn’t drafted in 2011 and bounced around three other teams, but the kid caught my eye in this game doing a number of things well. He has the ability to get off the line of scrimmage cleanly, runs savvy routes and sure hands. Taylor’s best play was a 28-yard reception from McLeod Bethel-Thompson running a crisp post route. Yes, he was playing against a third team defense, but give the man credit for finishing plays when this team was littered with drops from other receivers.
Andrew Sendejo, Safety: A
Sendejo gets the highest grade of the night considering expectations were minimal. Low and behold, he finished the game with a team high six tackles. The former Rice star and UFL standout demonstrated good range and was a sure tackler. He’s a dark horse to make the team given his awareness on special teams and the Vikings lack of depth at safety.
That’s it for tonight. We’ll be back tomorrow talking about the match-up versus Buffalo.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig