It was not exactly a pretty opener for the Vikings against the Houston Texans. The Vikes did have some early offensive success courtesy of big plays by Stephen Burton and Zach Line, with a big assist from rookie phenom Cordarrelle Patterson. But the offense mostly disappeared after the departure of #2 QB Matt Cassel and the defense just went to sleep in the second half. The D had a really tough time dealing with Houston’s zone-blocking scheme and pretty much allowed the Texans’ third-stringers to march up and down the field unopposed.
Of course the final score – 27-13 Houston – doesn’t really matter. Because preseason. It also doesn’t matter that Christian Ponder threw an interception to end his only series of the game. It also doesn’t matter that Matt Cassel threw an ugly pick. I think it does kind of matter that the defense looked so bad in the second half. Some of the Vikings’ young players just seemed lost, which shows that they have a lot to learn. It’s a young team overall of course. Hopefully there won’t be too many injures to the veteran starters because the backup guys are mostly pretty green, especially in the linebacker corps and the secondary.
The main thing is that the young guys got out there and got a taste of action. Cordarrelle Patterson and Sharrif Floyd both showed up big, which will only fuel fan optimism. Floyd suffered a little knee injury but it’s not thought to be serious. Patterson showed a little more polish running routes than we were led to believe he possessed and also flashed his athleticism. Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti showed their talent too but also demonstrated that they have a ways to go in learning the defense. Cornerback Bobby Felder had an up-and-down night, but did enough good things to place himself firmly in the discussion as a backup defensive back.
Another guy who helped his cause? Stephen Burton. He had a big play receiving and also threw a big block on Zach Line’s long TD reception. Burton appears to have improved over last season and you have to like his willingness to stick his head in there as a downfield blocker. The coaches certainly took notice of Burton’s efforts and I think now he has a firm grip on the #5 receiver spot. Joe Webb will have to lay it out there big in the remaining preseason games to have a chance.