Five Things We Still Don’t Know After the Preseason Opener


Aug 9, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of Minnesota Vikings helmets during the second half against the Houston Texans at the Metrodome. The Texans won 27-13.Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Who will return punts?

Marcus Sherels is the punt returner until further notice. Stephen Burton got a look Friday night but didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy. The Vikings have also tried Josh Robinson there but he hasn’t necessarily impressed. Bobby Felder is also in the mix but if he wins the job it will mostly be because he’s a better backup corner than Sherels. Basically this situation is still up in the air. Maybe Cordarrelle Patterson ends up locking down the role.

2. Will Joe Webb make the team as a receiver?

Joe didn’t get much of a shot in the second half with McLeod Bethel-Thompson and James Vandenberg throwing the ball (and not getting much help from their offensive line). I’m not sure it matters much at this point anyway. Stephen Burton seems to have solidified himself as the #5 wide receiver and Webb will only make the squad if someone is hurt or the Vikings elect to go with six receivers. It’s looking more and more like Webb is on the way out.

3. Does Jerome Simpson have any actual value?

It’s probably not fair to slam a guy after one series in one preseason game. But I’m sorry, I just can’t help it. Simpson has all the appearances of a lazy player who doesn’t lay it on the line once he gets on the field. Christian Ponder’s interception may have been a less-than-perfect pass but Simpson’s effort was also undoubtedly less-than-stellar. We saw Simpson give up on routes last year and he’s always had a reputation as a guy who will not work. Right now I’d honestly rate him as the fifth best receiver on the team. It’s a good thing for Simpson that Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman are committed to him otherwise I would seriously believe that he’s in danger of being cut.

4. Is Matt Cassel any better than Christian Ponder?

Cassel put up good numbers for a preseason game and made some good throws but he also made some bad throws. Basically, Cassel looked like Cassel has looked for the past couple years. Good at times but terrible at times. In other words, like a backup. Fans hoping for him to light it up and put pressure on Christian Ponder…well, you can forget it. It’s not going to happen.

5. Who will be the #3 running back?

Bradley Randle was the favorite but he didn’t do much. Now another guy has entered the discussion: Zach Line, the college running back now learning how to play fullback. The Vikes clearly want Line to understudy behind Jerome Felton but that doesn’t mean Line can’t have immediate value as a multi-position guy. He showed some receiving skills Friday night with his long TD play and just going by his college stats you know he can run. Could this guy end up the #3 running back/backup fullback? The Vikes like guys who give them flexibility. Wouldn’t shock me to see it happen, but I still think practice squad is where he ends up.

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