Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Week #4 Recap

It's a day late, but nonetheless, here is some news, notes and quick hits about this last week of Vikings' action:

  • Vikings waived RB Derrick Coleman, LB Solomon Elimimian, WR Bryan Walters, WR A.J. Love, WR Kamar Jorden, WR Kerry Taylor, G/T Levi Horn, OT Bridger Buche, CB Corey Gatewood, DT Tydreke Powell, OG Grant Cook, LB Tyler Nielsen, CB Chris Stroud, DE Anthony Jacobs and DE Ernest Owusu. No no surprises here. Frankly, most Vikings' fans didn't realize that half of these players were on the roster even. The Vikings have to cut their roster from 75 to 53 players by 8 p.m. Friday.  
  • ESPN's Chris Mortensen reiterated that the Vikings' goal is for Adrian Peterson to play in Week 1. Peterson has been showing well without taking contact in practices. Although he didn't play in Friday's preseason game, the Vikes were quick to point out that it's just precautionary. "There are no setbacks. That's not the reason we're doing it," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We just feel like more time with him in practice with some of the things that we're doing and the progression of getting him ready for the season, it's the right thing to do." 
  • According to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, WR Stephen Burton hasn't done "anything" to separate himself so far in camp and preseason games. Burton saw limited snaps in Friday's regular season tuneup. "When I look at the tape, we'll see how he did blocking and he did running around, but as a whole, we never gathered any rhythm offensively, so that also means he wasn't a big factor in what we were trying to do offensively." Burton is out of the mix for the starting job during Jerome Simpson's suspension, and on the roster bubble.  
  • Jerome Simpson did not play in the game Friday night, as he was held out as the Vikings prepare to play the first three regular-season games without him. Simpson prepared himself for his three-week R&R by ordering from Netflix every Cheech and Chong movie on its selection list.  
  • Vikings NT Letroy Guion suffered a setback in his recovery from a sprained right PCL. He didn't suit up for Friday's game with the Chargers. It will be Guion's second straight exhibition absence after he hurt his knee in the opener, and has his Week 1 status in jeopardy. Veteran Fred Evans is started in his absence.  
  • Signed in the offseason, TE John Carlson has only now begun to practice with the team again after spraining his knee on July 31. Carlson, though, is not expected to play in the preaseason finale on Thursday. This means, of course, that the Vikings never got the opportunity to test-run the two-tight end offense which they plan on featuring during the regular season with Carlson and Kyle Rudolph. 
  • The Vikings haven't settled on who will be their third running back behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, notes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. 
  • Head Coach Leslie Frazier has confirmed that most starters will sit out the final preseason game against Houston on Thursday -- this coming off of a game on Friday against San Diego where most of them didn't bother showing up.  So, they ought to be plenty rested for the season opener, that's for sure.   

Hit of the Week

What would a week be without Vikings' punter Chris Kluwe not bringing attention to himself by way of a controversial statement or two.  Kluwe took to Twitter to call for an end to the labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association after Friday night's game against the San Diego Chargers, referring to the replacement refs as 'horrible'.

Wake-up call for Mr. Kluwe:  Whenever the referees call more than twice as many penalties against your opponent than they do the Vikings, you probably should not complain about it.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen obviously doesn't share Kluwe's sentiments:  "Hey, that's not my concern. Everybody's got to play with the same refs. The league's going to do what the league needs to do and it'll work itself out.''

Kluwe is likely to be fined for his comment, which is likely what he wants since it will give him yet another opportunity to draw attention to himself via more inane and adolescent blog postings (see examples here, here and here). 

For years the quality of refs in the NFL has gone completely ignored. In fact, I would even argue that there has been no greater problem plaguing the league in recent years than the quality of its referees (and I'm hardly a blame-it-on-the-refs apologist). Disagree? Here's an article recapping the numerous blown calls/non-calls in the 2009 NFC Championship Game which arguably cost the Vikings a Super Bowl appearance. And the article doesn't even cover the most controversial non-call of the game: the unflagged high-low (bounty) hit on Favre which resulted in an interception.

And then there was last year's Packers and Giants divisional playoff match-up. The refereeing was so blatantly bad that there were respected journalists opining that the refs were trying to make it up to the Packers for having missed an obvious face-mask penalty in the Green Bay-Arizona divisional playoff game the previous year against Aaron Rodgers on the very play which ended Green Bay's season.

These are discussions that should never be had in the NFL regarding a group of individuals who now want the rest of us to feel that they're "under-appreciated."

Of course, Kluwe could care less about the referee hold-out and is merely trying once more to make headlines by being outspoken and "edgy."  (Matter of fact, Kluwe has now gotten to the point where he even comments on the controversy of his own remarks before he makes them.) Crying about the replacement referees after a freaking preseason lost just comes off as petty and juvenile, and that such gripes are being made by a punter of all players is just pathetic and embarrassing. It's time for Jared Allen or another veteran to "explain" to Mr. Kluwe exactly what his role is on the team, and how his shutting the hell up is considered an integral component of that role.

The Game

When you're on the losing end of a game that totaled 22 points, you have to know that the 'ole drawing board couldn't be gotten back to soon enough. It was ugly. What more needs to be said?  The starting offense came away with only three points on eight first-half possessions. Sacks allowed, dropped balls, no intensity and a confused QB were all factors in the offense's ineptitude on Friday night -- as they appeared more eager to begin their valet parking jobs at the State Fair than play football.

The defense wasn't sufficiently challenged with San Diego starters Phillip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal and three-fifths of their starting offensive line sitting out of the game. And if the sloppy, lethargic play didn't make the game feel like an eternity on its own, 20 penalty flags were thrown by a replacement referee crew obviously feeling compelled to inject their own idea of a little excitement into the proceedings so to spare the viewing audience from the trauma induced by being exposed to the kind of horrid football which was on display Friday night at the Dome. In fact, it is still unclear whether Chargers' kicker Nick Novak was jumping around like Rocky Balboa atop the front entrance steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art after converting a 45-yard field-goal because he kicked the Chargers to a 12-10 victory or because he realized that it was the final play of a crap heap of a game. But when asked about kicking the winning last-second trifecta, Novak replied, "So it was good then?"    

  • Percy Harvin caught two passes for 53 yards. He was targeted a game-high six times. Harvin sat out the exhibition opener, before playing in the final two and combining for 74 yards on three receptions. Harvin has flashed his big-play ability on catches of 21 and 40 yards this preseason. 
  • Kyle Rudolph caught three balls for 36 yards. Rudolph has been highly efficient through three August games, securing six of his seven targets for 65 yards. Rudolph is locked in as an every-down player in an offense desperately in need of a No. 2 pass catcher beyond Percy Harvin. 
  • Toby Gerhart rushed six times for 18 yards. Hardly an inspiring night for a player ticketed for a big early-season role as the Vikings ease in Adrian Peterson. If Gerhart doesn't suit up for the exhibition finale, he'll finish the preseason with 17 carries for 79 yards and one catch for 19 yards. Gerhart should be the Vikings' primary back in Week 1, but how touches are divvied up after that could be wholly dependent on AP's health.  
  • There was a Jarius Wright sighting, albeit it came on a 24-yard punt return in the second quarter while San Diego was backed up to their own endzone. Wright remains remarkably absent from the Vikings' passing game.  

Some Raptors and Dodos from the game:  

The Raptors

Jasper Brinkley 
J'Brink awoke from his preseason daze to record four tackles and two sacks (three total hits on the QB). Sure, one of his sacks was unblocked and he compiled his stats at a point where almost everyone on the field for San Diego was a backup; but the important thing was that he was reading and reacting while demonstrating some urgency to his game that we haven't seen since... well, have we ever seen it?  Brinkley was the topic of much discussion in the media during the course of the week, and perhaps he was feeling the pressure to perform. He still has a ways to go in order to make anyone feel confident with him manning the "Mike" in the Vikings' base-defense, but Friday night was a positive step in the right direction.  

Allen Reisner
The third or fourth or whatever -th tight end Reisner may be in the Vikings primary two-tight end offense kicked it into a high gear during a Friday night game populated with pedestrian drivers. Reisner caught four passes on five targets for 47 yards including a 20-yard grab which set up the Vikings go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. He was aggressive while blocking and was one player that seemingly wanted the football thrown his way.

Matt Asiata
He had nine rushes for 48 yards (5.3 average) to go along with two catches for six yards and a go ahead TD in the fourth quarter. Normally a player who fumbled the ball at the opponents five yard-line would have no place on this list, but considering how the rest of the team looked, Asiata should be commended for not falling down a well on his way back to the sideline. Asiata displays burst and hustle and an understanding of the offense. The Vikings let it be known that they want their number No. 3 RB to have the ability to play the fullback position as well; and therefore, the slot most likely will come down to either Asiata or free agent signee Lex Hilliard.

The Dodos

Christian Ponder
From the penthouse last week to the dog house this week, Ponder seemed to fall back into what he was doing at last season's end and the results were anything but pretty. His statline wasn't all that bad as he completed 9-of-16 throws for 115 yards with an interception (he also scrambled twice for 11 yards). But it was the between the numbers stuff which was most disconcerting about Ponder's play. He seemed jittery and lacked poise in the pocket, his indecisiveness costing his team at least three sacks as he either held on to the ball for too long or scrambled himself right into the arms of a defender. Ponder appears to have a proclivity to back-peddle while feeling pressure instead of stepping-up in the pocket in order to avoid it. Drew Brees did the same thing in his early years with the Chargers, so it is rectifiable. But Ponder looking utterly confused at times while at the line-of-scrimmage had even the broadcast commentators wondering whether San Diego's 3-4 defensive front was the source of Ponder's apparent apprehensions. Looking back at last season, Ponder faced but the archrival Green Bay Pat-a-Cakers whose primary defense utilizes a 3-4 scheme. In those two games, Ponder completed but 29 of his 66 pass attempts (43.9%) with three interceptions for a cumulative QB rating of just 55.7%. (For comparison sake, his QB rating against 4-3 defenses was 70.6%.) There is no way to say whether a 3-4 base front serves as a deterrent to Ponder's reading of a defense with such a small sample size, but with seven games this season against teams running a "34D" we'll likely know soon enough.

Matt Kalil
He gave up two sacks and his run-blocking looked as though it has not improved any. There's no need to panic, all young offensive tackles not named Tony Boselli or Orlando Pace have needed time to adjust their barometers to the pro game. Kalil's former teammate at USC, Tyron Smith, didn't begin to excel until the halfway point of his first season last year. Nevertheless, the number one reason for selecting Kalil with the fourth overall selection in this year's draft was to "aid the development of Christian Ponder."  If Kalil continues to be a step slow against outside speed rushes Ponder will either learn the hard way how to step up into the pocket under pressure (see above) or become an ESPN Sports Science experiment for the elite pass rushers of the NFC North. (One possible note of interest on this topic is that Kalil has been bulking up ever since he played his last game for USC at a reported 295 pounds. As recently as at training camp in Mankato, Kalil has stated that he is now over 310 pounds. Might Kalil's additional weight be slowing him down? It's too early to say, but nonetheless, it is worth keeping an eye on.)   

Blair Walsh
If Norv Turner and the Chargers are actually going to make an attempt to ice the kicker in the first-half of a preseason game, please be sure to make the kick so as to discourage other moronic coaches from spending time in meaningless preseason games trying to hone their timeout-calling skills.


Adrian Brody: Vikings' scapegoat.

Tweets of the Week:
John Sullivan:  An Obama Family recipe?
Joe Webb:  WR you say?
Trevor Guyton:  "Chargers"
Sage Rosenfels:  Adrian Brody?!?