Folks, I have to tell you something. Lean in, because I don't want a lot of people to know. Come on, squeeze in here.
/looks around again
I'm a hypocrite. There, I said it.
I say over and over not to get too excited about a pre-season game...and I got excited over this pre-season game.
I know, I know, pre-season is meaningless, and has almost zero bearing on the regular season. Kyle mentioned yesterday about the Colts winless pre-season when they went to the Super Bowl, and Detroit's undefeated pre-season before they went 0-16. All we have to do is look back at 2005 from our own Vikings to know this leasson: Daunte Culpepper proclaimed himself a quarterback 'Jedi', and the offense post Randy Moss looked downright scary during the pre-season, and the defense was suffocating.
Yeah. Three thrashings, a Love Boat trip, and a shattered Culpepper knee later, that was all pretty much out the window. Still, when you see such a difference between key players from week one to weeks two, in some ways it's hard not to get excited.
There's a lot to talk about, and we're sticking with the Elementary School grades from last week, after the jump.
Quarterback: S...Satisfactory. If I was just grading the play of McNabb, it would have been an S+. McNabb was particularly sharp, and save for one sack where Charlie Johnson just blew an assignment and the Vikes went three and out, he was in rhythm the whole time he was in. He made quick reads, good throws, and didn't have any mistakes. He had a particularly nice drive that started on the Vikings two, and eventually resulted in a field goal. He spread the ball around and the offense really looked sharp. The backup job between Ponder and Webb is still murky for me. I thought Webb played better with the 2's last week than Ponder did this week, but Ponder wasn't terrible. He seems tentative to throw the ball downfield, though, but I'm more and more impressed with his mobility. Webb isn't afraid to throw downfield, but he didn't seem particularly accurate with his deep ball. They both seemed comfortable, for the most part, but now I have to give the edge to Webb. He didn't necessarily progress, but he didn't regress, either. And I think Ponder did a little bit.
Running Backs: S+...Satisfactory plus. Adrian Peterson only had a few carries, which is all he should have in a pre-season game, so the onus was on Toby Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker, and Tristan Davis, and they all played well. Booker looked particularly good in space; I can't recall the first defender going after him making a tackle, and Davis had an exciting 35 yard run for the clinching TD, which was his only carry of the night. Gerhart did a much better job of hitting the hole, and showed some power on a couple runs.
WR: S...Satisfactory. We saw our first Michael Jenkins catch, and it was a nice 21 yarder from McNabb. With Greg Camarillo out, Devin Aromashodu had an opportunity, and he made the most of it, grabbing two balls for 30 yards, and stood out on special teams and downfield blocking for run support. Joaquin Iglesias also had a couple of good catches, and this unit is starting to give off the vibe that they're going to make some good plays, but they're not going to be game breakers, and as long as they're consistent, I can live with that. Emmanuel Arcenaux might have sealed his fate tonight by fumbling the ball through the end zone as he was going in for a score, which resulted in a touchback for Seattle.
TE: S+...Satisfactory plus. Kyle Rudolph continues to impress, and awesome Jim Kleinsasser is still awesome. Rudolph made a nice catch on third down deep in his own end early in the game, and had three total, leading the team. Kleinsasser had the play of the day for me, grabbing a short swing pass and leaving 23 yards of death and destruction in his wake. And the couple of times I looked at him on the line, he was his solid self.
OL: I...Improving. I don't think Vikings fans are asking for five All-Pros on the offensive line. I mean, we'd take it, don't get me wrong, but I think we'd all be happy with league average at this point. And that's what we saw, for the most part. I spent most of my time watching Charlie Johnson, and save for a blown assignment on the first drive, he handled his opponent pretty well. He isn't going to overpower anyone, but he did a good job of using the defender's momentum against him, continually pushing him upfield and out of the play. As for the rest of the line, couple of breakdowns, but not bad. Phil Loadholt has his obligatory penalty, but he seemed to improve a lot between the first and second games.
DL: S...Satisfactory. Much better job against the run this week than last, and Seahawks
problem quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was under pressure from all sides all night. Now, could some of that have been because it was our old friend Tarvaris Jackson? Sure. And when the pocket collapsed, which happened frequently, Jackson usually made plays with his legs. Jared Allen whiffed on a sure sack of TJ, and Brian Robison had trouble on contain to his side on more than one occasion, but overall, not a bad outing.
LB: S...Satisfactory. I'm actually pretty happy with the starters and the back ups at this point. Erin Henderson seems a lock for the Will, and made a couple of big hits. Not really sure how the depth will sort itself out, and Ross Homan didn't do himself any favors with a stupid late hit penalty, but folks, if we're talking about a penalty that a potential reserve guy made as the most serious of their transgressions, then I think we should feel pretty good about this unit, no?
DB: I...Improving. Cedric Griffin started, and his presence was immediate, as he broke up a nice slant pass the first series. A healthy Griffin means this secondary is a lot better. Chris Cook looked much better on Saturday, and had particularly good coverage on Sidney Rice a couple of times. But easily the player of the game was CB Marcus Sherels. He had a nice punt return, which he fumbled. But he made up for it by...wait for it, because you're not going to believe it...wait for it...hold...INTERCEPTING a pass AND returning it for a tocuhdown. Yes, that's right. The Vikings secondary picked off a pass! And I'll tell you, when Sherels hit the afterburner, he was gone. Really quick acceleration. But he also had a couple of nice open field tackles, made his presence known on special teams, and just had an all around solid game. At minimum, he pulled even with Asher Allen, if not pulled ahead.
COACHING: Didn't really grade this last week, but I think it should be noted that our two new coordinators are very different than our old ones. Leslie Frazier was a very good defensive coordinator, but he was content to sit back in a cover-2 scheme, and believed the defensive line should force most of the pressure. And when he had a talented line like he did for most of his tenure, that was a solid strategy. Fred Pagac seems a lot more aggressive in that regard, and it will be interesting to see if that holds true as the season progresses.
Here's Bill Musgrave in a nutshell. 1st quarter, Vikes have the ball on their own two after a goal line stand. !st and 10, McNabb lines up in the freakin' shotgun on both first and second down, completes two passes, the second one to Kyle Rudolph for a good 15 yards, first down, Vikes out of trouble and have some breathing room. I'm sorry, but you can talk to me until you're purple in the face and tell me Chilly would've done that on first and second down, and I will never, ever believe you.
So yeah, it's not the regular season, but there are a lot of positives to take away from this game. I think the consensus is we wanted to see improvement in all areas as the pre-season progresses, and I think it's fair to say we saw that. Both the offensive and defensive lines got better, the secondary looked downright competent at times, and some younger players made a case to stick around.