Greetings all. As some of you who either did or saw me go and forth with people about the various moves the Vikes made from the free agency moving forward, i've been pretty defensive; constantly uttering the mantra "It's too soon. Give it time to play out." Now that we're through pre-season and cut down to the final 53, more or less, and with the regular season a scant 5 days away I think it's only fair for me to give my opinions on how things have played out and how I feel going into the regular season.
I'm going to break it down by position and sometimes on a player by player basis, so this post might be pretty long. That in mind, i'll try to be as detailed as I can without this dragging on into a novel.
Breakdown after the jump.
Gonna start off by going a little off the rails and talking about the coaches, specifically Musgrave and Pagac. Not going to talk about Frazier since there's really nothing new to say.
Musgrave: I wasn't really sure what to think when I heard they hired him aside from "He has to better than Bevell". I never really payed attention to Atlanta or the type of system they ran so I didn't know what type of system we'd be getting. After 4 games, I have to say I'm pretty excited about the new system. I liked the fact that the system was very methodical, taking what defenses give them and turning it into respectable gains. It won't light up the highlight reels per say, but if it helps us win, it doesn't really have too. Not too mention, what we saw wasn't the full playbook, they were running an abridged sort of offense during pre-season because of the shortened off season. I can't wait to see what they'll come up with as the season goes on.
Pagac: I have to admit I wasn't watching the calls on defense nearly intently as I was on offense. That said, I saw a different Fred Pagac in these first 4 pre-season games than I did the last 6 games of last season. During pre-season, Pagac didn't call nearly as many blitzes and relied a lot more on the line to get pressure (not saying that's a bad thing, just different from last year). I don't know if thats also a by product of the shortened off season so they could evaluate their guys, but i'd like to see more aggression coming from the D side in the regular season.
Now that's done, on to the offense.
I'm going to break down the QBs by player since the position warrants a more detailed look:
Donovan McNabb: I have to admit, when I heard the Vikings were pursuing McNabb I immediately thought of the train wreck in Washington instead of the 6 time pro bowler he was in Philly. Looking back on some footage of him in Wash he just looked so uncomfortable, like he couldn't relax. That was the first thing I noticed when he came here; he looked relaxed, he looked comfortable both on the field and on the bench. Given that he was primarily brought in to help mentor Ponder and Webb, I think that's pretty important. You don't need someone who'll yell or call you stupid or anything like that. You need someone who'll see a mistake and go "I saw what you did there, but here's what I would have done in that situation". I also liked what I saw on the field, his only pick was a tipped pass that looked like it could've been reversed if it had been challenged. He should do well for us this season.
Christian Ponder: He's gotten a lot of praise around these parts and he definitely deserves it. He's calm under pressure, makes good reads, is pretty accurate, has good speed to evade rushes and scramble for yardage, but most importantly, he's smart. He's definitely raw, had several throws that were pretty wild, either way overthrown or thrown at the receivers feet, but he has a real future in the NFL and I hope he does well for us when he's ready to take over the starting role.
Joe Webb: I don't know what changed between last season and this one but there was definitely a change in Webb. Last year he looked so confident in the pocket, staring down defenses. This year, he looked more uncomfortable, especially in the first pre-season game where he tucked and run almost instantly if his first read wasn't there. He got better about it as the pre-season progressed and I normally wouldn't have a problem with it since yards are yards but he missed several plays where the receiver was either totally open or was in a good spot to make a play. On the positive side, he did make some good plays toward the end, in the 4th pre-season game and he's got so much phyiscal talent, I can't wait to see what special packages Musgrave comes up with to get him on the field.
Not a whole lot to say here. AP is looking in prime form and once the offense around him really gels, he's going to have an explosive year. Maybe even a repeat of his rookie year, when he came on the scene so hard and so fast defenses were just left wide-eyed and shaking as he rolled over them. If there's one person that still makes me scratch my head it's Gerhart: Why, exactly, is he here? He's not a terrible player by any means and he looked more explosive this year, hitting the holes without any hesitation when last year he'd almost always be half a step too slow through the hole to make any decent gains. Just wondering what his role is. I like Booker, I think he'll be a good 3rd down, change of pace and return guy. He has great speed and agility and can cut back really fast.
I know this was one of the bigger concerns going into the season was how well the WR corps was going to be. I think they'll be just fine. While it's true that we don't have a lot of quick, explosive guys we do have a lot of guys with sure hands. Cammarillo is still as reliable as ever. I saw Jenkins and Aromashadu both make some pretty good catches, with the ball either thrown behind or over them or where the had to dive for it, which is a good sign since they're both the incomers from other teams who had some question marks around them. Didn't see much of Harvin, but as long as he has migraines under control, he'll do well. I still want Berrian gone but I was glad to see him fight for that ball against the Cowboys instead of just letting it fall incomplete. More effort than he showed for the past 2 seasons.
Not a whole lot say here either. Kleinsasser is still the best blocking TE in the league and I have a feeling if there's ever a formation that requires a fullback, he'll be lined up ahead of AP in the backfield. If Shank can shake that hamstring injury, he'll still be one of the better receiving TEs in the league and a big red zone target for McNabb. I really like Rudolph, and between Shank and Ksauce, he's got an interesting opportunity to get the best of both worlds. I hope he can seize it.
This was another of the problem areas for the Vikes going into this year. It was definitely my number one concern going into this season. Did they alleviate my concerns? Yeeeeeeeeee...sort of.
Charlie Johnson really worried me at first, watching the Titans game, but he really came into his own by the Texans game. I think he'll be a solid contributor, while not spectacular. Loadholt seemed passable, didnt have very many false start calls at least and didn't blow an assignment that I saw. I think Love has potential, if he keeps developing we might just have a replacement for either Johnson or Loadholt if either under-produces.
Hutch seems to be back at 100%, which is always good. Herrera...meh; I was never all that keen on him anyway, and coming off the ACL surgery, I dunno; As long as he doesn't blow assignments, at least we'll have a consistent starter. I wasn't really watching Olson but I hope he's passable if Herrera goes down again.
I've never been a fan of Sully. After Matt Birk, he just seems mediocre. I really hope Fusco can develop into a legit starter.
Quite possibly the only position besides RB that the Vikes aren't hurting for talent or depth. I'm not terribly worried about these guys, even with Kwill missing the first 2 games of the season. I'm a little disappointed with Brian Robison, he seemed to get burned a lot more than he should have (read, a lot more than Ray Edwards would have. But I digress) but Adrian Awasom, Christian Ballard and Everson Griffen all made pretty strong cases for themselves. On the interior, between Evans, Guion and Ayodele, I think we'll have a pretty strong line this year.
I have to say, Erin really came out swinging this year. The first couple games he was literally everywhere on the field. They gave him the starting job and he showed he deserved it. E.J and Chad both looked like their old pro-bowl and pro-bowl snubbed selves and I don't think we'll have much of a problem with talent. Depth, on the other hand, does worry me a little. Dean looked decent aside from the personal foul he got called on, but Onatolu has never been anything but a special teams guy. Brinkley getting put on IR really hurts I think. I haven't seen any tape of Adibi so I don't know how he is, hopefully he'll pan out to give us some depth behind the starters.
Area 3 of the top 3 question marks on this team, to say our secondary was sub-par last year is like saying Bryant McKinnie was slightly overweight when showed up to camp.
I was really impressed with Cedric's progress, you could hardly even tell he's coming back from 2 consecutive ACL tears in 2 years. Missed a few steps here and there but having him back and healthy brings a world of stability to this secondary. Didn't see much of Winfield during pre-season but he's Antoine Winfield, if he's on the field he's going to be great. I really like Marcus Sherels and I hope he wins the nickel spot ahead of Cook and Allen. The fumble sucked but he bounced right back with that pick 6 and ever since, wherever the ball was in the secondary, Sherels never seemed to be far off. Cook actually surprised me so far, there might be some hope for him yet. He didn't seem to get burned as much as last year, he might turn out to be a serviceable dime guy and maybe starter later on in his career if he keeps it up. I'm surprised Allen is still a Viking.
Still not terribly thrilled about the safety position. Abdullah and Sanford will be decent starters but they won't dazzle anyone with their play over the top. I'm shocked Johnson is still on the team, honestly. I like Mistral Raymond, he has potential. He missed that pick in the end zone but he's a rookie so i'll let it slide for now. Given enough time, he should develop into a good player. Frampton is a special teams guy, always has been, always will be and in that respect, he's a good player.
Not much to say here. Kluwe is still one of the league's best and an awesome guy to boot. Longwell is still (mostly) mr. automatic but his weakening leg is making itself pretty evident. Vikings will probably either draft a guy this off-season late in the draft or in the supplemental draft or grab an UFA or young guy in a year for when Longwell's contract is done.
There you have it. Turned out longer than I wanted but oh well. Note that these are my own opinions and I tried my best to not let others influence them.