With apologies to modern day philosopher and cultural icon Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson:
FINALLY....FOOTBALL has come BACK TO MINNESOTA!
Well, at least tomorrow. Either way, woo hoo!
Every year, I go to great lengths to tell myself that the pre-season is meaningless, and how the team performs in these exhibition games is no indication of how they will perform during the regular season.
And every year, I get unduly excited when a guy like Joe Webb does something like this against guys who will be stocking grocery shelves by the end of the month:
Then I get WAY too hyped and look waaaaaaaay too much into what are, at best, inconclusive results.
What I thought was my pre-season epiphany on getting too worked up about these exhibition games came in 2005, when the Vikings, fresh off a playoff win over Green Bay the preceeding year and the infamous trade of Randy Moss, rolled through the pre-season like a juggernaut. Well, at least the first team did. QB Daunte Culpepper memorably proclaimed himself a 'Jedi', Marcus Robinson looked like he was going to be a beast, and the pass rush combo of Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James looked like they were going to be money for years to come.
Ummmm, yeah. Not so much. Although Paul Edinger gave us two last second, game winning kicks over Green Bay, most of the 2005 season was forgettable. Lesson learned on my part. At least I always think so, until I get to watch the first pre-season game.
Then I'm all PLAYOFFSRAWRSUPERBOWLRAWRWOOOOOOOVIKESROLLWOOOOOOO!!!!!
And don't tell me you're not, either. So, with a re-calibrated (for the time being) perspective on pre-season expectations, this is what I want to see tomorrow night.
After the jump.
1. Christian Ponder in command. Last year as a rookie, Christian Ponder was put into an almost untenable position. Anything positive he did (and he did plenty) was almost a bonus from my perspective due to the lockout, the McNabb fiasco, etc. He has no excuses this year. Now, I'm not looking for a Hall of Fame year, but I want to see confidence, poise, and command. He's talked it, he's acted it, now do it.
2. An offensive line that isn't a sieve. This is a direct correlation to number one, if you ask me. It's pretty tough to exude confidence if you're thinking you're going to get killed when the ball is snapped. I want to see Matt Kalil flash those sweet left tackle skills in a game setting that he's been showing off in camp, I want Charlie Johnson to look serviceable at left guard, and Brandon Fusco look good at right guard.
3. A little bit of clarity in the receiving corps. I want to see a hierarchy develop after Percy Harvin. I liked the way Michael Jenkins and Christian Ponder were developing before Jenkins got hurt, and if that were to continue, I wouldn't be disappointed. Jerome Simpson is still an enigma for a lot of us, so I'm looking forward to seeing him in purple. After that, I want a new guy to step up in garbage time, or what we would normally call the second quarter. I've heard or read good things at different times so far from Jarius Wright, Manny Arcenaux, and Stephen Burton, and based on how these guys play we might see something more definitive as to who will make the final 53 man roster. And if the District Attorney struggles in this game like he has in camp so far, the writing could be on the wall for him.
4. A little bit of clarity in the secondary. Chris Cook has vowed to turn over a new leaf and become a responsible member of society and the football team. So far, he seems to be doing both. Carry that over into the game. It doesn't look like Josh Robinson will play, which is too bad. I think he'll be an asset to the defense, but it also provides an opportunity for somebody to step up. Marcus Sherels did just that last year to make the team. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Harrison Smith brings to the table. Cook, Robinson, and Smith will play a large part in either the success or failure of the Vikings secondary in 2012.
5. The Blair Walsh Project™ Begins. I'm going to miss Ryan Longwell. He was as automatic as a Prom Night hookup. But his leg strength was down, and I want to see Walsh boom it six or seven yards deep on kickoffs. The Vikes defense was continually hampered by poor starting position based on mediocre special teams play, and if Walsh can force teams to start on the 20, then that's all the better for everyone. And yeah, I want to see him make some field goals as well.
That's what I'll be looking for. What about you folks?