With Tarvaris Jackson, Bernard Berrian, and Sidney Rice all watching from the sidelines, the Vikings took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third exhibition game of the 2008 season last night in Minneapolis. As you'd expect, there were things that were good and things that were not so good about last night's performance. That's what this here thread is for, so let's get to it.
What Was Good
The First-String Defense - Oh, so THAT'S what a pass rush looks like, huh? I was confused. . .it's been so long since the Vikings have actually had one of those on a consistent basis that I had pretty much forgotten. But yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's quite similar to what I expect the Four Norsemen of the Apocalypse to be doing all season long. In the first half, the Steelers' first-string offense netted a total of 76 yards and three points. . .three points which were, unfortunately, pretty much set up by the Minnesota offense, but we'll discuss them later on.
Last night we saw Jared Allen blowing up double teams when they were thrown at him, the Williams' boys disrupting things in the middle as only they can, and Ray Edwards showing us that even though he might be the forgotten man on this defensive line, opposing defensive coordinators would be foolish to ignore him. And we haven't even mentioned the depth on the defensive line, but it's pretty good, too. If the Vikings can generate the kind of pressure with just their front four that we saw against Pittsburgh last night, they stand to be ready to take a mammoth leap forward.
Aundrae Allison - With the Vikings' #1 and #2 wide receivers sitting out last night's game with a toe injury and a stomach virus, respectively, the new #84 got some significant run with the first team last night, and he responded very well, leading all receivers with 5 catches for 56 yards. The majority of those receptions came from the slot, which is where Allison is best suited to work. His receptions covered 8, 11, 13, 17, and 7 yards, and all but one came before halftime. With the Minnesota passing game looking to become a much bigger threat and with the other receiving options the Vikings have available right now, one has to wonder how Allison will get worked into the offense, but he's proven over the course of the pre-season that he definitely deserves to have his role in the offense increased.
Erin Henderson - I don't know how the heck Henderson the Younger wasn't a first-day draft pick. . .after all, that's where he was originally projected. . .but he's proving to be a very nice addition to an already talented linebacker group. He tied again for the team lead in tackles last night with five, and also threw in a strip of Rashard Mendenhall to force a Steeler turnover. With the injury to Heath Farwell, coupled with his performance to this point, it looks to me like the reunion of the Henderson brothers will last through the 2008 season. . .and possibly well beyond.
What Wasn't Good
The run offense - Yes, I realize that the Steelers are a very good defense, and that it's only pre-season. . .but Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor combining for 26 yards on 16 carries last night is rough. Really, really rough. For an offense that prides itself on its ability to run the football, such performances simply can't become the norm for this team if they're to live up to the expectations that they've been given. Fortunately, I'm not terribly worried about this one at this point, and I think it's going to come together before the season opener.
Penalties - Ten penalties in a pre-season game, including three false start penalties on the opening drive. . .at home. Blech. Of the ten penalties, there were four false starts, two for defensive offsides, one for illegal formation, and three 15-yard penalties (face mask on E.J. Henderson, unnecessary roughness on Matt Birk, and roughing the passer on Letroy Guion). At least 8 of those 10 penalties are easily eliminated (the false starts, the illegal formation, and the three 15-yarders), and they NEED to be eliminated before the first game of the regular season. The Vikings are perennially among the league leaders in penalties, and this is a trend that needs to be completely reversed.
Quarterback - Not that Gus Frerotte was "bad," per se. . .but last night made me happy that he's our backup and not somebody we're relying on for the long-term. Like I said, he had a decent game (save for the awful interception that set up Pittsburgh's only first-half score), but I don't want to see him out there more than a couple times in 2008. I'd prefer to not see him at all, but with Tarvaris Jackson's injury history, that hardly seems like a realistic hope.
What do you all think, folks? What did you like or not like about last night's performance? Feel free to talk about it here!
We should be back with some more later on this afternoon. Apparently TS Fay decided that she didn't want a piece of Gonzo and decided to take a track more to the north of where Mrs. Gonzo and I live. (Or there was something in the atmosphere that made it go that way. Hell, I don't know, it's just a theory.) We'll see you then, everybody!