The one point of pre-season I like the most is the third game. Oh sure, for us football junkies, we like to watch the third and fourth quarters of the first two games, because we get to see rookies we're high about and fringe guys fighting for that last open position.
But the third game is the next best thing to football that counts, because we see, for the most part, the front line starters for a whole half. And we can make some decent assumptions and judgements on the makeup of the team.
And I gotta tell ya, I like this 2011 team; I think it's going to be sneaky good.
And I like some Macy Gray stuff. So, as is our wont on the SMR, a video, because There Is Beauty In The World, Boys and Girls, and it wears Purple And Gold:
There is beauty in the world
So much beauty in the world
Always beauty in the world
So much beauty in the world
Shake your booty boys and girls for the beauty in the world
SMR, after the jump
Blue Chip Stocks:
Donovan McNabb, QB: Methinks the reports of the demise of Donovan McNabb have been a bit premature. McNabb looked solid, save for a tipped pass that was picked, and a bad decision that could've been a pick six for Dallas in the third quarter. I think we all wanted to see the Vikings take some shots down the field, and they did, the biggest on a 49 yard TD to Bernard Berrian. That throw was beautifully placed inches over the safety into Berrian's hands, who made a tough catch with the safety partially blocking his view. McNabb looks like he did in his last couple of years in Philly, and gone is the sourpuss, woe is me looking guy that was in Washington that just looked miserable. He did a good job of spreading the ball around, and I really liked the playcalling of...
Bill Musgrave, Offensive Coordinator: There have been two things that I noticed so far with Musgrave that made me go 'whoa, the KAO is dead and buried, and that's a good thing'. Last week in Seattle, the Vikings went shotgun with an empty backfield on their own two, and last night they looked like they ran the same formation in a third and short situation...and got the first down. So far, Musgrave is doing a good job of playing to the strengths of the guys he has to work with, and the offense looks good. They still need to finish more drives, but everyone seems to be in sync, and I like what I'm seeing. Especially from...
Adrian Peterson, RB: So, I have my fantasy league draft tonight, and I got the first pick overall. Yeah, I'm picking this guy. Peterson looks phenomenal, and I forgot how ridiculous his cutback is. He has great vision, instincts, and power, and although I've said it before it bears repeating--we are privileged to be able to watch one of the greatest running backs in NFL history wear the Vikings uniform week in and week out. Let's get that contact extension done, shall we Mr. Wilf? Because one of the guys that probably would like to block for AP for a long time is...
Charlie Johnson, T: 'Ted', you're thinking, 'Charlie Johnson, a BLUE CHIPPER? Are you nuts?' Well, sure, I probably am nuts, but not because of this. I watched Charlie Johnson on every series last night, and he was good. He was able to stand up his guy repeatedly, and he wasn't beat one time. Not once, at least that I saw. The big difference I noticed between him and McKinnie is that Johnson is a junkyard dog, and never gives up on his guy. If a guy gets a step on him, he has done a very good job of using that momentum and re-directing him upfield, out of the play. McKinnie seemed to half ass it a lot and once a guy got a step on him, he just sort shrugged his shoulders and did the 'oh well' thing. Now, does this mean I think Johnson is an All Pro, and is the best lineman ever? Of course not. But he deserves recognition for solid improvement from when he first got signed, and he looks to be a very good addition. One of the reasons Johnson has improved is because every day, he has to go up against...
The Starting Linebackers: Every one of these guys has impressed me so far. Erin Henderson is pretty good, and E.J Henderson and Chad Greenway are picking up right where they left off last season. Greenway and Henderson were especially active, and were able to make some nice plays up and down the line. This is a very under rated unit, and they are shaping up to be the backbone of the defense.
Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can...
Joe Webb, QB: Mike Mayock said something funny about Webb last night.
He has no idea what he's doing, but it doesn't matter at this point.
And as usual, Mayock's right, and when he said it, he meant it as a compliment. Webb's athletic ability allows him to make up for quarterbacking errors in receiver progression, for example, or hesitancy to throw the ball, because he can tuck it and run forever. I have to believe Musgrave flips on the tape of Webb and just giggles imagining what kind of Wildcat package he can install. Webb (and Ponder, for that matter) isn't anywhere near ready to be a starting quarterback, but he is an offensive weapon at that position, if used in the right situations.
Michael Jenkins, WR: Jenkins is a solid WR, and you can see McNabb is building trust with him. He had a beautiful 17 yard reception where he just went up and got the ball and flat out wanted it more than the defender. It was a tough throw, and one a quarterback doesn't make when he doesn't trust his receiver. Jenkins was a good pick up for the Vikings, and I think he will excel at making 'moving the chains' type catches.
Marcus Sherels, DB: Marcus Sherels has played himself on to the Vikings. Last night Asher Allen was out, and once again, Sherels made the most of it. He was working as the nickel back with the first team and had a nice defended pass early, and stood out on special teams again as well. Every year it seems a guy comes from nowhere to make the roster, and this year it looks like it's Sherels. He still has some consistency issues, and in the second half he allowed some plays against him, but for so far, there's been way more good than bad for this kid.
Christian Ballard, DT: We kind of didn't know what we were getting with Ballard. He had the reputation of a gifted athlete that didn't really tap in to his potential at Iowa--a first round talent with a fifth round work ethic. The fourth round pick has been very good so far, is working his way up the depth chart, and put in another solid performance again last night. I like how disruptive he has been in the middle, and I hope he keeps it up.
Special Teams: Terrible. When you have a field goal blocked for a TD, and are 1-3 overall in field goals, it's a fail. Punting was okay, coverage units were okay, and returns were okay, but the blocked FG was the difference between winning and losing. Can't have it.
The Right Side Of The Offensive Line: I thought Anthony Herrera was okay in his return, but I wasn't impressed with Chris DeGeare, Phil Loadholt, or Ryan Cook. They all were beat bad at least once, and like most of you, my biggest concern with the Vikes as they head into the regular season is the right side of the line. If Herrera can make it back, I think it will help tremendously, but Loadholt needs to step it up.
Buy: Joe Webb being named second team QB. Webb's done better than Ponder, but really, it doesn't matter. With the new rule allowing the third string, or emergency quarterback, to come into the game and the first or second string still able to return at any time, it's just a label. Webb will be used in the Wildcat, I'm sure, and Ponder will be The Guy in a year or two.
Sell: Defensive depth. Not impressed with the two deep at a lot of positions, but that's okay as long as the front line guys don't get hurt. I threw up in my mouth a little when Antoine Winfield got shaken up, but he seems to be okay.
Buy: Bernard Berrian. Hey, we all wanted him to show up and make some plays, and he did. That was a heckuva TD catch with that safety jumping in front of him for the ball, and he haeld on to it for the score. He also had a couple other nice catches and finished with 2 catches for 64 yards and the score. It was a nice effort from Berrian.
Sell: McNabb's pick and the blocked FG. The interception killed a nice drive, and the blocked field goal was a ten point turn around. This is a team that isn't going to have a lot of room for error, and will need to make the most of their opportunities in the red zone. Stuff like that is going to be the difference between 10-6 or 6-10. No team is going to be perfect, I understand that, but those kinds of breakdowns are unacceptable.
I'm buying what Cord Parks and Marcus Sherels are selling...
Buy: Cord Parks Making The Team: He's making plays and looking good. I don't know that he will, but he's making the job of Leslie Frazier that much more difficult. I thought he's played well in the last two games.
Sell: Asher Allen Making The Team: I would not be surprised at all to see Sherels and Parks jump over Allen, and see Allen on the outside looking in. He hasn't been impressive, and last night he was out because he was hurt. When you have guys breathing down your neck competition wise, the last thing you want to have happen is get hurt, because the time to make an impression is long past. It's what you've put on tape that counts, and Parks and Sherels have been getting it done. Allen has not.
Overall, I liked what I saw. Although the Vikings lost, there are a lot more positives to take away from this game than negatives--McNabb, Peterson, the wide receivers officially being taken off of the 'Area Of Concern' list, and the defensive effort from the first team. Yes, there's still work to be done, but this is a competitive team, with the makings of a good offense and another quality defense.
So, we've kicked the rust off the SMR and we'll be ready to go for week 1. Don't forget the Texans game is Thursday, and then it's the Sept 11th opener in San Diego.
There is football in the world, so much football in the world, shake your booty boys and girls for the football in the world...