It's so nice to have football back, even if the first game was your typical pre-season clunker, in this case a 17-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
I'm trying to temper my excitement, like I mentioned in an earlier post, because it's week 1 of the pre-season.
But still, there are some things we can take away, at least in an incremental fashion, and go from there.
Ah, screw it. FOOTBALLWOOOOOSUPERBOWLWOOOOOLETSGOCRAZY!!!
Yeah. let's go crazy, because football is back. I turn it over to Minnesota native Prince:
All excited but we don't know why
Maybe it's 'cause we're all gonna die
And when we do, what's it all for
Better live now before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
Blue Chip Stocks:
The First String Offensive Line: For one night...well, for one quarter, we were treated to a by God NFL caliber offensive line. Matt Kalil acquitted himself well, for the most part. He was smoked on an outside speed rush once, but Ponder avoided the pressure and rolled out. Other than that, Ponder had plenty of time to set up, read the field, and throw. I know it's only one quarter of one pre-season game, but it was very encouraging first step.
Toby Gerhart, RB: Although Fearless Leader mentioned a little bit ago that Adrian Peterson might be activated off the PUP pretty soon, Gerhart ran with authority and confidence, and even if Peterson is active for week one, Gerhart will see lots of action. I have no worries with him splitting carries early in the season. He's not going to impress anyone with his lateral speed, but he's kind of starting to remind me of a little bit faster Mike Alstott. I can live with that.
Blair Walsh, K: One thing that had become noticeable with Ryan Longwell last year was his reduced leg strength, especially on kickoffs. Last night, Walsh boomed his kickoffs, and the shortest one went 5 yards deep in the end zone. He also nailed both of his field goal attempts, and so far, so good.
Christian Ponder, QB: The stats are a bit misleading: 4/9, 80 yards, 0 TD's, 0 Int's. However, I thought he played well. Two of those passes were catchable balls that were dropped by Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson, and he hit Stephen Burton for 52 yards on the second play of the game. He lead the first team offense to two straight scoring drives to open the game. Although touchdowns are better than field goals, field goals are points, and this was a nice start: Two scoring drives, no turnovers, no bad decisions.
Stephen Burton, WR: He only had one catch, but it was a nice one, and had Ponder hit Burton in stride, he would've scored a TD. He made a great over the shoulder adjustment to get Ponder's throw, and got some nice YAC in spite of the awkward position he caught the ball in. In the Battle Of The Last Receiver Spot, Burton would have seemingly gained the inside track last night.
Every Offensive Lineman Not On The First String: Wow, they were as bad as last year. No, they were worse. They flat out sucked. No, the Polish Army sucked. These guys were worse. Granted, one game, but not an encouraging sign. If one of the starters go down, we could re-visit a lot of last season's frustrations with this group.
Joe Webb: Webb was awful last night. Part of that was due to the 'Jailbreak' blocking scheme that the reserve linemen were employing, but sorry, I wasn't impressed with Spider Man last night. His throws were off, and he just seemed uncomfortable behind center. Of course, that was understandable. If I thought I was going to get my head ripped off on every play, I'd probably feel uncomfortable, too.
McLeod Bethel -Thompson: I just didn't see anything last night that tells me Bethel-Thompson will win a roster spot. He looked more uncomfortable than Webb did, but at least Webb has out of this world athleticism that Thompson does not.
Buy: This offense will be better than predicted. There were a lot of positive takeaways against what was one of the top defenses last season. There's still work to go, but I'm telling you, this offense will be better than it was last season.
Sell: The run defense won't be this bad. I hope. If it is, we're going to be in for a long season. I mean, the Germans had a tougher time going through France than the 49ers did running the ball last night. Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield didn't play, and Letroy Guion hurt his knee on the first series and didn't return.
Buy: There's A Lot Of Work To Do: Overall, I was encouraged by the offense, and as for the defense, I won't get too worked up until all the regulars take the field. Kevin Williams and Jared Allen are a far sight better than Nick Reed and Chase Baker, and Winfield is one of the better run stopping defensive backs in the NFL. Still the safeties that started really didn't shoot me with a load of confidence on the first two series, as Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford looked as out of place as a fish playing chess. You'd think Harrison Smith moved up on the depth chart by default, but we'll see.
With one game in the books, I think it's obvious that there is a long way to go for this team, but I took away some very positive things, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. We'll see how things progress as the pre-season continues.