Mercifully, the pre-season ends tonight. I feel like Maj Duncan Hayward at the end of The Last Of The Mohicans...somebody, anybody, put me out of my pre-season misery, because I feel like I'm burning at the stake:
Man, I loved that movie. Honestly, faced with the decision of the last pre-season game or LOTM, I'd probably watch Daniel Day-Lewis go all bad ass on the Colonial Frontier again. And that had to be the best music score in movie history. If not the best, definite top 5, amirite?
Be that as it may, there are several things I'll be looking for from tonight's pre-season finale, so let's get to it, after the jump.
1. The Quality Of Replacement Officials Is WAAAAAY Overblown: I'm sorry, but I just don't see the big deal about the NFL going to replacement officials. NFLPA Head Buffoon DeMaurice Smith floated the idea that the players might strike because the owners aren't providing a safe work environment, but that's laughable, at best. No way--NO WAY--players sacrifice game checks over officials. How consistent are the regular officials in doling out penalties for dangerous hits? How often do the regular refs make a bad call and screw up something in an NFL game? I would argue no more or less than these replacement officials, and at least in some cases, I kind of like the replacement guys. From the games I've watched so far, there doesn't seem to be nearly the amount of penalties called, and I like it. Seriously, I don't get why everyone is so worked up about temporary, part time referees replacing...temporary, part time referees.
2. Does Matt Asiata Secure The Third Running Back Spot?: One of the big surprises regarding the Vikings over the last couple of weeks is MOAR FULLBACK Matt Asiata transitioning to and seriously competing for the third running back spot. He's the only back of the roster guy that's made any noise in the pre-season, and he could very well secure the spot tonight. Obviously, we don't know what goes on during practice, but based on the games alone, I would go so far as to say it's his spot to lose at this point. And it's more of an important job than ever, based on the uncertainity of AP's knee.
3. Who Wins The Nickel Slot--Josh Robinson Or Chris Carr? This spot really seems to be a toss up. Carr had it by default early on based on his experience and Robinson's injury. But if I can use a horse race analogy, Robinson really closed some ground in the back straightway, and as they're coming around the turn, it's neck and neck. Robinson's looked better on the field, and I would give him the edge here. They'll both make the squad, and I'm a lot more comfortable with the defensive backfield this year than I was at this time last year.
4. So Who Ya Got--Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, or Manny Arcenaux?: Right now I've got the WR corps as Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson, and Michael Jenkins. With Simpon's three game suspension looming, you can make the argument that the Vikes will keep all these guys for the first three games...but you could also convince me that they'll go with a lot of two TE heavy sets for the first three weeks to compensate and only keep two of these guys. The District Attorney finally made some noise last week, but is it too little, too late? I think so, but if Arcenaux or Burton have a bad game, he might sneak in under the wire. Well, I should say if Arcenaux has a bad game...I'm calling Burton makes the final 53.
5. Hey, There's Another Notre Dame Defensive Back!: Robert Blanton makes his pre-season debut tonight, and I think we're all jumping for joy? No? That's not why you're jumping? Oh, my bad. Outside of Harrison Smith, the Vikes still need to find an answer at safety. Right now, it's probably Mistral Raymond, but the back up spots are still very unsettled. Eric Frampton and Jamarca Sanford have been about as impressive as Les Steckel's head coaching acumen, and if Blanton has a good game, I expect him to unseat one of those two. Personally, I think Spielman keeps him anyway, just because this is his first full draft class that he's responsible for, and I would bet in a close battle, he'll favor his guys over the other guys. Heck, it's human nature; it's what I'd do.
Anyhow, that's what I'll be looking for. Well, at least, that's what I'll be looking for when I watch the replay. I don't get the game live here, but I'll be following the game thread if I'm able.
Here's to the end of the pre-season!