You know, the pre-season is what you make of it. I try not to get too fired up in either direction, win or lose. I really don't care about the final score. Sure it's nice to get a win, don't get me wrong, but quick--without looking it up, what was the Vikings pre-season record in 2009? How about 2010?
See what I mean? I used to really over emphasize the pre-season, win or lose. I took a win as a sign that the Vikings getting to the playoffs were a mere formality (remember Daunte 'I'm a Jedi' Culpepper's lights out 2005 pre-season?), and a loss meant that it was time to blow everything up and start over (Favre in 2009 comes to mind). But some people take things WAY too seriously. I mean, WAY too seriously:
@KooistraMatt are u referring to when a fan said they hope I get gang raped or when they tweet death threats?— Sam Ponder (@samsteeleponder) August 17, 2013
Seriously? IT'S JUST A GAME, FOKKER. A PRE-SEASON GAME AT THAT, FOKKER. Stuff like that embarrasses the entire fan base, and seriously, I hope jackasses like that are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If you want to be 'that guy' and tweet stupid things to the player, that's one thing (still ridiculously stupid, but whatever), but a player's wife? Again, SERIOUSLY?!?! You're imbalanced, and you should seriously consider a mental health evaluation. And turn in your Vikings fan card. No, wait, turn in your human being card.
That said, I can't say I enjoyed watching the Vikings game against the Bills, as they were sloppy. Well, the first team offense was. The first team defense looked pretty good actually, but Bills starter Kevin Kolb was awful.
Because Kevin Kolb.
The first team played into the second quarter, and try as I might, I can't remember one time when the Vikings saw a blitz coming and adjusted to try and negate it. I have two observations about this and if it has been a regular season game. One, I don't think the Bills would have blitzed every...single...play. They have a completely new coaching staff and scheme, so they were going deep into their playbook to make sure their personnel know what they're doing. It's a little unorthodox for a pre-season game, but it's not illegal.
Secondly, the Vikings are still trying to get their passing game down, and were more worried about running their offense than worrying about what Buffalo was doing and trying to counter it. And head coach Leslie Frazier even said as much in his post game press conference last night:
"We didn't spend a lot of time up in Mankato preparing to play Buffalo. We worked a lot on our team, and that's what we're going to continue to do."
In the regular season, Adrian Peterson is playing (even the particularly awful Bills broadcasters mentioned this a couple of times), and I would like to think the Vikings, once they had seen what was unfolding, would have run a draw or screen pass. Heck, I'm sure they would have. And I'm just as sure Purple Jesus would've housed at least one of those, because THAT'S WHAT PURPLE JESUS DOES. For whatever reason, they didn't Friday. I'm not going to condemn the team for not doing it Friday--it seemed their focus was on getting their offense on tape and evaluating that, as opposed to countering the Bills defense. And in the pre-season, that's okay.
Because at the end of the day, does it matter? Well, Tripper, does it?
Your SMR that just doesn't matter follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Kyle Rudolph?...sure, if there's someone from the first team offense we can pick, let's pick him. Even though he dropped a pass, he still was the only guy on the first 11 that looked like he knew what the hell he was doing out there. 3 catches and 39 yards, including a nice 25 yard catch and run was about the highlight of the night for the first team.
The First Team Defense: It's tough to say any one person stuck out, because the run defense was solid, and the secondary looked really sharp. Rookie Xavier Rhodes had a tipped ball that lead to a Jamarca Sanford...what IS that called...it's on the tip of my tongue...INTERCEPTION, THAT'S WHAT THAT WAS. Josh Robinson, playing the nickel, almost had a pick six, and I get the feeling that this is going to be a top shelf unit once we get into the regular season. Now, we must temper this a bit because the starting quarterback was Kevin Kolb, but still, I liked what I saw.
Joe Banyard, RB: I think right now you can make a solid case for the Vikings keeping Banyard, Zach Line, or Bradley Randle. Last week, Randle and Line played well, and this week it was Banyrad's turn. He showed nice vision and speed on his 38 yard burst in the second half, and really stood out among the three. Randle probably had the poorest showing, but he wasn't terrible. Line only touched the ball once, and that was a 12 yard reception, but on Banyard's 38 yard run he blew up the linebacker at the point of attack. Last week I thought Matt Asiata was safe; this week, I'm not so sure.
MacLeod Bethel-Thompson: I almost dialed up KFAN on iHeart radio last night to listen to Vikings fan line to see how many folks think it's time for Thompson to be named the Vikings starting quarterback, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WE DO IN MINNESOTA. I liked what Thompson did Friday, and he had a good rapport with his backup receivers. He's a solid number three quarterback, for whatever that's worth in today's market.
The first team offense, minus Rudolph: If I could use a WWII analogy, Ponder was France, the Bills were the German Wermacht, and the Vikings big uglies were the Maginot Line. Rudolph was the French Resistance, but everyone else? Yeah, pretty much got blitzkrieged. Ponder was running for his life, Matt Kalil perfected the "lookout block" technique, and John Sullivan demonstrated his otherworldly strength by snapping a football 30 yards behind him.
Matt Cassel: The second team offense wasn't much better, but again, I think a lot of this goes to the Vikings and their decision to concentrate on what they waned to do as opposed to try and counter what Buffalo was doing. But yeah, Cassel threw a pick and was running around so much it looked like he was auditioning for 'Dancing With The Stars'. Pre-season football fever, catch it!
Buy: The new road uniforms. I like them. If I have a beef on anything about the new uniforms, it's the weird edges on the numbers. But I like the look. Very nice balance between retro and a new look.
Sell: Not wearing the purple pants: One of the reasons I liked the uniform changes in 2006 was because they added the purple pants. I think I'm one of the few fans that actually like them, and with the new striping down the side of the leg, I think they look cool. Hope we see them from time to time.
Buy: Not game planning in the pre season. Look, this is the time where you try and get game reps and continuity with your first team, and not get anyone hurt. It wasn't pretty to watch, but I understand the philosophy of what the Vikings did.
Sell: Not running at least one screen pass or draw play. I mean, it's not like the Vikings don't have screen passes or draws in the playbook, and really, how much valuable information can you glean from the Vikings first team offensive line playing Olly Olly Oxen free the whole time they were out there? Ponder's lateral running ability, or maybe his backpedal? At least no one was hurt, so we'll call it a night and get ready for the next game.
Buy: Rodney Smith's nice TD catch. It was a nice outside shoulder throw by Thompson that Smith had to adjust for by doing a 180. He went up, got the ball at the highest point, and boom, our lone highlight of the evening, for the most part. Nice effort.
Sell: Joe Webb making the team. I didn't see a noticeable drop in Joe Webb's play, but I didn't see any improvement, either. When you combine that with the fact that Stephen Burton has picked it up as a receiver and a special teams guy (had a TD called back on a kickoff return), and guys at the bottom of the roster coming on (Smith and Chris Summers looked good, for the most part), I'm finding it harder and harder for Webb to find a seat at the table when the music stops.
"Coach wants to see you. Bring Your Playbook":
Since my father doesn't really watch pre-season football, his quote of the week will return for week 1. In it's place, we'll add this section, because last night, there were two guys that might as well get a visit from The Turk today.
James Vandenberg, QB: He didn't play, and at one point when the Vikings third team was on the field, the camera shot went to Thompson as he was getting ready to line up over center. In the background, the camera angle caught Vandenberg, helmet on, arms cross, all the weight on one leg--the ultimate 'I'm gooned' look imaginable. That's because you are, James. You are.
Tyrone McKenzie, LB: He was out of position more often than not, and was called for holding on Burton's kickoff return TD, negating a score. For a guy fighting for a roster spot, that's NOT HOW YOU DO IT.
So, we hit the halfway point of the pre-season. The Vikings definitely have some things they need to clean up, but I refuse to press the panic button over what transpired last night. The third pre-season game is generally the dress rehearsal game, if you will--they will do some game planning, and the starters will play into the third quarter. If they look okay next week, I'll be fine. If they put on a shitshow like we saw against Buffalo...well, I'll be worried until we get to the first game.