The 2013 pre-season comes to a sweet, merciful end on Thursday, and that means the beginning of the season is just over a week away. But even so, the Vikings are playing for quite a bit on Thursday in the final pre-season game in Metrodome history.
Well, the team isn't playing for beans; let's just put our cards on the table. However, 22 guys are playing for their NFL lives, and there are still some roster jockeying going on. Let's see what we can look for on Thursday.
For this game to be over in record time. For as much as some guys are playing for, this game is going to be painful to watch, I'm afraid. Future insurance salesmen will be trying to block/cover/tackle future Menard's department managers, and it's going to be sloppy. We don't need to see a two minute drill, we don't need a lot of timeouts called, and for the Love Of All That Is Good, Right, And Holy, this game BETTER not go into overtime. Call a play, run a play, huddle. Rinse, repeat.
Felder v. Sherels...who ya got? Call me crazy, but I'm beginning to think Sherels survives. Felder hasn't been impressive in his last two games, and Sherels is the veteran. Thursday will determine who survives, and with all things being equal, I think Sherels makes it. I can't believe I'm saying it, but there it is.
Joe Webb and Stephen Burton enter the Octagon. Only one man exits. Or do they? The conventional wisdom among most fans is that Burton and Spiderman are two guys fighting for one spot, but there is a sizeable contingent that feels both make the final roster. I tend to think only one guy makes it, and with Greg Childs now on the PUP, I'm more convinced of that than anything. Why? Let's assume Childs comes off the PUP and can play in, say, two months. If the Vikings keep both guys, they'll have seven WR's on the roster when Childs comes off the PUP, and that's too many, and means they'll be shorted elsewhere, probably on the offensive or defensive line. Can they get by with five for half the season? Yeah, I think they can, which makes me think the Vikings only put five on the active roster.
And with the defensive line hurting right now, I can easily see the Vikings going heavy there early in the season, and then culling those ranks later on if Childs is, in fact, healthy and can play. But then again, I thought Tim Brewster was a good hire for the Gophers back in the day, so take my opinions with a grain of salt. Or a full shaker. Your call.
So, is there anyone among the defensive tackles that isn't hurt or excused? No. Well, it's not THAT bad, but with Shariff Floyd and Kevin Williams hurt and Christian Ballard on the Reserve/Left Squad list, there is an opportunity for someone...anyone...to keep his NFL dream alive for a little while longer. No one knows what the status of Ballard will be long term, and it's not unrealistic to think the Vikings keep 9 defensive linemen. Could one or two guys leap frog Ballard? We'll see.
The Running Man, and I don't mean Arnold Schwarzenegger. With Jerome Felton's three game suspension and the way Zach Line has played in the pre-season, it seems almost a given he is going to make the final roster. But the third running back has yet to be settled. Joe Banyard is pushing Matt Asiata hard, and one more good game and it could push him over the top. But will the Vikings want to go with so much inexperience behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart? And could the Vikings move Rhett Ellison into the FB slot for a few games, and go into the regular season with four tight ends? Yeah, a TE depth chart of Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Ellison, and Chase Ford is a very plausible scenario.
No one gets hurt. Really, this is about as meaningless a game that will be played in the NFL, with the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars schedule (ZING!), and an injury in a game this meaningless would be even more frustrating than usual. Really, let's keep it clean (I'm looking at you, 49ers cheap shot artist Joe Looney) and get out of this game without any serious injuries.
So does MacLeod Bethel - Thompson really have a shot at the number 2 job? No, but...Matt Cassel has been pretty uninspiring at quarterback, and I wouldn't mind to see MBT get some time playing with the second string. He hasn't been great, but he hasn't been terrible, either. I'm not saying MBT will or should be the #2 QB, but I'd just like to see what he could do against some tougher competition.
You know, pre-season is meaningless, but a win WOULD be nice. Yes, I get that pre-season W-L record is completely meaningless. Yes, I get that wins only matter in the regular season. But still, watching my favorite team NOT get their ass kicked would be nice, you know?
So that's what I'll be looking for. What about you guys?