Hi kids. Sorry for the delay in the SMR. For one, I didn't get the game broadcast live where I live, so I settled for recording it on the DVR at 1 this morning. Secondly, it was my wife's birthday, and I asked her what she wanted to do for the weekend. Sadly, watching a Vikings pre-season game wasn't on the list, so yeah...the SMR is a little late.
There's a couple things that kind of stood out to me in the second pre-season game. For one, the Vikings running game would be pretty bad if it wasn't for Adrian Peterson. Sorry, but Matt Asiata and company pales in comparison to the Greatest Running Back In Football.
But...as competent as the quarterback play has been, the Vikings might not be a one trick pony anymore. Seriously, the Vikings have competence at the quarterback position, for the first time since 2009, and I'm really not sure what to think. They have a solid veteran in Matt Cassel, a guy that brings stability and competence to the job. And behind him, the future in Teddy Bridgewater. A bright future...so bright, I might have to wear shades.
I gotta job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year will buy a lotta beer
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright I gotta wear shades
Your last second, game winning, Holy Roller II, pre-season SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Kyle Rudolph, TE: It was mildly surprising when the Vikings signed Rudolph to a multi-year extension right as training camp was getting under way. Not so much that an extension was done, but it was more paying a guy a lot of money for what the Vikings THINK he will do in the coming years. I think he's going to be awesome, if Saturday was any indication. Rudolph had 4 grabs for 89 yards, including a 51 yard catch and run that went for a touchdown. He almost had two TD receptions, but couldn't bring down a circus catch on the Vikings second drive. Rudolph has the size, speed, and hands to be an elite TE in this league. With competent QB play, I think he's going to explode this year.
Everson Griffen, DE: There weren't a lot of bright spots from the Vikings first team showing on Saturday, but Grifffen was one of them. He didn't get a sack, but he brought some serious heat off the edge. In the first quarter, he almost had a one handed sack of Carson Palmer, and then nearly had a sack for a safety.
Matt Cassel, QB: We'll talk about the other guy in a minute, but how about a little bit of love for a guy that I think wrapped up the starter's job Saturday night? Without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings were a bona fide NFL offense against Arizona. Take a sip of that statement, and roll it around on your tongue for a second or two before you swallow it. Cassel has been sharp through two games, and has brought a balanced attack to the Vikings. He threw to backs, receivers, and tight ends, to both sides of the field, including short, medium, and deep patterns. He just looks and feels like a legitimate NFL quarterback, and I love his pocket presence and decision making.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Okay, let's talk about Teddy now. Last week, Bridgewater's performance was a bit uneven, and everyone wanted to see him improve on that. Yeah, done and done. Bridgewater was a lot more accurate, with not nearly the amount of overthrows, although there were a few. He also went downfield more, and of course, had the game winning drive. His deep ball was accurate, and Adam Thielen flat out dropped a sure TD.
Joe Banyard, RB/KR: Banyard had a good game both as a kick returner and running back. The Vikings are still trying to figure out who their kick returner will be, and his 44 yard return was impressive. He also broke a great run for 56 yards, and got the Vikings deep into Cardinals territory. He ended up being the Vikings leading rusher, and made a case for making the roster.
Adam Thielen, WR: Aside from his drop on a beautiful Bridgewater throw that would have gone for a score, Thielen was solid. If he didn't win a roster spot last week, I would think he cemented it Saturday. 4 catches for 55 yards, including a couple of off target throws that he hauled in. Another impressive performance for Thielen, who continues to make an exceptional case for making the team.
Rodney Smith, WR: For as good as Thielen was early in the second half, Smith was cash money on that game winning drive. He had a nice reception to get out of bounds, and hauled in a 37 yarder to get the VIkings into the red zone. I still don't see Smith jumping ahead of Simpson or Thielen, but I think he's got a practice squad spot locked up.
Matt Asiata, RB: Okay, so that performance was the Matt Asiata I've come to know and love. 10 carries, 19 yards. No explosion, nothing about his game that really stood out at all. If Asiata is the primary backup behind Peterson, and AP gets hurt...the drop off will be like falling off a cliff. Just sayin'...
Pretty much the first and second team defense: Heck, for that last minute collapse, throw in the third team defense while we're at it. There's talent there, and I still think they'll be better, but they had some issues. The Vikings defense allowed the Cardinals to go 7-15 on third downs,
Buy: Matt Cassel is going to be the starting quarterback. Cassel has done a fantastic job so far in the first two games, and I think he locked down the starter's job with his performance Saturday night. As impressive as Bridgewater was, he did it against the second and third team.
Sell: Teddy Bridgewater is going to be a bust. I don't know when Bridgewater will be the starter, but he will be, someday soon. When he does, it's going to be awesome, and I'll tell you why. I noted a couple things about him on that game winning throw that made me rewind my DVR and think to myself 'he's got it'. For one, after the throw to Smith, the camera cut to Teddy really quick, and he was expressionless. Just walking to the sideline all 'what's all the fuss about? Just a game winning throw with 30 seconds left, no big deal'. Secondly, the camera cut to the sideline after the throw, and everyone was coming up and shaking his hand--guys that were on the field on the play, the starters, even an assistant coach, I think. Cordarrelle Patterson sat down on the bench and put his arm around him, and they both had a big smile. This team seems to already respect him, and when he gets the call they'll respond to him. I'm not so sure the team was that way with Christian Ponder, or any quarterback until Cassel at the end of the season last year.
Buy: NFL refs are terrible. The pass interference call on Derek Cox that set up what looked to be the Cardinals game winning TD was one of the worst PI calls ever. Both players were going for the ball, Cox was playing the ball, and had his head turned towards the ball to make a play. It was textbook defense, textbook. Terrible. I expect half a dozen of those calls against the Vikings once the regular season begins.
Sell: NFL refs are good. OH BUT WAIT IT GETS BETTER...how can a ball, covered by a player on the ground...we call that a tackle, kids...be handballed out by an offensive lineman, picked up by a running back, and advanced into the endzone for a score? Had the Vikes not scored, and it had been the regular season, I'm sure the Vikings would've gotten a 'hey we screwed up' letter from the NFL on Tuesday. Because of course they would.
Buy: The game winning drive. But that just made the game winning drive even sweeter, didn't it? And man, Bridgewater showed the poise, accuracy, and nerves of steel that made him the best QB prospect in the draft. He ran the two minute drill like a seasoned veteran, and stood tall in the pocket when Arizona brought the heat. It was impressive, even if it was in August.
Sell: The game winning drive was 'just pre-season'. Well, it was just pre-season, but it wasn't. Had it been typical pre-season, it would've been easy for the Vikings to throw Christian Ponder out there, shrugged their shoulders, and taken a probable loss. But I thought it was interesting that Ponder didn't play at all, and that the Vikings staff wanted to see if Bridgewater could do something. He did, and it gave the Vikings and fans a reason to think that moving forward, the quarterback issues that have plagued the Vikings for so many years might be in the rear view mirror.
So the home portion of the pre-season is done, and next week the Vikings travel to Kansas City, a mere four hours down the road from where I live. Hmmm.........