So, hi. CCNorseman here. I'm filling in for Ted, while he's yucking it up on vacation. Rumor has it that he's wearing jort jorts and flippy floppies ON A BOAT! So, you'll just have to deal with me this time around as I offer up my best Ted impression. The 4th preseason game is not one that we generally use to judge the starting lineup in the NFL, but we'll do our best to forecast the stock of our team in any case.
Despite what Rick Spielman may believe about the general popularity of the 4th Preseason game, there's plenty to enjoy in watching the 2nd and 3rd stringers battling it out for roster spots. All those players are just striving to be popular with the coaching staff, isn't that right Nada Surf?
Nada Surf Popular (via shawn341)
I'm head of the class
I'm a quarter back
My mom says I'm a catch
I'm never last picked
I got a cheerleader chick
I'm the party star
I've got my own car
I'll never get caught
I make football bets
I'm a teachers pet.
For this edition of the SMR, we're looking for potential regular season contributors and reliable depth, should we need to rotate them in for the starters at any point in the season.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Corey Wootton, DE: Wootton was a force on the defensive line, recording a strip-sack of Zach Mettenberger and applying constant pressure. He's been solid all Preseason and looks to be returning to his pre-injury form. He could be one of the better free agent signings this offseason.
Adam Thielen, WR: If Thielen doesn't make the 53-man roster, I may just hand in my fan-card. The kid runs incredible routes and has great hands. He caught the only TD pass of the night with a defender draped all over him (was even called as a pass interference penalty). Later, he came down with another tough catch in traffic, and to quote Eric Thompson from twitter, then two Tennessee defenders pulled his legs apart like a wishbone. He limped off the field on his own power, and was later seen running along the side. He'll probably be fine. But still, Thielen has had a great training camp and Preseason and I would be shocked if he isn't the 5th wide receiver on the roster.
Blair Walsh, K: After a couple of inconsistent starts to the Preseason, Walsh came out and looked sharp and focused, hitting all of his field goal attempts and booming kickoff after kickoff. We'll assume it was just a little rust that had to be worked out, but he has looked great for the 2nd straight week.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: This was not his strongest game of the Preseason, but he looked good nonetheless. He drove the offense down the field with ease, and had the only touchdown drive of the night...an on-target (albeit slightly wobbly) pass to Adam Thielen in the back of the end-zone. If Matt Cassel falters or has to miss time for any reason, this offense will be in good hands with Teddy Bridgewater.
Joe Banyard, RB: He looked great against the Titans, running for over 100 yards against other backups. He dropped an easy touchdown, but otherwise hit the holes with authority, made guys miss and was fighting hard to make this team. He's looked great this Preseason, but I have a hard time seeing a way he makes this team ahead of Peterson, Asiata, McKinnon and Felton. He may not last to the practice squad for a 2nd year, because another team may want to add him to their own 53.
Audie Cole, LB: As far as I could tell, he played in all three linebacker spots against the Titans, and if he doesn't win the middle linebacker job, he should be primed and prepped to backup any of the positions. He was the primary instigator on a sack of Zach Mettenberger and looked in control of the defense. That said, he made a few questionable tackle attempts, and as Arif mentioned on twitter, it was as if he was using the "hit stick" on Madden. That's not the way to get it done Audie! But still, he should make the roster with ease, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Brinkley as the starting middle linebacker.
David Yankey, G: My own expectations for David Yankey were pretty high after the Predraft scouting I did of him. But, through training camp and the Preseason, I haven't heard a lot of good things about David Yankey...including a tepid evaluation of him from Norv Turner during the one day I attended training camp. And tonight, he did not look good. He got beat multiple times in the passing game, leading to a sack of Ponder, and during the first red-zone outing he did not generate much push in the run game that I could tell. I've been disappointed and at this point would put him squarely on the bubble.
Zach Line, RB: It pains me to put him here, as I'm a big fan of Zach Line, but he didn't have a great game, and then found himself injured. The play that sticks out to me was a dropped pass in the flat. It was an easy dump-off pass that should have been caught and turned up-field for an easy gain. Those are the kind of routine catches that guys in the 4th Preseason game need to make in order to secure their spot on the team. Getting injured only makes it easier for the coaching staff to cut a guy like Zach Line, who was already on the bubble.
Buy: Mike Zimmer calling the defensive plays. As I mentioned on Twitter, it was so refreshing to see the Zim-Zam calling the plays, especially on a 4th down that lead to a sack and a turnover on downs. Last year our defense would have just allowed a touchdown in that scenario. The Zim-Zam is someone you simply just can't Flim-Flam.
Sell: The refs, as always. Seriously how difficult is it to find some competent refs in the NFL? I didn't like the call against Shaun Prater.
Buy: Improved Secondary. In what is becoming an unusual trend around these parts, our secondary recorded another interception. It's like someone has finally installed a scheme that works, and is coaching our talent in the right way. Huh...who would have thunk it?
Sell: Getting too excited about going 4-0 in the Preseason. Yes, the Vikings have looked good, but this is vanilla football we're witnessing. Most teams aren't fielding their full starting roster, and they certainly aren't using all their plays and showing their hands just yet. Lest we forget, the 0-16 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the Preseason as well. Ultimately, these games are still meaningless.
Buy: Brian Robison emerging as a leader on the defense. The Vikings had Robison "wired" for this game, and they repeatedly showed him on the sideline giving pointers to Corey Wootton. He was engaged with DC George Edwards and GM Rick Spielman on the sidelines, and the shot I liked the best was of him jumping up and down, cheering on his teammates after they recorded a sack. I expect him and Everson Griffen to have a great year and not miss a beat racking up the sacks.
Sell: Rick Spielman's attempt to talk up and sell Christian Ponder. During the 3rd quarter, Spielman was in the broadcast booth chatting it up with Paul Allen, and the conversation inevitably turned to Christian Ponder (who actually played this game!). Spielman was talking up Ponder like a salesman, praising his work ethic, progress under Norv Turner and his professionalism in handling being demoted from starter to 3rd string. I have to give him props for trying, but at this point, nobody is buying it Rick. Ponder continues to look as inconsistent as ever: that's his M.O.
And with the Vikings 4th Preseason now over, so goes with it the players' last chance to pad their stats and resumes to impress the coaching staff. The last round of cuts are due this coming Saturday afternoon by 3pm CST when the Vikings will trim their roster down to the final 53 spots. There is a waiver period that lasts until noon on Sunday, after which point teams can then start signing any free agent players to their practice squads, which have now been increased from 8 to 10 players. Good luck to all the bubble guys, and may you be the most popular guys on the team.