Final Position-By-Position Breakdowns: QBs, FBs and RBs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 13, 2011 – 7:50 am

This week on the Blog, we’re breaking down the Vikings roster position-by-position to give fans a comprehensive assessment of the team as the first preseason game – tonight in Tennessee – approaches. We’ve already looked at the offensive line, defensive line, tight ends, defensive backs and wide receivers and linebackers. Up next: quarterbacks, fullbacks and running backs.

The Vikings decision to trade for Donovan McNabb just before the beginning of training camp gave the team something it hadn’t had in two years: the comfort of knowing the identity of the starting QB heading into camp. This was a big deal for the Vikings, especially considering the lockout had significantly derailed first-round pick Christian Ponder and second-year player Joe Webb’s chances of learning the offense thoroughly. With McNabb, the Vikings have a 13-year, playoff-tested QB to lead the new offense. McNabb gives the Vikings a chance to win games immediately and he takes pressure off of Ponder and Webb to be thrust into action too early; this will the long-term development of both youngsters.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances (knock on wood), McNabb will be the team’s starter this season. Behind McNabb the Vikings have Ponder, Webb and Rhett Bomar. It’s common for teams to bring four QBs to camp and once you’re in camp you have a chance to earn a spot, but as expected it was Ponder and Webb battling for position on the depth chart. When you select a QB with the 12th overall pick, obviously the eventual plan is for him to play. But Webb has proven himself a capable QB to date. He entered camp as the #2 QB and he’s done nothing to lose that standing. Webb will run the second-team offense tonight in Tennessee and it will be fun to see how he plays.

We should certainly not write-off Ponder, though. The fact that Webb has remained the #2 QB behind McNabb is not an indictment on Ponder, rather, it’s a credit to Webb. Ponder has looked the part of a first-round QB so far. He carries himself professionally, is respected by his teammates, does not look overwhelmed on the field and has given every indication that he has the stuff to be a starting NFL QB. It’s just going to take some time for him to learn this offense and become comfortable in the system. Remember, most rookie QBs have several weeks in their new offense with their new teammates before training camp. Ponder had zero time with his new team before camp and was literally given a trial by fire over the last 13 days.

We move on to the FBs and there were really on two of them in training camp. Second-year player Ryan D’Imperio was atop the depth chart, to no surprise. The Vikings selected D’Imperio with their seventh-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft and they actually converted him from a college LB to an NFL FB. D’Imperio spent the 2010 season on the Vikings practice squad and perhaps the Vikings decision to not re-sign starting FB Fahu Tahi is an indication that they want to give D’Imperio a look. Helping D’Imperio’s cause to make the team is the fact that he’s been running with the first-team in a lot of special teams phases.

The second-team FB is a guy that I’ve actually enjoyed watching in camp and has impressed. His name is Matt Asiata and he’s an undrafted rookie free agent out of Utah. This kid is athletic, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he’s got some wiggle to him when he’s carrying the football. Ironically, the only part of his game that I would question right now is his lead blocking ability. Obviously that’s a FB’s main job – lead blocking – so Asiata has something to prove throughout the preseason and the rest of training camp at Winter Park, but I’ll continue to keep my eye on him.

It should come as no surprise to you, but the Vikings are going to be fine at RB this year. Adrian Peterson, despite being in a contract year, showed up on time for training camp and he’s performed well. I took some criticism for saying it, but he had one of the best practices I have ever seen a couple of Thursdays ago. He started off looking great in pass protection during a blitz drill, picking up E.J. Henderson and allowing McNabb to find Michael Jenkins for a long completion on one play. Then he looked outstanding in 9-on-7, knifing through the line of scrimmage two times in three plays for a long gain; remember, the 9-on-7 drill is designed to create contact and collision, but Peterson went untouched twice. Later toward the end of practice, Peterson made three catches that were far from routine, one where he was sprinting down the right sideline, had to slow down, turn around and leap toward his outside shoulder to haul in the pass. Anyway, I digress…

Toby Gerhart has looked solid as the #2 RB. I know a lot of people like to think of him as a FB, but he is a pure RB and he’s a good one, too. He’s more of a between-the-tackles runner than Peterson, even though Peterson has a bigger build. Gerhart is a no-nonsense, north-south, down-hill runner who tends to break the first tackle and will rarely be stopped for no gain or less. He’s also going to be a great asset for the offense in the four-minute situation, where the Vikings hold a lead and are trying to run out the clock. After trying to stop Peterson all game, defenses are going to have to adjust to trying to stop Gerhart, who will have fresh legs, with the game on the line and the clock working against them.

The #3 RB is a guy who surprised me a bit with how good he looked in camp – Lorenzo Booker. You’ll probably remember Booker as the guy who came to the Vikings late last year and looked good on a few kickoff returns. This year, I think you’ll remember him as the team’s outstanding kickoff returner who was also a nice change-of-pace RB. Booker has some ability in the pass-receiving game and he’s got some wiggle to him as well. He’s hard to bring down on the first try and I think he’s going to be a factor on offense this year. Booker also has a legitimate chance to be the team’s primary kickoff returner, especially if the coaching staff decides to use Percy Harvin only sparingly in that role to preserve him for offensive use.

After those three guys, the Vikings have a pair of youngsters in the RB stable - Tristan Davis and Alexander Robinson. Davis has not come out and flashed a bunch, but he’s also not been a waste. I’m not sure how long he’ll stick around this roster, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a team show interest in him and give him a shot. Alexander, on the other hand, has impressed me. He appears to have great quickness and good speed and we know he knows how to play the position because he was Iowa State’s fourth all-time leading rusher. Alexander is also a native of Minneapolis, so it’d be a fun story to have him stick around either on the 53-man roster if the Vikings decide to keep four RBs or even on the practice squad to see if he can develop.

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 26 Comments »

26 Responses to “Final Position-By-Position Breakdowns: QBs, FBs and RBs”

  1. By Daniel on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    QBs,FBs, and RBs. I hope McNaab shows up and understands how much support Minn gives it`s players. We all embraced Farve, and I believe he took that to heart. McNaab needs to realize, this is not Philly. Philly is tough to please, Wash too. Minn treats its Teams with alot of respect. I could hear how sarcastic he was about fans everywhere he turned. He needs to learn, Minn is very supportive and gets behind it players.

  2. By Titus on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Mike— will you be setting up a blog right before the game begins for fans to chat and scream with each other during the action?

  3. By govikes on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I like the QB’s and the running backs. We have depth at both positions. I think these are going to be fun preseason games to watch.

  4. By NovaScotiaVike on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    This new rule about kicking-off from the 35 yd. line is the worst rule change ever.

  5. By jv3rnon on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Im excited for the vikings. I just got a concern at the other safety position. I like to see Bigby from the Packers play beside Adulllah. Also, hope Loadholt and Sullivan improve alot and Herrera gets better and ready for Chargers.

  6. By CA Norwegian on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Mike, sorry if you were criticized about AP evals. go figure

  7. By Titus on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Nova, that is a dumb rule– let’s make the game less exciting– probably done so less collisions during kickoff returns– might as well get rid of the padding the players wear at some point– not going to be needed. Nude Football League.

  8. By NovaScotiaVike on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Nothing more exciting than a good old touchback!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. By Titus on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    How long will McNabb play tonight?

  10. By NovaScotiaVike on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I’m guessing the first two series.

  11. By Jeff Myers on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    If the NFL is smart they will drop the new kick-off rule in 2012. Vikings have talent more than people think. O line is will determine a 8-8 or 10-6 season.

  12. By Mike Wobschall on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    McNabb won’t play much tonight…a series or two. Then Webb, then Ponder.

  13. By NovaScotiaVike on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Mike W., what do you think about the new kickoff rule?

  14. By Titus on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Ponder will play the most?

  15. By sandiamond on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    last night 0 kickoff returns in the TB/KC game, all touchbacks. This new rule might not affect the vikes much but we get an advantge against devon hester now

  16. By Rogerthevikefan on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Hope Ponder shows everyone who passed on him it was a giagantic mistake.

  17. By Rogerthevikefan on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Wow finally after a lomg time it let me post.

  18. By NovaScotiaVike on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    The new kickoff rule will affect different teams in different ways, but overall it takes one of the most exciting plays in football basically out of the game.

  19. By Nicholas on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I hope that Ponder shines, and shows that the Vikes didn’t necessarily lose out by picking him @ 12, rather than having Jake Locker.

    This is assuming that Jake Locker was higher on the board than Ponder was in the first place.

    SKOL Vikes!!!!!!!

  20. By Titus on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Ponder is smarter than Locker and will be a much better quarterback.

  21. By THE SWEDE on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Infractions will be more apparent in the placement of the football on kickoffs! a penalty can cause teams that have lost their concentration on kick offs to possibly get burned.

  22. By Nicholas on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I agree Titus, he is much smarter.

    I also think overall that Ponder’s Intangibles far outshine Jake Locker’s.

    I’m hopeful that this shows in the immediate and long term future : )

  23. By Parody on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I’d like to know about our RBs pass protection abilities. Has AP gotten better in this regard so he can be considered a well rounded 3-down back? Or can we expect to see one of the other guys step in on obvious passing situations?

  24. By Garrett on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Why is webb in front of Ponder??? Webb is not an nfl quarterback…maybe a WR not a QB…..what are they thinking??

  25. By Rocksalt on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I will keep my eye on our WR’s and DB’s

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