Most Vikings first-teamers didn’t play in the team’s preseason finale against the Houston Texans on Thursday night at Mall of America Field, but those Vikings that did play made sure to entertain everyone watching. QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, along with a host of other young Vikings, impressed in the final game of the preseason and put together a 28-0 victory.
With so many starters out of action, the main storyline heading into Thursday night’s game was the fact that Ponder was making his first start. The 1st-round pick did not disappoint, going 10 of 17 for 83 yards with 1 TD and no INTs; Ponder also had 61 yards rushing on 8 carries, frequently utilizing his athleticism to avoid pressure and escape the pocket. Ponder’s TD toss went to fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph.
Webb also looked solid and led scoring drives of his own, guiding the Vikings on an 11-play, 59-yard drive that culminated in a Caleb King rushing score early in the 4th quarter and then leading another drive late in the 4th quarter that also ended with a King rushing score. For the game, Webb was 5 of 6 for 43 yards with no TDs or INTs; he also had 1 carry for 12 yards.
Another positive development was the play from the team’s RBs. Minneapolis native and Iowa State University product Alexander Robinson scored on a 4-yard run in the 3rd quarter and then King, an undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Georgia, scored twice in the 4th quarter. Tristan Davis got the start on Thursday night and rumbled for 25 yards on 8 carries. In total, the 3 RBs rushed for 135 yards on 34 carries. Robinson averaged 6.9 yards per carry and King was the leading rusher among the three with 62 yards.
The Vikings offense saw a lot of opportunities for success because the defense and special teams played so well. The Vikings defense surrendered only 14 first downs on the night and held Houston to a 33% third-down conversion rate. The Vikings kick coverage units were solid once again, as they have been all preseason, and allowed just 9.0 yards per punt return. P Chris Kluwe put 3 punts inside the 10, including one at the Houston 1-yardline in the 1st half.
Rookie CB Brandon Burton, who has flashed a bit over the past two games, notched an INT in the 2nd half and continues to make a strong case for himself. DE Adrian Awasom, who has lined up with the second-team defense all of camp and the preseason, registered a pair of sacks on the night and newly acquired DE Stylez White also had a sack. Reserve S Ryan Hill tallied a pair of special teams tackles and also led the team in defensive tackles with 5.
The victory over Houston concludes the Vikings preseason and now they’ll prepare for their regular season opener against the San Diego Chargers on September 11.
Tags: Adrian Awasom, Alexander Robinson, Brandon Burton, Caleb King, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Kyle Rudolph, Ryan Hill, Stylez White, Tristan Davis
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As we have for all of the preseason (and will continue to do for the regular season), we’ll be hosting a live game-day chat for each Vikings game. The fourth chat of the year will be tonight, beginning around 7:00 p.m. CT as the Vikings and Houston Texans square off at Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome.
Remember, the live chat won’t start until right around kickoff.
To join the chat at kickoff, click here to go to the Vikings Game Day page.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 10 Comments »
After a month of training camp and three preseason games, it’s easy to write-off the fourth preseason game as meaningless and instead focus on the start of the regular season. But that’s not the climate surrounding the Vikings, according to Head Coach Leslie Frazier.
“I think the guys know going into this final game there are still some opportunities for them to make our team and help our team improve at a number of different spots,” Frazier said earlier this week. “So we do have certain spots where we know we have our starters in place, but we have some places up for [grabs] as well.”
With that in mind, here are five things to watch during tonight’s Vikings-Texans game…
Christian Ponder gets the start at QB
No, there won’t be a rigid, point-of-no-return decision made about the backup QB spot following this game. But tonight is still a significant test for rookie Christian Ponder because he’ll start the game and will likely get an extended look. Unfortunately, Ponder probably won’t play with a lot of first-teamers, so it’s hard to get a truly accurate gauge on his progress, but tonight will still be the best look Vikings coaches get at their first-round QB. Rather than 80-yard drives and long TD passes, I’m looking for Ponder to display confidence and poise, limit mistakes (penalties, bad reads, sacks) and to just play fast.
Everson Griffen at LB
Earlier this week, the Vikings played DE Everson Griffen at LB. Both Frazier and Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac indicated that Griffen would play some LB tonight against Houston, as the Vikings get creative in trying to get their talented players out on the field. It’s a bit unclear yet what this development means. Some have speculated the team might not be pleased with Erin Henderson (I doubt that), while Frazier and Pagac have said it’s more about how well rookie Christian Ballard has played; with Ballard playing so well, he can provide depth along the defensive line while Griffen is moved to LB. At this point we don’t know how this experiment will go, but we will know a little bit more after tonight.
Who will step up at WR?
About the only certainty with regard to the Vikings WR situation is that Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins will make the team. After that, we don’t know A) how many total receivers the Vikings will keep and B) which receivers are in line for those additional roster spots. Manny Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Greg Camarillo, Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson are the remaining WRs on the roster. A couple weeks ago I would’ve discounted Arceneaux, but since then I think he’s taken a step up. Aromashodu is an attractive option because he can cover kicks and has great speed. Camarillo and Johnson can also perform punt return duties. Burton is a project and looks to have potential, while Iglesias is a smooth athlete and can probably play both out wide and inside as a slot receiver. So there is a lot to like about this group of WRs. The question now is, will any of them step up to separate themselves from the rest of the group?
Reserve offensive linemen
I thought the Vikings first-team offensive line played very well last week against the Cowboys. So well, in fact, that I’d be pleased if the Vikings decided to rest all five of them tonight. That course of action would allow the coaching staff to get a good, long look at the reserve offensive linemen on this roster. You’d like to keep all of them, but of course that’s not a realistic option. So tonight represents the last opportunity for this crew of players to make a case for themselves. Jon Cooper looks to be a step ahead of Brandon Fusco for backup center duties, but is “a step ahead” enough for Cooper to keep a spot over a draft pick? Ryan Cook, a late signing during camp, has stepped in nicely and is a versatile reserve. Another draft pick, DeMarcus Love, has looked good at times; can he stamp his first training camp and preseason with a solid performance tonight? Chris DeGeare was at one time a promising up-and-comer, where does he stand? And what about Pat Brown, Seth Olsen and Thomas Welch? All three of shown flashes of ability worthy of keeping around. Tonight is a big night for this crew.
Kickoff and punt return roles
I’m guessing both Lorenzo Booker and Percy Harvin won’t play much, if at all, tonight. That leaves a few extra return opportunities for the guys who do play. Can Marcus Sherels step into the return role and provide a little spark? That could be all he needs to secure a spot on the CB depth chart. Or maybe Jaymar Johnson can register another 40-yard punt return to convince the coaching staff to keep him on the WR depth chart. Will Greg Camarillo get a look at punt return? Can Cord Parks step in and contribute with another long kickoff return? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a play or two on special teams tonight turns out to be a “tie-breaker” of sorts in determining a roster spot on either defense or offense.
Tags: Christian Ponder, Everson Griffen, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 138 Comments »
Watch Live on TV: Fans in Minnesota can watch the game live on KARE 11. For midwest affiliate stations airing the game live, click here.
Watch Live or On-Demand Online: For just $5 right now, you can watch the Texans-Vikings game live and then you’ll have access to all four Vikings preseason games in on-demand format via NFL.com’s Preseason Live. To order, click here.
Watch Replays on TV: Probably will need to set your DVR as Fox Sports North will replay the game at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3. NFL Network will replay the game on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 9 p.m.
Listen Online: Per NFL rules, KFAN.com cannot stream games. However, NFL.com’s Audio Pass gives fans several subscription options (season pass, by team, by month, etc.) To order, click here.
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The clock has started! The National Football League and United Way are gearing up for Back to Football Friday—a nationwide campaign to celebrate the return of football and tackle childhood obesity.
There are lots of ways to get involved—online, at work, among your friends and family or in your community. There are great prizes for participating including free trips to the Super Bowl. The concept is simple: Donate $5 to United Way youth health efforts and sport your favorite NFL team gear on Friday, September 9.
You don’t have to wait. In fact, you can get involved right now by visiting backtofootball.org. There you can sign the United Way Healthy Kids Pledge, create your own virtual Super Fan Dance and find information, ideas and tools for celebrating the new season Vikings-style.
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