The Vikings welcome the San Diego Chargers to Mall of America Field tonight for each team’s third preseason contest of 2012. While we wait for kickoff, let’s go over a few keys to the game…
– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated all week that his offensive starters will play into the 3rd quarter. That gives the Vikings offensive staff an opportunity to go into the locker room at halftime knowing they’ll have a drive with their starters in the 2nd half. If the Chargers are able to slow a particular area of the Vikings offense in the 1st half, look for the Vikings to come out in the 2nd half with an answer. It would be a significant positive sign for the Vikings first-team offense if they can have a productive drive to open the 3rd quarter before giving way to the backups and reserves.
– One more offensive key – no sacks allowed. This is on Vikings receivers and QB Christian Ponder as much as it’s on the offensive line. Receivers need to wiggle open – especially important since starting WR Jerome Simpson won’t be as heavily involved tonight – and the QB needs to get rid of the ball on time. And of course the offensive line needs to provide a pocket in which Ponder can step up and deliver.
– It’s a big night for Jasper Brinkley. Since missing all of last season and some of the offseason program with an injury, Brinkley has made progress as the man in the middle of the Vikings defense. Tonight Brinkley has a chance to accelerate that progression and instill confidence in coaches and fans that he can be the type of LB the Vikings defense needs. You’ll know Brinkley is playing well if you see him in the backfield early on run plays and if San Diego has trouble passing on early downs.
– The Chargers will have several starters out of action, including RB Ryan Mathews, giving the Vikings defense an opportunity to clamp down on an opponent and build some confidence. The Vikings run defense, specifically, took a huge step forward last week and I think they’ll do so again tonight. Add in home field advantage, and you can expect a sharp performance from the Vikings defense against San Diego tonight.
– The Vikings special teams units have performed well all of training camp and the preseason, but there’s still one missing element that would be nice to see before the regular season opens – a big kickoff or punt return. Kickoff and punt coverage has been solid and the Vikings return units have had sound blocking, so now it’s time for a returner to stick his foot in the ground, make a cut and rip off a big return.
– Rookie K Blair Walsh has had a nice preseason, hitting on 7 of 8 FGs and all of his PATs, along with booming 5 touchbacks. Another quality outing from Walsh is to be expected tonight as his confidence grows and the team’s and fans’ confidence in him grows as well.
Tags: Blair Walsh, Christian Ponder, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier
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