5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 13, 2011 – 1:15 pm

The Vikings preseason opener is tonight in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. Here are five things to watch tonight when the Vikings and Titans clash in Nashville…

5. Mental mistakes, procedural penalties
No one on the field has a lack of competitive desire, but the truth of the matter is that the preseason is not about wins and losses. With the exception of guys at the bottom of the roster trying to bite, scratch and crawl for a spot, it’s about looking good, knocking the rust off and progressing every day. Coaches are more concerned about seeing zero missed assignments than they are about seeing 31 offensive points on the board. What we don’t want to see tonight are blitzers running free at Vikings QBs, running backs from the Titans bursting through the line of scrimmage without a hand on them and Vikings WRs cutting one way and the QB tossing a pass the other way. We also don’t want to see botched QB-center exchanges, false starts and illegal formation penalties.

4. The QB eye test
We’re going to have to go easy on crafting a water-tight judgment of Vikings QBs after this game. Remember, three of them are new Vikings (Rhett Bomar, Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder) and the other (Joe Webb) may as well be new to the team because he’s learning a brand-new offense. With the lockout cancelling all offseason practices, offenses across the League have only just begun to install their strategies. So we’ll see a very vanilla style from the Vikings offense tonight, but I still want to see any Vikings QB who trots out there pass the eye test and at least look comfortable in all situations, whether it be a snap on first-and-ten or a pressure moment late in the half with time winding down and the defense dialing up a blitz.

3. Vikings pass rush
Jared Allen and Everson Griffen had great camps, but I’d like confirmation that they’re playing well tonight. Confirmation will come in the form of a few disruptive plays against the Titans. This might be a bit tougher to see from Allen because head coach Leslie Frazier may want to limit his reps to reduce exposure to injury, but I think Griffen will get plenty of reps tonight and I expect him to play well.

2. Kick and punt returners
The Vikings have a deep group of players competing for kick and punt return duties. This is an important role on the team not only because it helps the team win the field position battle, but also because anyone who can contribute on special teams will increase their chances of making the roster. If a WR can be relied upon to return kicks and cover kicks as well as run the correct routes on offense, he has a better chance to make the roster. If a RB can do the same while also showing good pass protection ability and a burst with the ball in his hands, then he has a better shot to make the roster. The same can be said for a CB trying to win the return job. RB Lorenzo Booker, WRs Stephen Burton, Percy Harvin and Jaymar Johnson and even a few members of the secondary are examples of players who can increase their value to the team by giving a good accounting of themselves in the return game.

1. Reserve offensive linemen
There are six offensive linemen you can count on (barring injury) being around once the regular season begins – LT Charlie Johnson, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RGs Anthony Herrera and Chris DeGeare and RT Phil Loadholt. But who will fill in as reserves? The process of determining that begins tonight and, specifically, begins about midway through the first quarter when the starters will exit the game. Draft picks C Brandon Fusco and OT DeMarcus Love have had nice camps. The versatile Ryan Cook was brought back and could fill in anywhere. Veteran Scott Kooistra is a big body that can play both LT and RT. What about Seth Olsen, who filled in for Hutchinson at LG during camp a few times? There are several more names in the mix for reserve offensive linemen jobs and it’ll be interesting to see who plays well tonight.

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McNabb Acquisition The Best Of Both Worlds For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2011 – 5:22 pm

The much-anticipated trade between the Vikings and Washington Redskins involving QB Donovan McNabb was finalized on Friday. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the Vikings come away with a six-time Pro Bowler and a passer who is playoff tested (16 career playoff games) and eager to get back to the postseason.

This is the second time Vikings fans have welcomed a new QB to town this offseason; Christian Ponder was selected by the club in the first round (#12 overall) of last April’s NFL draft. In addition to McNabb and Ponder, Vikings fans are also anxious to see Joe Webb play, especially after he flashed some promise late in the 2010 season.

With a couple of young QBs already in the fold, some Vikings fans would prefer the team stick with the young guns in an attempt to develop a long-term plan. Yet others are enthusiastic about the prospects of landing McNabb because he gives the team a legitimate shot to reclaim division supremacy and make it back to the playoffs.

But I think both camps should feel satisfied. In the short-term, the Vikings are in it to win it. The roster has talented players in key spots – DE Jared Allen, WR Percy Harvin, RB Adrian Peterson, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield – and now another huge talent was added at perhaps the game’s most important position.

At the same time, can you think of another veteran QB who was readily available this offseason who would’ve been a better example for Ponder and Webb? There’s nothing wrong with a young QB sitting back for a bit and watching an experienced veteran work his craft. Assuming McNabb grabs a hold of the starting job, there will be no pressure on Ponder or Webb to step into the starting lineup on the road against San Diego in Week 1 and lead a talented roster full of Pro Bowlers back to the playoffs.

The acquisition of McNabb is a “best of both worlds” proposition for the Vikings. It gives them the experience and talent at the position to be a winner this year and it gives Ponder and Webb (and Rhett Bomar) a veteran influence in the meeting room, in the locker room and on the field.

What do you think of the move, Vikings fans?

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The Vikings Quarterback Shuffle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2010 – 12:54 pm

Oh let me count the ways the Vikings 2010 season is different than the 2009 season. Actually I don’t want to do that. But perhaps the biggest difference is the stability of the QB position.

A year ago the position was as stable as possible, with Brett Favre producing the best season of his career and not missing a game. This season, however, things haven’t gone as well and the Vikings currently find themselves in the midst of a QB shuffle.

Since December 7, the Vikings have made the following QB roster moves: signed R.J. Archer to the practice squad (12/7), placed Tarvaris Jackson on IR (12/16), signed Patrick Ramsey to the Active Roster (12/16), signed R.J. Archer to the Active Roster (12/20), waived R.J. Archer (12/21) and signed Rhett Bomar to the Active Roster (12/21).

And with all of that, Favre suffered a concussion on Monday night. Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier described Favre’s status this week as “day-to-day” and indicated doctors have not cleared him to return to the field. As a result, rookie Joe Webb – who replaced Favre on Monday night – is in line to start on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Favre is indeed unable to play on Sunday night, Frazier said Webb would be the starter with Ramsey as the backup and Bomar as the 3rd (emergency) QB. Got all that?

Frazier was asked about the his newest QB – Bomar – while meeting with reporters on Wednesday and he indicated the Vikings signed the former University of Oklahoma and Sam Houston State passer with a combination of thoughts in mind.

“We needed a live arm, a guy who we thought could come in and maybe in an emergency give us a little bit more than what we were getting otherwise,” Frazier said. “Not knowing what Brett’s situation is going to be from day-to-day or week-to-week with the games we have remaining, but also to maybe take a look at him for the future. So it’s a combination of the two.”

Asked what stood out to Frazier about Bomar, the Vikings coach said a “strong arm” and his intellect.

“In the little time we spent with him yesterday and this morning, he’s done a good job of grasping some of the concepts we have on offense,” Frazier said. “We knew of his intelligence, so to see how he’s responded has been a boost for us. So we’ll just see how much we can give him as the week goes on.”

As for Ramsey, whom the Vikings acquired last week, Frazier has been impressed so far.

“We knew that he had a background in this offense,” Frazier said. “But we didn’t know it was quite as extensive as it turned out to be. We really weren’t concerned, if he had to get in the game, from a knowledge standpoint on Monday night. He has a great deal of knowledge about what we’re doing and how we’re doing things and what we expect. That’s one of the things that really impresses you is the way he studied and the way he’s been able to comprehend what we’re trying to get done from a concept standpoint.”

All of the roster shuffling presents a good illustration of two points: 1) building and maintaining an NFL roster is a never-ending process that requires constant evaluation and 2) stabilizing the QB position is paramount to both long-term and short-term success. The obvious reaction from a fan’s standpoint to this blog entry and to the Vikings current QB situation is to call for the organization to find that coveted long-term answer at the most important position on the field.

Obviously it’s much more complicated than just going to the store and buying a QB of the future. So, this is an issue that will be on-going for the Vikings throughout the offseason and leading into the 2011 season. But it’s also an issue that I’m confident will be resolved by the organization in a way that will lead to success in 2011.

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