Scariest part of the 2013 Vikings: I can't answer that question. I just don't know. You'd think Ponder would continue to get better. But Mark Craig and I talk all the time that he fits the profile of the worst kind of QB you can have in the NFL: good enough to always make you think he's on the verge of turning the corner into an above-average to elite QB yet never able to actually get over that hump. Rex Grossman-ish. That said, they've got the MVP in the backfield, one of the best OLs in football and a versatile and deep group of WRs. Oh, and the Pro Bowl MVP at TE. There will be no other excuses for Ponder this year. By Christmas, we should know whether he's the answer or not.
Don't have the stats in front of me. But didn't they have a couple blocks last year? I remember Kalil getting his mitts on a PAT. And for some reason, in the back of my memory, I'm recalling Kevin Williams blocking one too.
First-team O will probably get the first quarter. One series or two depending on how that first series goes and how the Texans' O controls the ball.
It's a great question and one I've been keeping close tabs on. Sullivan told me this week that he feels great, feels ready, feels he attacked his rehab very astutely and with great guidance from the Vikings' staff. You think of how the Vikings aided Adrian's recovery and you have to trust things are in good hands. Will be interesting to see if or when Sullivan starts popping up on the injury report and missing chunks of practice when the season starts. Until the action picks up and the contact escalates, it's hard to really know where he's at. But he feels strong. So for now, I take him at his word.
Cassel has experience doing it and would be the #2 holder. And yeah, you know we're in preseason grind mode when we're discussing the holder dept chart. Locke is getting used to something very minor in the ball tilt with Walsh. Walsh likes it more straight up than what Locke was used to doing at UCLA. Then comes the timing in the whole operation. They've still got weeks to clean it all up.
It's a fantastic question. There was some speculation last year that Audie Cole was tailor-made for the practice squad, then showed out in that preseason game and the Vikings had to keep him on the 53. So it's a bit of a Catch 22. They love Mauti's drive and intensity. The guy LOVES football and fits that part of the Spielman "Viking fit" profile as much as any other guy on the roster. Three ACL tears is a tough history to overcome. But man, the guy keeps bouncing back and has looked better in camp than I had expected.
The age and the price tag will be intimidating, even for a perennial Pro Bowler who is beloved here. (See: Winfield, Antoine). When you can get young and cheaper in the NFL, loyalty can quickly go out the window. It's a cruel, cruel business in that way.
Two months ago, I would have said no. Now? He has done nothing to loosen his grip on that spot and continues to emerge as a confident leader in the back of the secondary. The coaching staff loves his continued growth. He still has obvious deficiencies in pass coverage. But Smith can also make up for some of that. Jamarca is really one of the cool success stories on this team. A seventh-rounder, thrown to the wolves in that 2011 season, hit some major low points and maybe rock bottom after losing his starting job last August. Yet he just keeps coming and coming and coming.
By the way, these questions are in regular season form. I appreciate how smoothly this is all going...
Seems to have more confidence than we've seen at any point. Last year at this time, he was still trying to earn back the trust of the team after the legal issues. He's still searching for his first career INT and still looking to play more than 10 games for the first time in a season. So until he clears a few obvious hurdles, it's premature to say he's arrived. But they're optimistic about where he's headed. From what I've seen in camp so far, it's justified.
Matt Asiata is the incumbent. Little Bradley Randle is in the mix there. So too is Jerodis Williams. Plus 2012 practice squadder Joe Banyard.
The month of September is scary. At Detroit. At Chicago. Home vs. Cleveland. "Home" vs. Pittsburgh (in London). I've said it a bunch. You could play really, really good football for the whole month and still hit the bye at 1-3. At that point, it's up to your coaching staff and your internal leaders to barricade the doors on the inevitable panic and chaos that would explode outside. This group did a great job with that a year ago. But yeah, the schedule is daunting.
My hunch is Hodges has a spot on the 53 so long as he can find himself a suitable special teams role. Mauti could be a practice squadder.
You never give up on anything with Peterson. But you have to be realistic about what his capabilities are and not try to force him to do things he can't. As a pass blocker, he's got some flaws. Toby provides much more security there. Is what it is.
Until anybody can find a way to stop Peterson, he will be the focal point of every offensive game plan every week. Yes, the Vikings want WAY MORE balance and more options in '13 than they had in '12 as an offense. But they know they've got a once-in-a-generation star in his prime. You don't take that for granted.
Griffen. Because the signing would be as much for what you expect in 2016 and '17 as anything else. Building for the future is a must.
For me, the most interesting answers to this question come from guys who spent parts of their career elsewhere and realize how special this coaching staff is at setting expectations, trusting guys to do their work and finding a way to balance each day's micro-focus with a view of the big picture. You listen to players who have played with other teams rave about that and the credibility goes up. Then to hear beat writers talk about how non-toxic the locker room is compared to years past? It drives that point home further.
Scary though: you can be a fantastic coaching staff with a low-key manner and a full buy-in across the roster and yet if your starting QB struggles mightily and you go 5-11, job security is minimal. Welcome to the NFL.
Only have about 5 minutes left and the questions are flooding in still. I appreciate all the interest. Excited for tonight's game to finally advance the narrative on all these storylines.
Searching for a few last good questions to take us home ...
I like Felder and Thielen on that list.
More the latter. He's a rookie still learning the ropes. Rhodes is big, aggressive, physical. A lot to like. But there's no place to hide as a rookie outside CB in this division and in this league. You can play 35 good snaps and the one bad one proves costly. I think eventually Rhodes starts opposite Cook with Robinson getting most of his time in the slot. Just not certain it'll happen by Week 1.
This is part of the Ponder conundrum: Can he develop a bit of an edge? To do so, you must repeat solid performances week after week after week to gain credibility. One of the fears with Ponder is that he is so easily likable that he likes to be liked. Sounds odd that that would be a worry, right? But eventually, to become an elite QB in this league you have to get confident/cocky.
We don't know anything so far. That's how Sherels continues to be a survivor. Jarius Wright still struggles too much with holding onto the ball. It's something they'd like to get cleaned up. Stephen Burton doesn't have a roster spot locked up yet. This preseason is going to be interesting as far as punt return monitoring goes.
Two more and then I have to roll ...
I have been lobbying for the Vikings to move training camp to Napa. Or Huntington Beach. The Wilfs won't listen. Have never been to Napa but have to assume it might be an upgrade.
Glad we brought this thing full-circle. Start with Jennings, end with Jennings. I think he's happy to be a Viking but still a little sour about how his final season in Green Bay went. That's all sort of collided together to produce a little preseason melodrama for those who love a little junior high tension in their NFL coverage.
And that's that. You guys have been great. Preseason football tonight. Can't. Wait.