Notebook: Goats and gamers

A 90-man preseason roster provides little opportunity for extended action, making every impression an important one. Some Vikings fared well; others are hoping for a redemptive chance.

The Vikings' preseason debut, a 14-3 loss to Tennessee, left little opportunity for rash overstatements and convincing conclusions, but two areas in particular showed up as semi-expected areas of concern.

GOATS

  • Donovan McNabb displayed decent mobility and accuracy, completing 6 of 11 passes for 40 yards and converting 3 of 5 third-down opportunities. But an expected problem area for the Vikings this year – protecting their quarterback – showed up no matter who the quarterback was. McNabb was the only Minnesota signal-caller to avoid a sack, while second-stringer Joe Webb took one sack and felt the pressure often and rookie Christian Ponder was dumped three times and escaped harassment several other times.

    Saturday marked the Vikings debut for new left tackle Charlie Johnson. While he fared better in the game than he did in camp going against Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, it was Johnson's defender, Jason Jones, who ended the Vikings' opening drive when he stuffed running back Toby Gerhart for no gain on third-and-1.

    As a unit, the offensive line struggled at several levels of the depth chart. Minnesota's quarterbacks were thrown for four sacks, hurried six times and escaped would-be sacks several other times.

  • Defensively, the Vikings sat Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin (knee) in an attempt to give younger players an extended opportunity, but some of their faults were exposed. Asher Allen and Chris Cook started, and each had moments they could use back. Allen missed a couple tackles early and gave up a 20-yard completion on the second play from scrimmage. Cook was the victim of a freak play, but a victim nonetheless. When Jake Locker fumbled a snap, Cook hesitated in his coverage and allowed receiver Yamon Figurs to run free behind him, giving the Titans a 7-0 lead on a 45-yard touchdown pass.

    GAMERS

    It wasn't all bad for the Vikings. Plenty of players helped their play for a roster sport or contributing role.

  • First-round draft pick Christian Ponder earned an opportunity as the No. 2 quarterback next week after completing 8 of 13 passes for 84 yards, despite taking three sacks and feeling the heat several other times. In addition, Ponder was responsible for the team's two longest pass plays – a 26-yarder to receiver Juaquin Iglesias and a 16-yarder to rookie tight end Allen Reisner, who is a player getting noticed.

  • Running back Lorenzo Booker helped secure his third position on the depth chart, averaging 5.2 yards on nine rushes and 10.7 yards on three receptions. Booker's big negative on the night was a fumble that led to the Titans' first touchdown.

  • Bernard Berrian failed to get separation the one time he was targeted deep, but he was targeted four times – an upgrade from most outings last year – catching two passes for 12 yards in limited action. Meanwhile, Percy Harvin was targeted twice, making one catch, before he was sent to the sidelines for an early night; and Michael Jenkins didn't have a ball thrown his way.

  • Defensively, Erin Henderson got extended playing time as part of his evaluation as a potential starting weakside linebacker. It was a mixed bag for him. He got buried on his backside on the first play from scrimmage after a short pass to fullback Ahmard Hall, but Henderson ended up leading the team with 10 tackles, including two for a loss.

  • Defensive end Everson Griffen had a solid outing while starting for Jared Allen. The second-year player had two tackles and hurried the quarterback twice (as a team, the Vikings only had three QB hurries).

  • Defensive tackle Christian Ballard also made a good initial impression, registering a tackle-for-loss and the only other quarterback hurry for the Vikings.

  • Cornerback Cord Parks helped his search for a roster spot with decent coverage and commendable tackling, as well as a 27-yard kickoff return.

  • The standout on special teams, however, was Jaymar Johnson. While he was decent on offense as a receiver, he was exceptional in his only punt-return opportunity of the evening. He avoided the initial defender, beat the wall of coverage men to the outside and took the return upfield 40 yards before running out of open spaces.

    Parting thought: The new placement for kickoffs at the 35-yard line still didn't guarantee end zone placement for Ryan Longwell, but touchbacks aren't always the better option. One of Longwell's two kickoffs reached the end zone and both were returned. However, Titans returner Damian Williams was taken down at the 11-yard line on the second of Longwell's kickoffs.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Vikings' preseason debut, a 14-3 loss to Tennessee, left little opportunity for rash overstatements and convincing conclusions, but two areas in particular showed up as semi-expected areas of concern.
  • Donovan McNabb displayed decent mobility and accuracy, completing 6 of 11 passes for 40 yards and converting 3 of 5 third-down opportunities. But an expected problem area for the Vikings this year – protecting their quarterback – showed up no matter who the quarterback was. McNabb was the only Minnesota signal-caller to avoid a sack, while second-stringer Joe Webb took one sack and felt the pressure often and rookie Christian Ponder was dumped three times and escaped harassment several other times. Saturday marked the Vikings debut for new left tackle Charlie Johnson. While he fared better in the game than he did in camp going against Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, it was Johnson's defender, Jason Jones, who ended the Vikings' opening drive when he stuffed running back Toby Gerhart for no gain on third-and-1. As a unit, the offensive line struggled at several levels of the depth chart. Minnesota's quarterbacks were thrown for four sacks, hurried six times and escaped would-be sacks several other times.
  • Defensively, the Vikings sat Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin (knee) in an attempt to give younger players an extended opportunity, but some of their faults were exposed. Asher Allen and Chris Cook started, and each had moments they could use back. Allen missed a couple tackles early and gave up a 20-yard completion on the second play from scrimmage. Cook was the victim of a freak play, but a victim nonetheless. When Jake Locker fumbled a snap, Cook hesitated in his coverage and allowed receiver Yamon Figurs to run free behind him, giving the Titans a 7-0 lead on a 45-yard touchdown pass. It wasn't all bad for the Vikings. Plenty of players helped their play for a roster sport or contributing role.
  • First-round draft pick Christian Ponder earned an opportunity as the No. 2 quarterback next week after completing 8 of 13 passes for 84 yards, despite taking three sacks and feeling the heat several other times. In addition, Ponder was responsible for the team's two longest pass plays – a 26-yarder to receiver Juaquin Iglesias and a 16-yarder to rookie tight end Allen Reisner, who is a player getting noticed.
  • Running back Lorenzo Booker helped secure his third position on the depth chart, averaging 5.2 yards on nine rushes and 10.7 yards on three receptions. Booker's big negative on the night was a fumble that led to the Titans' first touchdown.
  • Bernard Berrian failed to get separation the one time he was targeted deep, but he was targeted four times – an upgrade from most outings last year – catching two passes for 12 yards in limited action. Meanwhile, Percy Harvin was targeted twice, making one catch, before he was sent to the sidelines for an early night; and Michael Jenkins didn't have a ball thrown his way.
  • Defensively, Erin Henderson got extended playing time as part of his evaluation as a potential starting weakside linebacker. It was a mixed bag for him. He got buried on his backside on the first play from scrimmage after a short pass to fullback Ahmard Hall, but Henderson ended up leading the team with 10 tackles, including two for a loss.
  • Defensive end Everson Griffen had a solid outing while starting for Jared Allen. The second-year player had two tackles and hurried the quarterback twice (as a team, the Vikings only had three QB hurries).
  • Defensive tackle Christian Ballard also made a good initial impression, registering a tackle-for-loss and the only other quarterback hurry for the Vikings.
  • Cornerback Cord Parks helped his search for a roster spot with decent coverage and commendable tackling, as well as a 27-yard kickoff return.
  • The standout on special teams, however, was Jaymar Johnson. While he was decent on offense as a receiver, he was exceptional in his only punt-return opportunity of the evening. He avoided the initial defender, beat the wall of coverage men to the outside and took the return upfield 40 yards before running out of open spaces. The new placement for kickoffs at the 35-yard line still didn't guarantee end zone placement for Ryan Longwell, but touchbacks aren't always the better option. One of Longwell's two kickoffs reached the end zone and both were returned. However, Titans returner Damian Williams was taken down at the 11-yard line on the second of Longwell's kickoffs.
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