Notebook: First-round rookies on task early

First-round picks Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith both started, played nearly every snap and showed up positively several times on film.

The Minnesota Vikings' two first-round draft picks played like the coaching staff expected, or at least hoped.

Both Matt Kalil, the athletic left tackle taken No. 4 overall in April's draft, and Harrison Smith, the aggressive safety the Vikings traded back into the first round to obtain, were solid in their first regular-season action. They each started and saw plenty of time.

Kalil, like the rest of the starting offensive linemen, played all 59 offensive snaps and didn't give up a pressure on quarterback Christian Ponder.

"He played a good game for his rookie debut, just to come out and work as hard as he did against what we consider a pretty good front — Jeremy Mincey is a pretty good defensive end and so is Andre Branch," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Jeremy in particular is a pretty good player."

Mincey was held to three tackles, including one for a loss, but Kalil appeared to be with his every move in pass protection. Like Kalil in the Vikings offense, Mincey played every defensive snap for Jacksonville.

But Kalil's work wasn't limited to one-on-one pass protecting against Mincey. He could often be seen opening creases at the line of scrimmage in the running game and showed just how athletic he is numerous times by getting to the second and third levels of the defense and making a downfield block in the running game.

Never was that more apparent than in overtime. Facing second-and-7, Adrian Peterson broke off a 20-yard run as Kalil checked his man at the line of scrimmage and hustled downfield to help lead the way for Peterson.

"I thought he held his own in the run game, did a pretty good job in pass protection as well. Just a lot of things that we can build on," Frazier said. "There are a few errors that we want to correct. There are some things that he knows he has to get better at, but that is going to be part of his maturing as an offensive tackle as well. But a lot of good things on that tape by him."

Smith wasn't one of the three Vikings defenders to play all 81 defensive snaps – that was Mistral Raymond, Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson – but Smith only missed two snaps. The Vikings had some growing pains with a young defensive secondary that featured Smith and Raymond as the starting safeties and rookie Josh Robinson as the third cornerback, but the defensive backs generally held their own.

"When I looked at the tape, he brought a smile to my face a few different times because he was where he needed to be," Frazier said of Smith. "That's important with your guy that plays in the secondary, being where you're supposed to be where other guys can trust that you're going to carry out your assignment. He was there. He was where he needed to be and when he had the opportunity to make plays, he made plays for the most part."

Smith led all Vikings defensive backs and was third overall with seven tackles. He also had an all-important pass he knocked down. With the Jaguars trying to mount a game-tying or game-winning drive in overtime, Smith dove and knocked down a third-down pass intended for Laurent Robinson. One incompletion later and the Vikings had their victory.

"I thought he did a good job. I think he had only one missed tackle, but his angles, he had a nice deflection there late in the game," Frazier said. "Moved around well, was in the right position and made some good plays."

NOTES

  • Frazier said RB Adrian Peterson didn't report any swelling or soreness after his first game action since knee surgery on Dec. 30.

  • The Vikings didn't suffer any big injuries Sunday and could be getting a few players back at practice this week. Backup safety Andrew Sendejo should return from an ankle sprain and backup linebacker Marvin Mitchell (ankle) could return to practice. Rookie WR Jarius Wright (ankle) is expected to try to practice Wednesday and see how that goes.

  • Mounting evidence from Elias Sports Bureau that the young starting quarterback angle really is a pretty new trend. Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert were only the fourth pair of second-year NFL starting quarterbacks to go head-to-head in their season openers. The Vikings were also part of another duo when Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown faced each other in the 2000 opener.


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



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  • Frazier said RB Adrian Peterson didn't report any swelling or soreness after his first game action since knee surgery on Dec. 30.
  • The Vikings didn't suffer any big injuries Sunday and could be getting a few players back at practice this week. Backup safety Andrew Sendejo should return from an ankle sprain and backup linebacker Marvin Mitchell (ankle) could return to practice. Rookie WR Jarius Wright (ankle) is expected to try to practice Wednesday and see how that goes.
  • Mounting evidence from Elias Sports Bureau that the young starting quarterback angle really is a pretty new trend. Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert were only the fourth pair of second-year NFL starting quarterbacks to go head-to-head in their season openers. The Vikings were also part of another duo when Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown faced each other in the 2000 opener.
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