Good and Bad from Preseason Opener

The Vikings didn't win the game and didn't really appear to care about winning their preseason opener when it came down to trying to send it to overtime. Head coach Brad Childress said he had seen enough, and here's what we saw – both the good and not-so-good in purple.

In every NFL game, there are players who look good and those who don't. In the preseason, those evaluations matter even more as 80-plus players try to make the 53-man roster.

Monday night was the first opportunity for Vikings players under a new offensive and defensive system to impress the new coaches.

Here is one observer's insight as to who looked good and who needs to improve:


HEATH FARWELL: Linebacker Chad Greenway was lost for the season with a left knee injury before he ever had a chance to play in the base defense, making backup Heath Farwell's contributions even more important.

Farwell's team-high nine tackles, along with one quarterback hurry and one pass defensed, has to have the coaching staff feeling better about their depth behind starter E.J. Henderson.

"You come into this game and you don't know how much you are going to play," Farwell said Monday night. "You just have to take advantage of your opportunities. When coach puts you in, you have to go out there and fly around and make some plays."

He was given more of an opportunity because of the Greenway injury in the first quarter.

"I came into the game with the mentality that you always have to be ready," Farwell said. "That's football – an injury can be the first play of the game, you just have to stay ready at all times no matter where you are on the depth chart. And being a third-stringer I have to make the most of all my opportunities. You have to stay ready."

Here's guessing that Farwell's defensive contribution Monday night and his prowess on special teams, which he established last season as an undrafted rookie, will help bolster his chances for a second season at the NFL level.

"Heath is always game," defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said. "He has great football character, and he's an unbelievable worker. What he was able to do didn't surprise me."

TARVARIS JACKSON: The second-round draft pick has been impressive since stepping foot on Minnesota soil. His calm, respectful demeanor, along with cannon for an arm and football acumen, were displayed to NFL fans throughout the country Monday.

"I was comfortable with the start that we had, which was really the base stuff. There wasn't really a whole lot of stuff that we threw in there. I was pretty much comfortable with everything," Jackson said.

His statistics showed it. He finished completing 7 of 13 passes for 60 yards and refrained from throwing any interceptions. He also scrambled three times for 36 yards to become the leading rusher for either team.

And yet there is no hint of "I told you so" in Jackson.

"I'm just trying to get better each day. I'll go to practice on Wednesday and try to get better, and just try to continue to progress," he said. "I'll leave it up to my coaches to grade the film."

KEVIN KASPER: The fifth-year receiver didn't have a single reception Monday, but, like Farwell, he took advantage of an opportunity.

When Troy Williamson fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a quick field goal and 3-0 lead for Oakland, he was quickly replaced by Kasper.

The former New England Patriot returned four kicks for 142 yards – a 35.5-yard average – and broke one open for 64 yards before being caught.

"I've been doing kickoff returns for a while, and I take pride in that," Kasper said. "I had great blocking, and they sprung me open. It was all them."

He's not about to proclaim himself a shoo-in for a roster spot after only one preseason performance.

"I'm just going to try and go out there and do the best I can, follow the blocks," Kasper said. "If it's kick return, then I've been doing that for a while, and it's something that I really take pride in and enjoy, so every time I touch the ball I try to make plays.

GREG BLUE: The fifth-round draft pick has been hitting big in training camp, and he showed his tackling ability by getting six tackles Monday.

"I think we have a lot of good, young defensive backs. I think we have a lot of good talent. I think Cedric Griffin had a good game. Greg Blue had a great game. So there are a lot of guys that I can point at that had a good game," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "Young guys from the defensive backfield, the D-line and also the 6-3 quarterback (Jackson). I think he had a great game. So a lot of people stood out to me."


There were no terrible performances, but there were a few players that appeared to struggle.

MIKE MCMAHON: The veteran backup quarterback hardly had enough action to get in a rhythm, but as a backup he might be expected to spark a team on short notice. In the preseason opener, that didn't happen.

In two series, McMahon completed 1 of 4 passes, but, to be fair, wide receiver Marcus Robinson juggled and dropped a deep pass from McMahon that would have been a touchdown in the second quarter on McMahon's final series.

TROY WILLIAMSON: Williamson looked good as a receiver, catching his only opportunity for 8 yards, but his fumble on the opening kickoff set a negative tone and directly led to a 3-0 deficit for the Vikings.

RUNNING GAME: Whether it was the blocking or the running backs, a 3.2-yard average isn't great. But take away Jackson's 36 yards and the running backs averaged only 1.9 yards per rush.

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