Personnel Analysis: Week #1 (preseason)

Going into the Vikings preseason opener against the Rams, we highlighted five players worth watching closely – Tarvaris Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Ray Edwards and Bobby Wade. Here's our take on those five, and a few more, from the season's first live action Friday night…

Looking good:

WR Bobby Wade – The veteran receiver was as good as advertised in limited duty, make two key receptions for a total of 42 catch-and-run yardage.  Wade looked like the reliable, clutch, nifty, productive receiver the Vikings hoped he’d be when they signed him as a free agent during the offseason.

WR Troy Williamson – His stats were modest (3 catches for 32 yards, with a long of 16 yards), but a couple of those were not simple, routine catches.  Overall, he opened the game looking like the team’s legitimate No. 1 receiver and the go-to guy for Tarvaris Jackson.

CB Marcus McCauley – The rookie cornerback continues to shine and showed no dropoff whatsoever stepping up from practices to his first live game.  A first-round talent prior to losing confidence and struggling as a senior at Fresno State, McCauley appears to have come all the way back and looks like a third-round steal for the Vikings at this point.  He was tight on coverage and made some very nice, quick, wrap-up tackles.

LB Dontarrious Thomas – Easily the star of the game with two interceptions, including his third-quarter pick which he returned 82 yards for the team’s only touchdown.  Thomas saw plenty of action in reserve for E.J. Henderson at middle linebacker and obviously had a strong game.  His other interception was on a Hail Mary to end the first half.  Thomas figures to offer quality depth at all three linebacker spots while contributing on special teams in this his final season before becoming a potential unrestricted free agent in 2008.

Showing promise:

QB Tarvaris Jackson – Going in the primary question was:  “Can he at least show enough consistency and poise to build upon?”  So far so good.  Jackson looked sharp.  He completed 8-of-11 passes for 83 yards.  He also tucked the ball and ran twice for 25 yards.  His passer rating was 94.1.  He didn’t light it up, but head coach Brad Childress was satisfied as Jackson showed good command of the offense, looked to the right spot, made the right adjustments, made the right reads, played with decisiveness and made things happen with his feet when needed.

RB Adrian Peterson – Is he the real deal?  Well, Peterson didn’t really have a legitimate chance to break one, although he came close on one run.  His finals stats were a modest 11 carries for 33 yards, with a long of 7 yards.  He also caught a 2-yard pass out of the backfield.  “I thought he showed a little power inside at the end of a couple of those runs, pushing the stack,” Childress said.  “He didn't have any of those breakout runs, but I thought he was disciplined in terms of his course integrity, which is huge.”

DE Brian Robison – There’s no question the rookie from Texas has a non-stop motor.  He showed plenty of flashes as a pass rusher, officially recording one sack for a nine-yard loss and he forced at least one other sack while finishing the game with 3 official tackles.  Robison will be difficult to keep off the field if he continues to show that playmaking ability against top-flight competition.

QB Tyler Thigpen – For a seventh-round rookie from Coastal Carolina, Thigpen showed a lot more poise and moxie than expected.  He threw the ball well (3-of-6 passing for 29 yards with one dropped pass), although he failed to pick up the right “hot” read on one blitz package the Rams threw at him.  However, he made things happen with his feet a couple times, scrambling (2-18 yards) for first-down yardage twice.  Based on the first two weeks of training camp and his performance against the Rams, Thigpen is unquestionably ahead of veteran Drew Henson for the No. 3 spot.

Jury still out:

WLB Chad Greenway – We said going in that nobody was chomping at the bit more than Greenway, and that carried through on the field.  He was not lacking in aggressiveness, which led to a couple missed tackles in the open field.  Once he settles down, Greenway will probably be just fine, but in his first game back he might have been wound a little too tight.

DE Ray Edwards – For the most part Edwards was well neutralized by Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace, one of the finest left tackles in the game.  He also overpursued inside on another play and blew outside containment.  On the plus side, he did draw a holding penalty (subsequently declined) on Pace on the Dwight Smith interception, and he drew two more holding penalties in the third quarter on the pass rush against journeyman left tackle Drew Strojny.  So he can do it against the scrubs, but the jury might still out against first-team competition.

Didn’t look good:

Special teams – Punter Chris Kluwe was consistently booming 60-yard spirals in pre-game warm-ups, but was erratic in the game.  He shanked his second punt for just 22 yards, and a 52-yard boomer lacked hang time and resulted in a 25-yard return.  Overall, the coverage units were mediocre and the return units average, as well.  Rookie Alex Reyes handled all the kickoffs but was erratic at best.  Veteran placekicker Ryan Longwell missed what could have been the go-ahead field goal late in the game.

Here’s the official Gamebook.

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