Personnel Analysis: Week #3 (preseason)

We featured six players as "players to watch" in last Saturday's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. We also offered up another half-dozen or so worth keeping an eye on. We analyze how they did, as well as a few other players who stood out one way or another in the team's 30-13 loss.

Tarvaris Jackson – A mixture of good and bad, but overall the coaches have to be pleased with his progress.  The bad:  He fumbled the first snap of the game, he missed one key opportunity for a big play on a zero blitz with no safety in the middle.  The good:  He didn’t panic on that and other blitzes and really snapped off some nice throws.  A deep ball to Troy Williamson would have made his performance look borderline spectacular if T-Will could have made the catch.  Overall, steady progress for Jackson.

Erasmus James – Got his feet wet but not enough reps to make his presence felt.

Robert Ferguson – Had to throws in his direction, one tipped at the line of scrimmage, the other an 11-yard completion.  Hardly enough to draw any solid conclusions from, but it appears he will be in the mix.

Frederick Evans – Did not get a lot of reps until later in the game, but made two nice plays in limited action, acclimating himself pretty well.  His first tackle was a 3-yard loss that forced a fumble; his other tackle for a 1-yard gain.  Evans obviously has more natural ability than the other backups on the roster.  In a word:  promising.

Aundrae Allison – Returned three kickoffs for a 23.7-yard average with a long return of 28 yards.  Allison could be the guy for kickoff returns this season.  He’s a little hesitant but has the speed and vision to easily go the distance if he ever gets a clean seam to hit.  As a receiver, he didn’t see the ball and then sat out with back spasms.

Sidney Rice – Caught three passes for 21 yards.  Has three other throws in his direction for incompletions; also picked up an offensive interference penalty on a pick play.  Rice is a tall receiver who can really extend for the ball.  He shows excellent hands and very good toughness.  It’s clear he is still learning the finer points of pass routes and at times it appears he struggles to gain separation from defenders.  But there is a magical pass-catching ability there.

Others key players:

Anthony Herrera started at right guard and played well with the exception of one play in which he failed to pick up a line stunt which led to an easy sack by the Seahawks.  Artis Hicks also played well and delivered some key blocks in the running game on some of the team’s better runs from scrimmage.  Herrera might have the edge because of his athleticism, but the Vikings would be okay with either guy starting.  It doesn’t appear that right guard will be any sort of “weak link” on the offensive line.

Adrian Peterson continues to show flashes of greatness.  He finished with 10 carries for 41 yards, with a long run of 13 yards.  No breakaway opportunities, but he showed good power on a couple runs.  He still hasn’t seen the ball as a pass receiver, which could be something the coaches are keeping under wraps for now.  An area for continued improvement might be his blocking, where he was a little passive on the blitz pickup a couple times.

Rookie tight end Braden Jones might just be a favorite of mine, but he looks like a solid pass-catching tight end in my opinion.  He caught two passes for 29 yards, including an impressive 24-yard grab down the seam that concluded with a nasty hit.  He also made a heads-up fumble recovery near the goal line.  The numbers are against him, but he is too good a pass-catcher not to have a spot in the team’s West Coast Offense.

Quarterback Brooks Bollinger regressed badly in this game and is in jeopardy of losing the No. 2 spot behind Jackson.  Bollinger is an overachiever with nice smarts and athleticism.  But there is no silver lining in his 27.7 quarterback passer rating and the two interceptions he threw.  He made a few nice throws and kept another series alive with his feet on a 9-yard run, but he needs to be quick and decisive with his decision-making, and against the Seahawks he was not.

The outside pass rush was not as effective as it had been in the first two games.  Ray Edwards drew a holding penalty on Sean Locklear in the second quarter and was nearly tackled on another play, but was otherwise quiet.  Kenechi Udeze beat right tackle Ray Willis clean for an unabated sack of Matt Hasselbeck only to miss the “layup.”  He too was otherwise quiet.  Darrion Scott showed a little power rush at times.  Brian Robison, Khreem Smith and Jayme Mitchell did okay but didn’t stand out.  Robison appeared to tweak his ankle on special teams.  His one tackle was for no gain.  Smith wasn’t a factor in limited reps.  Mitchell had one tackle and recovered the fumble forced by Evans.

Other observations:

Without a doubt, wide receiver Bobby Wade was the Vikings player of the game.  He caught five passes for 85 yards with a long of 35 yards, and four of those catches came against the Seahawks’ best cornerback, Marcus Trufant.  Folks who have scoffed at the Wade signing and view him as just a No. 3 receiver need to watch this game.  Oh yeah, he also tossed a 6-yard touchdown to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on the end around.

E.J. Henderson was terrific in early action and was making plays all over the field.  He played even better than his stat sheet of five tackles and one quarterback hurry would indicate.

Ben Leber also stood out.  He had two tackles, one for a 1-yard gain and another for a 2-yard loss.

Right tackle Ryan Cook stood out in that he had two illegal motion penalties.  However, he otherwise played quite well and literally dominated Patrick Kerney in the running game at times.  Cook also kept the Seahawks’ defensive end at bay on pass protection for the most part, as well.  Other than the two penalties, it was a pretty solid performance by Cook.

Troy Williamson was unable to come up with the one deep shot he saw from Jackson on a play where it looked like he could have extended for the ball more, but he appeared to be chicken-fighting with the defender too much instead of just turning on the extra gear.  Whatever the cause, there was not the extra gear to get under the throw that would have been a huge play for Jackson, Williamson and the team.

Chester Taylor isn’t ready to be relegated to the bench anytime soon.  Taylor ripped off 61 yards on 8 carries (7.6 avg.) with a long run of 17 yards.

Marcus McCauley missed the jam at the line of scrimmage on Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu, and safety Tank Williams was frozen in no-man’s land down the middle in what turned into a quick-strike 57-yard catch and run for a touchdown.  McCauley also looked pretty weak as a blocker on the kickoff return unit on one play.  He did make some other nice plays in coverage, including a nifty pass breakup down the sideline on a deep ball and some quick wrap-up tackles on a couple other short completions.  Williams, meanwhile, might be the odd man out in a crowded secondary at the safety position.

Kick coverage was horrible, which was obvious to anyone and needs no analysis, other than to hope that it will be much improved when the regular season starts.

Overall, not as bad as the 30-13 final score.  It was 16-10 with the first-teamers, and that was with shoddy kick coverage and an offensive turnover on the first play from scrimmage.  Perhaps most impressive was the way the Vikings opened the second half with their running game.  If that’s a glimpse of things to come, it will take a lot of pressure off the young, developing quarterback.

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