If you missed the Vikings second preseason game, you missed two important things. The first, was the Christian Ponder was absolutely magnificent. He wasn’t perfect, as almost no football player (or person) can ever truly be, but Ponder did all the right things. And it wasn’t like when Culpepper did all the right preseason stuff and then tanked in the regular season. Ponder is far smarter than Culpepper. Ponder, an impressive 10 for 13 orchestrated the offense beautifully, even when the pocket was caving in on him. Which brings me to a quick side note, our O-line will be so much better than last year, but don’t expect the O-line to look anything like the days of Kory Stringer, Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, David Dixon, and Todd Steussie. I sadly remembered all those names. They will be better, but nothing to write home about (or on a blog about).
Secondly, and this one excited me almost as much as McLeod Bethel-Thompson did a week ago, and that was the outstanding play of Audie Cole (pictured). According to last year’s college football video game, Cole was supposed to be stellar, why he fell to the 7th round, I’m not quiet sure, but what I do know is that I’m excited for him. Last night’s 2 pick sixes showed that he’s got a great football head on his shoulders. And remember, Tyler Thigpen (drafted by the Vikings) has been and NFL starting QB in the past, and was the man who threw the two picks to him. Cole definitely showed enough to stick around, the next question is, will he see much of the field when real games start?
JUSTIN’S NOTES: First, I want to take notice of Harrison Smith‘s first NFL start, it certainly won’t be his last. I can see that Zach jumped on the obvious person that flashed last night, and frankly the one I was going to take notes on. He is forcing me to dig into my long-term memory and look at someone from the first half of the game and I am not happy about it. However, I am happy with three players in particular, the aforementioned Smith, Mistral Raymond and Josh Robinson.
I’ll start in reverse order with Robinson. He was part of one of my favorite plays last night featuring two rookies. It was a basic cover-2 zone. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick put a ball in the open spot of the zone between the corner and safety. Robinson managed to get back and swat the ball away and Smith came and put a hit on the receiver. Those plays killed us last year with Cedric Griffin playing corner. He also had a rookie moment when he bit on a double move but his 4.3 speed allowed him to recover and get back on the defender. I later learned his hamstring is still bothering him. His speed excites me and now I’ve just learned he still has another gear to shift into.
I was down on Raymond last week after he took a bad angle on RB Brandon Jacobs. He responded this week and was all over the field. Making tackles in the backfield, breaking up passes, and not letting anything beat him downfield. No huge plays but he played very solid and has me rooting to see him starting week 1.
Finally, we have Smith. He will be a starter this season. The good news is last night he played like one. The first thing that stands out is how aggressive Smith is playing safety. He looked great on a few blitzes and laid some good hits on the Bills. He started college at linebacker so that was never in doubt. The real question will be how good he can play that deep coverage.