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NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - INSIDE SLANT
The Vikings' offense has been awful through two preseason games, but whatever relevance that carries is tough to assess when you consider that the guy for whom the entire offense was built around hasn't participated.
Adrian Peterson, the league's reigning MVP and the face of a franchise with a throwback run-oriented philosophy, has stood and watched his fellow offensive starters execute six possessions in two preseason losses. Only one of those six possessions has lasted longer than three plays or covered more than 15 yards.
Quarterback Christian Ponder has overseen 27 snaps. Only four of them have produced more than nine yards. Eleven of them have either been a loss (three), no gain (seven) or a turnover (one).
But what does that really mean? In a space-age, quarterback-driven game, the Vikings are shag carpeting. They lean on Peterson and ask everyone else to play a complementary role. Their game plan reflects that each and every week, yet during the first two preseason games they had neither Peterson nor a game plan.
In the 27-13 preseason-opening loss to Houston, the first-team offense played two snaps. Ponder completed a 15-yard pass to receiver Jerome Simpson and was then intercepted. The pick was the result of several miscues, including a breakdown in pass protection, a poor throw by Ponder and the inability of Simpson to make what would have been a great catch rather than have the ball bounce off his outstretched hand.
In Friday's 20-16 loss at Buffalo, the offense started just as rusty and disjointed. Left tackle Matt Kalil whiffed on the first snap, leading to an easy sack of Ponder. Tight end Kyle Rudolph dropped a pass on third-and-short that would have been a first down. And later in the first quarter, miscommunication resulted in center John Sullivan launching a premature shotgun snap that went off Ponder's left shoulder and ended up as a 14-yard sack.
After the Bills game, many offensive players simply shrugged, saying it was only a preseason game and that the Vikings hadn't game-planned for a Bills defense that blitzed more than teams typically do in the second game of the preseason.
Head coach Leslie Frazier said he was just thankful that it wasn't a regular season game.
"All of us know that in a regular season game, those (mistakes) can cost you a ballgame," Frazier said. "A third down play to Kyle Rudolph to keep a drive going? You're having a chance to continue a drive and score. So those are crucial moments. And I've got to believe we'll get better from watching this tape."
The Vikings also pointed to next Sunday night's nationally televised game at San Francisco as the more important gauge for the offense. The Vikings will game-plan for the 49ers and play the starters into the early part of the third quarter. Frazier also said Peterson will play in the first half. How much he plays, Frazier wasn't willing to share that information just yet.
"We're excited for next week," Ponder said. "That's going to be the more important test."
NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - NOTES, QUOTES
--Adrian Peterson never really accepted having a fullback in front of him until he teamed up with Jerome Felton a year ago. Although Peterson still likes the one-back sets, he also has said Felton's blocking last season was "worth 600 to 700 yards" over the course of a 2,097-yard season.
Felton might be a little rusty when the regular season opens at Detroit in three weeks. That's because the Pro Bowl fullback's preseason ended when he underwent an emergency appendectomy last Wednesday.
Felton said he'll be fine in time for the Lions game. Not long after his surgery, Felton (@jfelton45) tweeted: Thanks for the well wishes everybody, I'll b fine, surgery went great and I'll b out there soon! #SkolVikings
In Felton's absence, second-year player Rhett Ellison, a hard-nosed tight end/fullback hybrid, serves as the No. 1 fullback. The Vikings also have a promising rookie free agent fullback in Zach Line. But he's, at best, a candidate to make the practice squad.
--Coach Leslie Frazier took his kids to the movies last Monday night. All 90 of them.
Instead of their usual night meetings in Mankato, the team's training camp home through Aug. 14, the Vikings went to the nearby Carmike Stadium Cinema. There was, however, one stipulation: Frazier got to pick the movie.
"I've had some other guys pick it before," Frazier said. "So this time I got involved."
A year ago, the players picked the movie "Ted." Frazier wasn't impressed. So this year, he picked "Red 2."
"This one was much better than last year," said cornerback Josh Robinson. "`Ted' wasn't good. I'm not sure (who picked it). But I know Coach did a little research this time. ... Anytime you can step away from football for a couple hours it's not bad."
The night wasn't without its, um, controversy.
"I ordered the biggest Cherry Coke and popcorn they would serve me, and I had to buy it, too," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "They (only) had free Gatorade and water. Thanks for that."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just a little game rust. It's all right. I just moved past it and kept going. It happens. The guy (Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes) made a nice move. I took a bad set. And he beat me inside." - Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Kalil, one of the team's more consistent performers, describing a very uncharacteristic whiff on the first play of the second preseason game at Buffalo. Hughes sacked quarterback Christian Ponder on the play.
NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SURPRISE OF THE SUMMER: Two years ago, Stephen Burton was so raw at receiver that he left coaches, fans, teammates and reporters scratching their head as to why he went up during a Hail Mary end zone drill and swatted the ball away instead of trying to catch it. Last year, he was still raw, but made the team primarily because of the Vikings' horrendous depth at the position.
This summer, he has actually looked like a legitimate NFL receiver. He's stronger, more decisive and is running better routes. He's also making outstanding catches. He even returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but had it called back because of a penalty. Burton is battling former quarterback Joe Webb for the fifth receiver spot. The Vikings probably will keep five, but might keep as many as six or as few as four. Burton has made those decisions much more difficult because has come a long way in two years.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Rookie first-round pick Xavier Rhodes and second-year player Josh Robinson both will see plenty of time on the field together at cornerback. The Vikings play about 50 percent of their defensive snaps in the nickel, so Robinson will be covering the slot while Rhodes steps in at the outside spot on the left side.
Rhodes, however, is behind schedule when it comes to unseating Robinson in the base defense. That's because Rhodes missed a week of practices and the first preseason game due to a hamstring injury. All indications are the hamstring is back to 100 percent. Rhodes' tight, physical coverage led to safety Jamarca Sanford making an interception off a tipped ball in the second preseason game at Buffalo on Friday. Robinson, a third-round pick last season, is a good player, but doesn't have the length and bigger body to play the physical style of play that Rhodes can. This will be a big week for the two as they battle to see who will start in the base defense once the regular season starts.
--WR Jarius Wright (concussion) was injured at Buffalo in the second preseason game on Friday. He'll probably miss the rest of the preseason.
--WR Greg Childs (knees) is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
--DT Christian Ballard (groin/personal reasons) was placed on the active/left squad list.
--LT Matt Kalil (knee) didn't practice on Sunday, but the injury is minor.
--DT Sharrif Floyd (knee) didn't practice on Sunday, the injury is minor.
--LS Cullen Loeffler (elbow) didn't practice on Sunday, but the injury is minor.
--CB Jacob Lacey (knee) had arthroscopic surgery and will be out another one to three weeks.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYERS: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--DT Sharrif Floyd (1/23): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Xavier Rhodes (1/25): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Cordarrelle Patterson (1/29): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Gerald Hodges (4/120): $2,580,108/4 yrs, $420,108 SB.
--P Jeff Locke (5/155): $2,344,192/4 yrs, $184,192 SB.
--G Jeff Baca (6/196): $2,256,600/4 yrs, $96,600.
--LB Michael Mauti (7/213): $2,222,728/4 yrs, $62,728 SB.
--G Travis Bond (7/214): $2,222,448/4 yrs, $62,448 SB.
--DT Everett Dawkins (7/229): $2,210,352/4 yrs, $50,352.
--C Joe Berger: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--FB Jerome Felton: UFA; $7.5M/3 yrs.
--LB Erin Henderson: UFA; $4M/2 yrs.
--CB A.J. Jefferson: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--T/G Troy Kropog: ERFA; terms unknown.
--T Phil Loadholt: UFA; $25M/4 yrs, $7M SB.
--LB Marvin Mitchell: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Jamarca Sanford: UFA; $5M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB/$500,000 RB.
--S Andrew Sendejo: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB/PR Marcus Sherels: ERFA; terms unknown.
--WR Jerome Simpson: UFA; $2.1M/1 yr, $500,000 SB.
--LB Desmond Bishop: FA Packers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Matt Cassel: FA Chiefs; $3.7M/1 yr, $4M option for 2014.
--DE Lawrence Jackson: UFA Lions; terms unknown.
--WR Greg Jennings: UFA Packers; $45M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$17.8M guaranteed.
--CB Jacob Lacey: UFA Lions; terms unknown.
--G Seth Olsen: Not tendered as RFA by Colts; terms unknown.
--WR Devin Aromashodu: Not tendered as UFA/Bears; terms unknown.
--LB Jasper Brinkley: UFA Cardinals; $3.5M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--WR Percy Harvin (traded Seahawks).
--WR Michael Jenkins (released).
--P Chris Kluwe (released).
--G Geoff Schwartz: UFA Chiefs; $630,000/1 yr.
--CB Antoine Winfield (released).