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Article: Official Game Thread & Vikings-Titans Preview: Glory’s Last Shot

mike zimmer christian ponder teddy bridgewater josh robinson shaun prater
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#1 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 05:14 AM

Gang, let's use Joe's excellent preview to talk about the game tonight.-JB

For NFL teams, the fourth preseason game is generally little more than a placeholder for the regular season. The games are full of backups, like seat fillers at the Oscar awards. They are not the players you came to see, so the view is not as good.

But if you are a backup on the 2014 Minnesota Vikings and fighting for a job, the game is the last chance at some NFL glory.The Vikings travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans on Thursday in the final preseason game, but they still have plenty of questions to answer. They face a decent Titans team that is 2-1 in the preseason and have scored an average of 22.6 points per game. It will be another good test for head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense (although the Titans will be sitting plenty of their starters), but the bigger question is which Vikings defenders will be facing the Titans.

The position of Vikings strong safety is still not settled. Chris Crocker started against the Kansas City Chiefs last week and Robert Blanton saw significant time. Mistral Raymond was injured, cleared waivers and then returned to the injured reserve, and Jamarca Sanford was injured (quadriceps) and will not play on Thursday—it remains to be seen if he will continue to be on the team.

Rookie safety Antone Exum is safe, but he will join Blanton, Crocker, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo to battle it out. And that makes the game pretty important, as Zimmer will be watching:

“Instead of trying to play cautious, they play aggressive,” said Zimmer to the Star Tribune on what he’d like to see from the bubble players. “They’re going to fight for what they want to achieve. I think that part of it, I’ve seen a lot of guys come in there and they kind of spit the bit. They don’t really want to run that day. They’re more about not getting beat as opposed to beating the guy that they’re up against.”

The same goes for the linebackers unit, which may be set with Chad Greenway and rookie Anthony Barr grabbing two starting spots (and both likely won’t play due to injuries). But the starting middle linebacker position is still in flux, with Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole battling for it. Zimmer has a good idea on his regular season starter, but he will use the Titans game to confirm it.

Beyond that, injuries (Mike Mauti--ankle and Brandon Watts--leg) have hurt the coaches’ ability to determine their linebacker depth—and roster spots. But Gerald Hodges (knee) could return Thursday and try to clear some of that up.

At cornerback, Josh Robinson appears to be out of Zimmer’s doghouse and back in his good graces, despite giving up a long pass interference play against Kansas City.

“Josh is a really good athlete,’’ Zimmer told the Pioneer Press. “I know everybody is upset about the [pass interference call], but he was in good position there. I think it could have [gone] either way with the call, but it went against us. But he’s been in good position since he came back [from the injury] and started practicing. He’s doing a really nice job. So I’m confident and hopeful that he will continue to progress to where we need him.’’

So it looks like the starting corners may be set, but Robinson needs to put another decent game on film for Zimmer to solidify the third corner spot. Meanwhile, cornerback Derek Cox did not survive the first round of cuts, making things look a little better for Shaun Prater, who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati.

“Prater, obviously he was with me before, but he’s a tough, feisty kid that can do a lot of jobs,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “He can play nickel. He can play corner. I’m not too sure we shouldn’t look at him some at safety, just because of his temperament and he’s doing things a lot better now.”

It’s not certain which ball carriers the Vikings defense will have to tackle. It could be Titans second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey, who was for a time thought to be working his way into the starting lineup, but he has not been overly impressive working primarily against second- and third-stringers. Shonn Greene is the starter with Dexter McCluster spelling him, so they will likely be on the bench for Tennessee.

On offense, Zimmer has all but named Teddy Bridgewater as the starter of the final preseason game—saying he would like to see how the rookie handles the role of starter. Christian Ponder is sure to get some time in the game, as well. Ponder has not seen the field during the previous two games, and the Vikings may want to showcase him for a potential trade as teams finalize their rosters. Ponder looks at the opportunity a little differently.

"I just want to go out and have a good game, not for an audition for another team or anything, but for myself and this team," Ponder told the Pioneer Press. "Right now, my thoughts are securing a spot on this roster."

The Vikings also have a battle raging at the tight end position. Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison are atop the depth chart with Allen Reisner and Chase Ford working for a backup role. Ford has been out most of the preseason with a broken foot, returning from the physically unable to play list on Aug. 25. Meanwhile, Reisner has become the Vikings leading scorer (outside of kicker Blair Walsh) of the preseason with three touchdown passes from Bridgewater. Keep an eye on this battle come game time.

While the fourth preseason game may be the poster child for why fans complain about paying full price for a meaningless preseason ticket, for Vikings fans, this one offers a few reasons to tune in. Don’t be caught in the bathroom missing the preseason’s final act.

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#2 John Bonnes

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 09:58 AM

It's unfortunate that nobody has grabbed the safety and middle linebacker spots by the throat - I had hoped someone would jump up and surprise us there - but it will make it very interesting to watch this game. I love watching a game and focusing on a specific defensive player to see how he reacts to what he sees. For this game, I plan on doing that a lot at the middle linebacker position. 


#3 Nick Nelson

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 12:58 PM

I haven't been able to watch any of the preseason games, so I'm excited to see Bridgewater in action. Hopefully Ponder can show some flashes that might catch the eyes of other teams who may develop a need at QB early in the season.

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#4 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:02 PM

Rolling up to kickoff. What do you want to see out of the game tonight?


#5 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:06 PM

Wow there's no one there and it's pouring.

#6 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:08 PM

McKinnon gets the start and two nice runs to open the game.


#7 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:08 PM

Who needs Adrian, right? ; )


#8 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:09 PM

No gloves for Teddy

#9 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:11 PM

Great decision by the rookie QB. Eludes the rush and throws it away. Nice play.


#10 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:12 PM

McKinnon has a burst. Defender had no choice other than to horse collar him.


#11 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:13 PM

It will be interesting to see how this sloppy field affects the Vikings defense because the Vikings offense is slicing right though the Titans defense.


#12 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:16 PM

Adam Thielen with his first TD reception in the NFL. Great catch. The Vikings have to keep him around. 


#13 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:22 PM

That opening series was about perfect for the Vikings offense. Good drive for the early lead.


#14 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:23 PM

Didn't notice Teddy wasn't wearing gloves. That's pretty interesting.You'd thing they would help with his grip in this weather.


#15 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:24 PM

Ask AP about it Ben.


#16 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:24 PM

C'mon, Ben. You have to ask him.


#17 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:25 PM

Oh no, Ben. Your chance to ask the tough question and you let it slip on by. Too bad.


#18 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:29 PM

Vikings defense does the bend, but don't break again. Aside from an outstanding catch by a Titans receiver, the defense played well.


#19 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:30 PM

Sankey is definitely getting run this season

#20 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:31 PM

Didn't notice Teddy wasn't wearing gloves. That's pretty interesting.You'd thing they would help with his grip in this weather.

Nope, actually hurts in wet weather.

#21 John Bonnes

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:35 PM

Boy, Banyard sure seems to be running well. Not great carries near the goal line, but he seems to find space in the open field pretty well. Or are we blocking that well?


#22 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:36 PM

Man, those holes are huge in the Titans defense. Banyard and McKinnon both gaining decent yards on the ground.


#23 John Bonnes

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:37 PM

Adam Thielen with his first TD reception in the NFL. Great catch. The Vikings have to keep him around. 

 

That was also a hell of a throw. 


#24 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:37 PM

I find it easier to watch the line on BTN right now because of game speed and QB expectations.

#25 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:38 PM

Wow Banyard looking good

#26 Cm1

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:39 PM

Boy, Banyard sure seems to be running well. Not great carries near the goal line, but he seems to find space in the open field pretty well. Or are we blocking that well?


Haven't noticed poor line play but he is driving through contact.

#27 John Bonnes

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:46 PM

Teddy might want to put those gloves back on. Both of those passes looked JoshFreemanian. 

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#28 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:48 PM

Teddy might want to put those gloves back on. Both of those passes looked JoshFreemanian. 

 

Yeah, those weren't very good throws. Don't know if Thielen got confused on the second pass, but he appeared to throw to the wrong spot.


#29 John Bonnes

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:50 PM

Clearly, I don't know anything about farming, but why are they advertising seed in the fall?


#30 Joe Oberle

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 06:55 PM

Should know that being one generation removed from the farm, but I don't. Unless they buy them now for planting next spring? I will stop.




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