Not much went right for the Vikings, who struggled mightily on both sides of the ball after the first-stringers left the field. Although the final result was ugly for the purple and gold, the players now have plenty to improve on before their second preseason game arrives.
After some extensive film study, here’s a breakout of the big things that stuck out to me for the Vikings.
- Starting quarterback Christian Ponder looked good in his first 2012 appearance, racking up 80 yards on four of nine passing. Three incompletions were due to drops while the other two were thrown away after escaping pressure. He moved well, showed the same athleticism from last year, and displayed improved accuracy. Promising start for the Vikings’ quarterback of the future.
- As expected, backup quarterback Joe Webb displayed amazing athleticism and elusiveness. His passing, however, was off the mark and erratic. The fact that he spent the majority of his snaps running for his life didn’t help, though.
- Fourth-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson looked like nothing more than a practice squad player. He depended too heavily on his strong arm, completing three of his seven passes for 49 yards and an interception. His accuracy was subpar and his confidence swayed as the game went on.
- Filling in as the Vikings’ starter, running back Toby Gerhart played well. He picked up 31 yards on five carries, including a 16-yard scamper during which he powered through two tackles.
- Undrafted rookie running back Derrick Coleman looked good in his short amount of work. He carried the ball six times for 23 yards, picking up almost five yards on every run. The only knock against him was a fumble, which bounced back into his hands.
- The one opportunity that wide receiver Jerome Simpson had to make a play was squandered when he dropped an on-target pass from Ponder. Later in the game, Simpson made a solid down-field run block.
- Second-year wide receiver Stephon Burton played well and appears primed for a breakout season. He caught a 52-yard bomb to start the game and looks ready to receive some consistent snaps for the Vikings. Burton also had two kick return attempts, but didn’t get good blocking.
- Starting right guard Brandon Fusco played with tenacity and was a relentless blocker. Although his technique still needs some work, the second-year man displayed starting-caliber blocking skills.
- Starting left guard Charlie Johnson looked slow and lazy throughout his snaps. During one play, he was knocked on his rear-end when pulling. Overall, he seemed unbalanced and unathletic.
- The Vikings’ first 2012 draft pick, offensive tackle Matt Kalil, stumbled out of the gates in his first NFL action when 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith blew past him during Minnesota’s opening drive. After that, he settled down and showed some of the dominance that earned him the No. 4 overall pick.
- Rookie offensive tackle Kevin Murphy was consistently overwhelmed at the point of attack and failed time and time again to protect the quarterback’s blindside. He looked overmatched on nearly every down and shouldn’t last through the first round of cuts.
- Fellow offensive tackle Patrick Brown struggled against the pass rush, giving up numerous quarterback pressures.
- Time and time again, defensive end Jeff Charleston opened up running lanes by speed-rushing himself too far upfield.
- Starting nose tackle Letroy Guion suffered a PCL injury in his right knee during the 49ers’ opening drive. He’s expected to return within 1-2 weeks.
- Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Anthony Jacobs played well, showing penetration ability and awareness. He made a good read on a screen pass, but did have some struggles against stronger blockers.
- Former CFL linebacker Solomon Elimimian made some solid tackles, flew around the field, and hauled in the Vikings’ only interception of the night after defensive end Nick Reed forced the opposing quarterback into a bad throw.
- Backup middle linebacker Tyrone McKenzie did a great job of putting himself into position to make plays. Although he made great reads, McKenzie was often taken out of the play by blockers as he struggled to sift through traffic. He finished the game with six tackles.
- Backup linebacker Marvin Mitchell made a big tackle for a loss, but followed it up with a missed tackle. The veteran played well, but wasn’t a standout among the sea of unproven linebacker talent.
- Undrafted rookie linebacker Corey Paredes, who has been a training camp standout, saw limited time in fourth quarter and was a nonfactor.
- Second-year cornerback Brandon Burton played with a noticeable physicality and was unafraid to step up and play the run.
- Fellow cornerback Marcus Sherels was physical in coverage and did a good job of making strong open-field tackles.
- Strong safety Mistral Raymond, battling for a starting spot, looked sloppy throughout the game. He took bad angles and seemed hesitant when stepping up to make tackles.
- Rookie first-rounder Harrison Smith played well and provided the Vikings defense with a commanding presence on the backend. He sniffed out a reverse play for his only tackle of the game. Comparing his performance to the other safeties vying for the starting spot, I’d say that he is in the lead.
- As a unit, the Vikings defense struggled to get off blocks, took bad angles and was horrible against the run. The 49ers totaled 260 rush yards, which allowed them to sustain long drives and ultimately win the game.
- Rookie kicker Blair Walsh nailed his two field goal attempts despite windy conditions and did a great job of minimizing kick return opportunities by putting kick offs in (or through) the end zone.
- Sherels looked hesitant when returning kicks and failed to capitalize on open-field opportunities.
- Safety Andrew Sendejo was consistently in on special teams plays and gave himself a great opportunity to make the team with his hustle and impact in kick coverage.