This week, they’ll host the Buffalo Bills in hopes of making some strides and learning from their mistakes from the previous week. More than anything, though, the Vikings need their young players to step up and make the necessary adjustments to the speed of the NFL.
Let’s take a look at the three big focuses for the Vikings heading into their showdown with the Bills.
1. Can Christian Ponder continue to impress during the preseason?
After receiving plenty of praise coming out of training camp, second-year starting quarterback Ponder didn’t disappoint in the Vikings’ first preseason game. Although the blocking was subpar, the former first-rounder displayed good pocket presence and made the types of throws that the Vikings will need from him this upcoming season. It was a great first game against the 49ers, but Ponder needs to carry that consistency over to the game against the Bills. Assuming that he can stay healthy and continue to improve, this could be the breakout season that Ponder needs to prove he can be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future.
2. Can the rush defense make adjustments after an embarrassing Week 1 performance?
The defensive line got pushed around and the linebackers got caught in the wash last week as the Vikings’ defense was pounded by the 49ers’ ground attack. There were numerous missed tackles and bad angles taken as the Vikings gave up 260 rushing yards. It’s going to be essential for the Vikings to slow down the Bills’ rushing attack and prove that they can keep opposing runners contained. Especially with the second-team defense, Minnesota needs some more consistency out of their linebacking unit. We’ll see if the Vikings can make adjustments and keep this Bills’ rushing attack from causing too much damage on Friday night.
3. Has the Vikings’ offensive line improved since last week?
When the Vikings took on the 49ers last week, the offensive line looked awful. From the first-team offense to the third-team, the Minnesota pass blocking struggled to keep the defense from breathing down the current quarterback’s neck. With a game under their belts, the Vikings are hoping that the young offensive lineman can make the necessary adjustments and find ways to keep the pass rush at bay. The effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Vikings offense will depend solely on how much improvement the blocking has undergone this week.
RB Adrian Peterson (knee), RB Jordan Todman (ankle), G Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia), WR Kamar Jorden (hand), OT DeMarcus Love (pectoral), TE John Carlson (knee), DT Letroy Guion (knee), LB Solomon Elimimian (unknown), S Robert Blanton (hamstring)
- Although blocking didn’t help, backup quarterback Joe Webb needs to show some more accuracy this week after struggling against the 49ers.
- Rookie kicker Blair Walsh converted both of his field goal attempts in his NFL debut; can he continue that success in his second outing with the Vikings?
- Undrafted running back Derrick Coleman played well last week, but is facing an uphill battle to unseat Lex Hilliard for the No. 3 spot. A strong outing will help, but does the former UCLA Bruin have it in him?
- Especially after ugly performances from Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford, this will be the perfect opportunity for rookie Harrison Smith to solidify himself as a starting safety for the Vikings.
- Everson Griffen made the jump back to defensive end after a failed attempt at linebacker. How will the re-adjustment affect his development as the 2012 regular season inches closer?
- Second-year receiver Stephon Burton made a couple plays last week as he attempts to win the Vikings’ No. 3 receiver spot. Can he maintain his momentum and continue to impress the coaches?
- Fourth-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson showed some talent last week against the 49ers. Although he often depended too heavily on his strong arm, the youngster could put himself in the race for the No. 3 spot with a good outing against the Bills.
- Young offensive tackles Kevin Murphy and Levi Horn struggled mightily last week. If they can’t find a way to pass block better this week, they could be on the first flight out of Minnesota.