The Buffalo Bills will take on the Minnesota Vikings in their second preseason game of the 2013 season tomorrow night at Ralph Wilson Stadium. We'll have plenty to talk about from a Bills perspective as kickoff time (7PM ET) approaches, but for a quick taste test of the Vikings, Ted Glover from SB Nation's Vikings community, Daily Norseman, has kindly stopped by to answer a few questions.
Two years in, how are Vikings fans feeling in general about the progress of your own former Florida State quarterback, Christian Ponder?
Ted Glover: The great thing about being a Vikings fan is that half the fan base thinks the starter needs to be benched, regardless of who it is or how he's performing. Remember when Daunte Culpepper had a two or three year span of really great play back in the early 2000s? You guessed it: half the fan base - well, maybe not half, but a pretty vocal minority - thought he should be benched. I think, for the most part, most fans understand that Ponder was young, and had some really ugly games last year, but he also got better at the end of the year and navigated the Vikings to the playoffs. But he's also under the microscope, because the old adage that it takes three or four years to develop a quarterback has been shattered thanks to guys like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.
Regardless of whether you do or don't support Ponder, almost everyone thinks this is a make or break year. If he gets better and can make the Vikings a respectable offense in the passing department, he'll be around a long time. If he's hit his high water mark and 2012 is the best it's going to get, it could be the end. He really has no excuses this year, either. 2011 we could attribute to the lockout, the lack of OTAs and minicamps, and the general jackassery that was the Vikings' offensive line. Last year he had no receiving threats outside of Percy Harvin. In 2013, he has one of the best offensive lines in football, and although Harvin is gone I would make the argument that the Vikings' receiving corps is better, top to bottom, than it has been in awhile. The pieces are there for Ponder to succeed. We'll see what happens.
Same question, but for Leslie Frazier - a man who once upon a time interviewed to be the Bills' head man.
Glover: Frazier took over a fairly dysfunctional mess in 2010, and had to contend with a litany of disasters that few coaches have had to deal with. Brett Favre was in his last season (and there was the text picture controversy), Brad Childress was fired after he traded for and then released Randy Moss, the Metrodome roof collapsed and the Vikings had to play a home game at Detroit, and a Monday night game against Philadelphia had to be played in the middle of the week because of a blizzard, or something like that. It was a hell of an interview as an interim coach, and he managed to guide the Vikings to a 3-3 finish. He took a 3-13 disaster in 2011, learned from his mistakes, and guided the Vikings to a 10-6 finish and a playoff berth last year.
Most folks like him, and I'm a big fan. I thought the Vikings made a really good hire, and he comes from the Tony Dungy coaching philosophy. Last time I looked, that was a pretty good coaching ethos, so we'll take it. He has a very calming influence on the team, and he never gets too high or too low. There are a few fans that don't like how little emotion he shows on the sidelines, but the Vikings had a guy by the name of Bud Grant who showed about as much emotion as this stapler that's sitting on my desk, and he seemed to do okay.
What are the chances that we'll see Adrian Peterson in uniform on Friday?
Glover: He might play a little, but it will be a cameo appearance, if at all. Frazier tends to give guys that don't need to prove anything (including defensive players like Kevin Williams and Jared Allen, along with a couple others) as much rest in the pre-season as possible. When the Vikes go full pads in training camp, Peterson is almost treated like a quarterback in terms of no contact, so if he takes the field, take a picture, because it won't last long.
Minnesota was sort of the envy of NFL Draft day one, what with their three first-round picks. How are Patterson, Floyd and Rhodes faring to this point?
Glover: Cordarrelle Patterson had a very nice debut. The first time he touched the ball was the opening kickoff, and he went 50 yards. He also had four catches for 54 yards, and displayed nice hands and good body control, showing a lot more polish than was advertised coming out of Tennessee. Sharrif Floyd only played a little bit before tweaking a knee and being pulled for precautionary reason, but the little action he saw he looked very good, too. Xavier Rhodes did not play because he had a minor hamstring issue that the team didn't want to aggravate, but reports out of training camp have been very positive. I would be surprised if Rhodes wasn't the starter opposite Chris Cook when the season opens.
Give us the name of one little-known, third (or below) team Viking that might catch our eye when we watch this game.
Glover: I'll give you three. Two are on offense, and they're both running backs - Bradley Randle and Zach Line. They're both competing for the No. 3 spot behind Peterson and Toby Gerhart. It's too early to say that either of them have overtaken the current incumbent, Matt Asiata, and he's done nothing to lose his spot, but both Randle and Line have been very impressive so far. I would imagine both will see a lot of action on Friday, and I really think one of them will make the 53-man roster in some capacity.
On defense, middle linebacker Michael Mauti is a seventh-round pick from Penn State and has been turning heads so far. He really stood out last Friday night, and had he not had three ACL injuries in two years, he was a day one or two pick. I've said this since he was drafted and I'll keep saying it: if Mauti can stay healthy, he will be starting by the end of the year, and a few years from now we'll look back and say that he was the steal of the 2013 draft.