Vikings first-round picks Kalil, Smith maturing quickly

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 8, 2012 - 9:05 AM

A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Week 1 against Jacksonville.

A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday's regular-season opener against the Jaguars at Mall of America Field.

PLAYERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith. Yes, there likely will be a lot of attention paid Sunday to a certain eager running back wearing that No. 28 jersey and to Christian Ponder, the second-year quarterback whose 2012 development might be the biggest X-factor in the rebuilding efforts. But in Week 1, this year's two first-round draft picks will need to provide early evidence that they are as good as the Vikings believe them to be.

Both Kalil and Smith will start. And the Vikings hope they can permanently ink both players into those roles for years to come.

Kalil has shown noticeable growth since his arrival, particularly in jelling with left guard Charlie Johnson.

Said coach Leslie Frazier: "Once we got into padded practices, for them to be able to communicate and work off one another [helped Matt] being able to get more accustomed to our offense. ... But his confidence, his athletic ability, his knowledge, all of those things have been there."

Smith, meanwhile, was singled out this week by defensive coordinator Alan Williams as "a calming influence" for the defense. The coaches love his tenacity and reliability for almost always being where he's supposed to be. Now it's time for all that to show up on game day.

MOST PRESSING QUESTION

Will Adrian Peterson play? Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've asked that question 2,832 times since training camp opened in July. But Friday was the last opportunity to do so before the opener. And here's what Frazier had to say after Friday's practice: "There's no reason to make a decision before Sunday. We're going to talk with him again tomorrow and see how he feels and we'll make a decision."

Frazier had contended Thursday that Peterson's status would be finalized by Friday night or Saturday morning. Now it sounds as if the Vikings might not make a final determination until game day. So, as always, stay tuned.

Peterson is officially listed as questionable on the injury report.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

The Vikings only have three backup offensive linemen on their 53-man roster. One (Geoff Schwartz) is just 33 days removed from sports hernia surgery and might not yet be back in game shape. Another (Mark Asper) arrived as a waiver wire pickup from Buffalo last weekend and will be inactive Sunday. So that might leave Joe Berger as the only dependable reserve for the opener. Berger filled in at both guard and center a year ago and did well when called upon. But what would happen if either starting tackle, Kalil or Phil Loadholt, were injured? Logic says Johnson would be the emergency tackle option with Berger then moving into the open guard slot.

The Vikings, obviously, hope they don't have to visit any such contingency plans.

JAGUARS SCOOP

New coach Mike Mularkey recognizes the struggles quarterback Blaine Gabbert had as a rookie in 2011, averaging just 154 passing yards in his 14 starts while completing 50.4 percent of his passes and taking 39 sacks. But Mularkey also points out that Gabbert was 22 years old when he made his debut with just three college seasons under his belt. Gabbert also came out of a shotgun spread offense at Missouri. "It's a little more of a challenge when you've got to put him under center," Mularkey said.

Also, like Christian Ponder, last summer's lockout deprived Gabbert of the offseason work that could have accelerated his growth.

"Those [organized team activities] are such a valuable teaching time," Mularkey said. "There's no rush, no installation, no game."

The Jaguars believe Gabbert's command and pocket poise are elevated from a year ago but won't have definitive proof until Sunday.

INJURY REPORT UPDATE

The Vikings list only two starters: Peterson and defensive tackle Letroy Guion, who's listed as probable because of a knee injury. Punt returner Marcus Sherels also is probable (ankle). Linebacker Marvin Mitchell, receiver Jarius Wright and safety Andrew Sendejo are out because of sprained ankles.

Jacksonville starters listed are receiver Justin Blackmon (probable, ankle); cornerback Derek Cox (doubtful, hamstring); and linebacker Daryl Smith (out, groin).

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Pittsburgh - LP: F. Liriano 0 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 4
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Odorizzi 0 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 3
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Hammel 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 3
St. Louis - LP: J. Kelly 1 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: W. Peralta 5
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 5 FINAL
Arizona - LP: B. McCarthy 2
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 1 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: C. Lee 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 2
Cleveland 3 Bottom 9th Inning
Detroit 2
Washington - WP: D. Storen 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: M. Dunn 3
Seattle 2 Bottom 8th Inning
Texas 1
Boston 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Chicago WSox 3
Kansas City 2 Top 7th Inning
Houston 4
Toronto 0 Postponed
Minnesota 0
Oakland 0 Top 2nd Inning
LA Angels 0
Colorado 0 Top 2nd Inning
San Diego 0
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 1st Inning
San Francisco 0
Chicago 86 FINAL
Charlotte 91
Indiana 101 FINAL
Orlando 86
Atlanta 111 FINAL
Milwaukee 103
Dallas 90 4th Qtr 1:59
Memphis 91
Detroit 110 4th Qtr 2:07
Oklahoma City 106
Houston 100 FINAL
New Orleans 105
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
San Antonio 100
Brooklyn 85 FINAL
Cleveland 114
Philadelphia 95 4th Qtr 3:15
Miami 85
Utah 111 1st OT 4:03
Minnesota 110
Washington 118 FINAL
Boston 102
Toronto 90 4th Qtr 1:39
New York 90
Golden State 9:30 PM
Denver
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Portland
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Sacramento
Montreal 4 1st OT 7:26
Tampa Bay 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 4
Dallas 0 1st Prd 15:35
Anaheim 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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