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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Houston 23 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 98 FINAL
Cleveland 107
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Washington 84
Milwaukee 120 FINAL
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Philadelphia 88 FINAL
Brooklyn 99
Charlotte 114 FINAL
Atlanta 117
Sacramento 99 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Memphis 103 FINAL
Dallas 108
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
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Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
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Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
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(23) Marshall
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(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
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(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
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(10) TCU
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(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
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(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
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Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
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(21) Clemson
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(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
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(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
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Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
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