Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Positives coming out of preseason

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Anthony Herrera, E.J. Henderson, John Sullivan, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Phil Loadholt, Steve Hutchinson Updated: September 7, 2011 - 8:15 AM

As usual, the best thing about the preseason is it's O-V-E-R. Here are five other positives to take from the Vikings making it past the preseason to today's first padded practice for Sunday's regular-season opener at San Diego:

1, They got their health.

Look at the poor Giants. They just lost the fifth key member of their defense. Linebacker Jonathan Goff, who had 80 tackles a year ago, is out for the season because of a torn ACL. It's doubtful the Vikings could overcome losing five key defensive players.

The Vikings lost backup middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley (hip) for the season. Starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson rarely leaves the field, so Brinkley's loss shouldn't be felt on defense. And now there's experience behind Henderson with the addition of Xavier Adibi, who was claimed off waivers on Sunday.

The only other player out for the season is G Scott Kooistra, who probably was a long shot to make the team considering how well the Vikings liked their young backups this year.

Everyone else is available for this game, coach Leslie Frazier said.

2, QB calmness

For a team with two new faces at the top two QB positions, the Vikings have a shocking lack of controversy or buzz surrounding the game's most important position. Donovan McNabb has looked surprisingly comfortable and is unchallenged as the starter. The only way he loses his job (probably) is by injury or if the team falls out of contention (which is hard to do in the NFC).

Christian Ponder is in a good spot. He's not ready to start an NFL game, and no one is expecting him to be anything but a No. 2 this season. And No. 3 Joe Webb gets to be an athlete and help the team because of the new 46-man game-day active roster.

Yes, the Vikings would be better off with Aaron Rodgers. But all things considered, they've handled the QB position pretty well this year. 

And that's not always the case. See Jacksonville, which dumped David Garrard on Wednesday, one day after he was introduced as the team's starter at a public kickoff luncheon.

3, Young talent

The Vikings had a youth movement on cutdown day Saturday. That's not necessarily a bad thing. There's some promising young talent. Let's look at Marcus Sherels, for example. We keep saying he's good, but he's not ready. Well, at this point, he's the third best corner on the team, the likely dime back and the winner of the punt return job. The kid with one NFL game on his resume can help this team. 

4, Young depth on D-line

Yes, the Vikings will miss Kevin Williams, who was suspended for the first two games. But the Vikings have sturdy, young depth in fourth-year pro Letroy Guion and rookie Christian Ballard. Guion has been groomed for this since 2008. Good defensive line depth is one of the toughest areas to develop. That's one area the Vikings have some decent depth.

5, Offensive line held its own in third preseason game

This isn't the Steelers' offensive line of the '70s. However, it might not be the train wreck some are worried about. The first unit played very well in the dress rehearsal game against the Cowboys in the third week of the preseason.

LT Charlie Johnson held up. RG Anthony Herrera, coming off a major knee injury nine months ago, made a statement that he's still the starter by playing all but the last 1:38 of the first half. He, center John Sullivan and left guard Steve Hutchinson held the front of the pocket well. RT Phil Loadholt got beat on an outside rush that resulted in McNabb being knocked down. But other than that, Loadholt played pretty well.

Again, it's not a dominant line. But it just needs to be merely good for Adrian Peterson to be great. 

 

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