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Preseason Week 1 – Jump to Conclusions

The first week of preseason has come and gone and already there are plenty of opinions and thoughts floating around about peoples’ favorite, or rivalry, teams. We have seen a few good and a few bad plays from around the league, including some who had injuries and others who had Fantasy Footballers begging at their knees. For the Vikings, however, despite a loss, the vibe has been somewhat consistent with a lot of fans reminding the haters that it is “still preseason”! I believe that is a great response for those hardcore Viking fans who enjoy protecting the teams’ reputation. There will always be the occasional skeptic in social media who just love to play “Devil’s Advocate” to test the patience of others and keep them in check. But certainly, a loss in the 1st week of preseason can’t make or bust the regular season.

It can, however, give the fans and coaches a great idea of what their team is made of up to this point and gives us all just that many more examples of the talent, or lack there of, across all aspects of the team, including the coaching staff, communications, medical, water boys, etc. This is a time of year where everybody on the team, not just players, need to work out the kinks and knock off the rust so that by the time week 1 of the regular season arrives, the 2013 Minnesota Vikings will be operating like a well-oiled machine.

The first week of preseason for the Vikings was, without a doubt, a success! Again, despite the loss, we found out a few important things about our current roster, whether they’re tangible (Patterson’s abilities) or intangible (plays that are great ideas but just won’t work), strengths or weaknesses, great ideas that actually work or ideas that only looked good on paper until poorly executed. A good quote that I saw on Twitter just moments before the game started this past Friday was about QB Christian Ponder. It stated that if he throws a TD in his first drive he gets positive media attention and immediately that fans will fall in love. On the flip-side, if he throws an INT (which he did on only his second throw of the night ending up being his last), Christian would then be giving the fans and media even more to ponder about – Is he the franchise QB we’re needing? Will he keep this “roller coaster” up just as he did last year when he played good, then bad, then good, then bad? Some of these questions and thoughts also lead to concerns, like how well the coaching staff is doing their job? Does this mean QB Cassel will take the helm after the BYE week? The string of questions and wonder can go forever!

Fortunately for us, this really is just preseason. Leslie Frazier said in his post-game interview on Friday that the team and staff can absolutely get valuable information and study materials from just those few plays in that 1st-team series of the preseason opener. Ponder is going to be just fine. He may not be elite just yet. But the coaches have been stressing all offseason about the goal of our QB – just improve off of last year.  If Ponder can do just that, I believe, with all of the help that the front office has put around him in a supporting cast, he will definitely improve upon last years’ performance. For us that means very good news and we’re going reliably deeper into the playoffs than just a single game with an unproven QB thrown into the “Pack” of wolves.

QB Christian Ponder is, by far, the most important element of this roster heading into the 2013 season. This is his 3rd year in this offense and even though Mr. Frazier doesn’t speak about this year being a make or break, prove it or lose it year for Christian, it sure is tough not to think that he needs to prove it to fans, the coaches, his teammates, himself, his new wife… okay I won’t get into his personal life here… but you get the drift. The keystone is the center stone or masonry unit at the apex of an arch. Without it, the arch falls. This is the similar importance of an NFL quarterback in the 2013 league. If Ponder can’t step up and be the keystone for the Vikings’ offense, I think it would be safe to bet that fans and coaches alike would be talking about the QB position in the month or two leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, chanting for Jonny Manziel.

Although our QB position must be solidified for the next decade (wouldn’t that be nice?), there are plenty of other factors that loom over the coaches minds. This is exactly what preseason is all about. It’s for weeding out the bad ideas and concepts after failed attempts, practicing new plays in the book that weren’t used very often in the past now that they have the weapons and skill at WR, pushing the limits of talent at every position, exercising what the players and coaches practice and preach, respectively and getting the timing, route running and angles for tackling down to a science. If the Vikings personnel were to get a start on these goals and set themselves up for the 2nd week of preseason to continue in the judgement and weeding-out process, then I would agree that the first game, whether it was a win or a loss, is a success for the team moving forward.

 


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