First Impressions – Vikings @ Titans

| August 15, 2011

On the surface of things this game saw two teams with a lot of similarities going head to head. Both sides made a big splash in the draft selecting their heir apparant at quarterback, and both then secured a stop-gap veteran in free agency.
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Both sides also have a stud, All-Pro calibre running back (albeit Tennessee’s is currently holding out sipping drinks and watching the games while looking for a new contract), and neither team may have the O-line necessary to succeed.
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So what did we see from the mirror images of each other?

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Minnesota – Three Things of Note
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●  After letting Ben Leber walk in free agency the Vikings are giving the job to EJ Henderson’s younger brother, Erin. Once a big-time prospect coming out of Maryland, Erin Henderson has hung onto a roster spot in Minnesota over the past couple of seasons and now gets his chance. EJ Henderson spoke to our Neil Hornsby in Vikings camp and the description of the differences between Erin Henderson and Ben Leber seemed accurate from this showing. Erin brings some more athleticism and explosiveness to the table than the departed Leber, but also less veteran savvy and instincts. He was caught out on a couple of occasions in this game, but also made a couple of nice plays to dart through traffic.
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●  The Vikings are banking a lot on a stable of cornerbacks with all kinds of question marks. Outside of Antoine Winfield, they have Cedric Griffin returning from back-to-back knee injuries, Chris Cook, a second-year player that saw much of his rookie season wasted through injuries, and Asher Allen, who has routinely proven incapable of containing receivers outside, yet is unlikely to find time covering the slot because Winfield is so good there. Griffin wasn’t playing in this game as he continues his rehab, but Allen and Cook were both beaten on multiple occasions. Cook coughed up a deep touchdown after a fumbled snap caused him to stop tracking the receiver, but it’s his poor tackling against the run that might be of greater concern.
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●  Christian Ponder, chosen 12th overall, won’t be rushed into the lineup, and didn’t see game time until deep into the game, in the third quarter, and with the third team offense (Joe Webb ran the second team). Ponder made a couple of nice plays, but looked very much a rookie, and struggled to clear linemen with a few quick, three-step throws being batted back at him. Donovon McNabb would have to play very, very badly for Ponder to see game time early on.
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Tennessee – Three Things of Note
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●  Tennessee’s D-line looked very active in this game and one of the more interesting dynamics is the play of Jason Jones, now at defensive end. Jones was one of our best-graded 4-3 DTs when it came to rushing the passer last season and he has the athleticism to play on the edge too. When the Titans go to nickel he moves inside to DT where he is firmly at home, allowing Derrick Morgan, last year’s top pick, to attack on the edge. This has the potential to be a very nice unit.
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●  We were a big fan of the play of Alterraun Verner last season as a rookie, and he was perhaps at his best in the slot, rather than out on the edge. This season Jason McCourty and Cortland Finnegan are starting, but they are moving Finnegan into the slot when they go to nickel, apparently believing it to suit his scrappy style of play. This is an interesting move, and while it might just work out for Finnegan, it seems to ignore what Verner was able to achieve and show last year as a rookie. If it were us we’d be taking an “if it ain’t broke …” approach, but it will be interesting to see how it works.
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●  We talked about Ponder, so we have to talk about Locker – it’s the law. Locker did some nice things in his first game time in the NFL, making some plays with his legs and his arm, but you could still see some of the inaccuracy that shaped his reputation pre-draft. He missed a couple of receivers high and wide, and was bailed out on another by a leaping catch by Jared Cook. He did look to be much more comfortable and accurate on the run (again, as is his rep), and with the Titans running game biting off big chunks of yardage the play action bootlegs should suit him perfectly.
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These two teams share a lot in common, but Tennessee certainly seemed to have far more answers to the questions posed before the game. As soon as they get Chris Johnson back in the fold they look like they have the tools to succeed. The Vikings still have some very unanswered questions, and only three more pre-season games to come up with some answers.
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Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamMonson … and give our main Twitter feed a follow too: @ProFootbalFocus
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  • kevinwi

    pretty accurate