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The Morning After: Five Observations From Vikings Vs. 49ers (Preseason Game #3)

Photo – Aj Mansour (KFAN)

By: Aj Mansour |

The coveted third preseason game has come and gone. The Minnesota Vikings have fallen for the third straight time in the games that don’t count, this time at the hands of last year’s NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers.

We had an opportunity to see the starters on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball play one series into the third quarter and would like to think that we learned some things about our first-teamers. The final score of 34-14 doesn’t really matter, but some of the tells, some of the trends and some of the tactics that we did see were of the utmost importance as the Vikings continue to prepare for cut-week and for week one against the Detroit Lions.

Now that we’ve had some time to sleep on it, here are five glaring observations that I walked away with from Sunday night’s 34-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Desmond Bishop filled in with the first-team and is starting to look the part…
It’s been quite the few months for Vikings linebacker Desmond Bishop. From being cut by the Packers in June, to signing with the Vikings shortly thereafter, then moving to the outside, followed by a slew of rumors that he wasn’t grasping the playbook and could be on the verge of getting cut, Desmond Bishop has pretty much heard it all this offseason. After spending much of Training Camp working with the twos and even sometimes the threes, Bishop got an opportunity to work in with the first team defensive unit Sunday night and took advantage of the opportunity.

With Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway flanking his left, Desmond Bishop played more than any other Vikings defensive player Sunday in San Francisco and tallied 9 tackles including 2 tackles for loss and a handful of plays that will surely stick out on the game film when coaches convene in Minnesota on Monday.

Bishop may very well be fighting for a spot on this team, but a game like this one where Desmond was regularly in the 49ers backfield, could be seen saving touchdowns and instinctually was in the right place at the right time will surely help his case. More encouraging, until Sunday night there were some serious and pretty legitimate questions on how and if Bishop would ever be able to fully recover from his horrific injury in 2012. So far so good for Desmond, who according to this writer, officially notched his name into the Vikings 53-man roster with a solid performance in San Francisco.

Offensive line continues to struggle, something’s up with Matt Kalil…
One year ago, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line was the team’s most consistent and reliable weapon on the football field. They started all 17-games for the Vikings in 2012 and paved the way for AP to run for over 2,000 yards. So far this preseason, they’ve been about as porous as swiss cheese and have struggled to protect their third-year quarterback Christian Ponder inside he pocket.

All across the line performances have struggled. Whether it’s Phil Loadholt getting speed rushed, Brandon Fusco getting over powered, John Sullivan snapping the ball early, or Charlie Johnson testing his turn style defense, the offensive line has lacked consistency and discipline. Maybe the most obvious offender on the game tapes this season was last year’s most impressive link of the chain, Matt Kalil who added in a concerning bit of losing his cool to the mix in San Francisco.

This is crazy to say because it is the preseason but last week’s game against the Buffalo Bills and this week’s against the 49ers may have legitimately been Kalil’s worst games as a pro. Not only have we seen Kalil get overpowered and burned badly this preseason but last night we saw him lose his cool twice drawing 15-yard personal foul penalties for hits after the whistle.

Kalil has been said to have been nursing a sore knee through the second half of training camp and I can’t help but wonder if that injury to his base is bothering him a little more than he’s letting on. Fortunately for Matt and the Vikings, he will have exactly two weeks to rest any ailments before taking the field against the Lions for a Week 1 matchup on September 8th.

Josh Robinson struggling to fill big shoes left by Winfield…
For whatever reason, we’ve seen second-year cornerback Josh Robinson filling in as the second starting cornerback opposite of Chris Cook while Xavier Rhodes continues to get acclimated to the league. Even though Rhodes didn’t even show up in the statistical game book at all last night, he may be slotted in to start as Josh Robinson stuck out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons last night.

Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco first team offense flat out pick on Josh targeting Robinson on five straight passing plays in the first quarter that resulted in five consecutive completions and a touchdown from Kaepernick to Quinton Patton. The rough night continued for Josh after that drive as he stuck out on a handful of missed tackles as well.

Robinson shouldn’t have to fear missing the cut this next week, but Sunday night’s performance may very well have bumped him out of the starting rotation and back to nickel cornerback responsibilities.

Adrian Peterson plays two plays as a decoy, why even dress him…
The Minnesota Vikings have made a handful of interesting decisions during the extent of the 2013 preseason. First came the Christian Ponder pulled from game one after two snaps decision and then, Sunday night, came the “let’s throw Adrian Peterson out there to serve as a decoy for two plays and then pull him” decision (CLICK HERE if you missed the game and need more context).

All week long the debate in Minnesota had been should they or shouldn’t they be playing Adrian at all in the preseason. All the while we were continually sold a bill of goods saying that AP would play and the Vikings were interested in getting him some work during the preseason session. In full disclosure, my argument here goes past the disappointed fan boy inside of me who wanted to see AP take his first carry to the house, it centers around the fact that somebody decided that it would be worth it to throw the league’s M.V.P. into the line of fire knowing darn well that there was no point, no upside for him to be out there?

I completely understand the thought process that says having Adrian on the field allows for the game to open up more for Ponder and the passing attack. I understand it and agree with it, to a certain extent. If you are going to play Peterson to force a defense to play honest, you have to give him the ball and prove that he is a viable running threat. What the Vikings did Sunday night was worthless and darn near wreckless. All that just to run a few play-action plays? I felt the same way about the Christian Ponder situation in the first preseason game, if you’re going to risk their health by having them on the field at all, give them an opportunity to get some work done. If not, you’re simply wasting your time and should have sidelined them.

Kevin Williams injured by cheap shot, d-line depth is shallow…
I’m sure that Alan Williams and Leslie Frazier will receive a little criticism this week for having left their first team defenders on the field into the third quarter of Sunday night’s game, but in fairness to them, nobody saw the Joe Looney cheap shot to Kevin Williams’ knee coming (CLICK HERE for more information about Williams’ injury).

Kevin Williams will undergo an MRI on his injured knee Monday morning back in the Twin Cities but the current situation for the Vikings at defensive tackle is concerning. With Williams going down last night, Sharrif Floyd on the shelf until the regular season after having minor surgery on his knee, and the unknown return date set for Christian Ballard, the Vikings are down to what would normally have been their fourth string nose tackle Chase Baker. Baker filled in admirably given the circumstances but still has a long way to go before he is ready to make an actual impact in the regular season.

While both Williams and Floyd are expected to return by the start of the regular season (no word on a return date for Ballard), the injuries and lack of depth may force the Vikings to adjust their cuts.

Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN

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