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The Morning After: Five Observations From Vikings Vs Titans (Preseason Game #4)

Photo – Aj Mansour (KFAN)

By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
@AjKFAN

Minneapolis, MN – Well, it took them four preseason games but the Minnesota Vikings finally put one in the “win” column! Disregard the fact that it came in a meaningless preseason game that was played between reserves on both sides. Just sit back and enjoy the sweet taste of victory!

In all seriousness, the Vikings did walk away with a 24-23 victory at Mall of America Field, but what really matters is what we were (or weren’t) able to read between the lines from your Minnesota Vikings.

Now that we’ve had a little time to sleep on it, here are five glaring observations that I walked away with from Thursday night’s 24-23 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Five Position Battles (follow up)…

Thursday morning I blogged about five position battles that you should have keyed in on during an otherwise boring fourth preseason game. Now it’s time to follow up on those battles based off of each player’s performances on Thursday night and those five will serve as my five glaring observations for this week.

(1) Starting Punt Returner: Marcus Sherels vs. Bobby Felder If you took the time to read my recap blog following the game last night (you can find that HERE), you probably know which direction I am leaning on this one. While the Vikings will judge a player by the body of work they put on the field during the entirety of Training Camp and the Preseason, having a knockout performance in the fourth preseason game leaves a bit of a lasting impression.

Such was the case with Marcus Sherels who returned a kickoff for a touchdown and intercepted an errant Titans pass on Thursday night. Unfortunately for Bobby Felder, all he’ll be remembered for on Thursday night was hobbling off the field after an ankle injury. Sherels all but solidified his spot as punt returner Thursday.

(2) Fifth Wide Receiver: Stephen Burton vs Joe Webb Going into Thursday night, I was leaning Burton to win out on the fifth wide receiver spot. Walking away from Thursday night, nothing much has changed.

Webb did find a way to reel in five passes against the Titans for 38 yards but managed to look pretty plain doing so. Burton didn’t shine either catching only one ball for 14 yards in the final preseason game. In this case, I think you have to give the nod to the player with the more impressive body of work. And that would have to be Stephen Burton.

On the preseason, Burton has seven catches for 112 yards while Webb is credited with ten catches for 65 yards and a TD. Despite the uphill battle he has faced, and the hot preseason Burton has had, Webb remains confident in his abilities.

“I feel like I have come a long way since the time they moved me to receiver,” Webb said after the game. “I am feeling good about it. I am going get a peace of mind, and the coaches will hopefully make the right decision.”

I still feel like I had to give the nod to Burton right now but do believe that the Vikings find a way to keep both of them.

(3) Starting Weak side Linebacker: Desmond Bishop vs Marvin Mitchell – As far as Thursday night goes, Desmond Bishop was given an unfair advantage as Marvin Mitchell did not suit up and watched the evening from the sidelines. Now you can read that in two different ways. Either Mitchell already has the starting role clinched, thus the reason why he sat out with the other starters. Or, Desmond Bishop took advantage of the extra reps while Mitchell watched his starting spot slip through his fingers from the comforts of the sidelines.

However you choose to look at it, Desmond Bishop is flying all over the field and making himself noticed to everybody who’s paying attention. Bishop tacked on five more tackles (two tackles for loss) during his limited reps tonight pushing him into the preseason lead for the Vikings with 18 total tackles.

The common thought on Bishop heading into the preseason was that it was only a matter of time before he was “back” from his injury. Judging by the way he’s been playing the two final weeks of the preseason, it may be safe to say that he’s back and having him side-by-side with Henderson and Greenway could give the Vikings the strongest linebacking corps that they’ve had in a long while.

“I feel good,” Bishop said following Thursday’s win. “I feel like I’m ready. I think I’m doing a pretty good job. The scary part is that I still have a lot of potential to fulfill, so I’m excited.”

Starting Cornerback (opposite Chris Cook): Xavier Rhodes vs Josh Robinson – Similar to some of the match ups listed above, only one of the potential players played in Thursday’s game. With Robinson on the sidelines, Xavier Rhodes was center stage and failed to make an appearance in the stats section of the game book.

Rhodes proved that he can be physical, sometimes too physical having drawn a flag for holding as he held his contact past the five-yard allowed bumper. All-in-all, Rhodes got lost in the shuffle and didn’t really show up given one final opportunity to shine.

Seeing that Robinson did not suit up, I would have to assume that unless something drastically changes over the next ten days, Josh will be your starting cornerback with Chris Cook on opening day.

Reserve Tackle: DeMarcus Love vs Kevin Murphy vs Brandon Keith – With the first-teamers on the sidelines, the reserves for the Vikings got the start Thursday night. It was Kevin Murphy serving as your starting left tackle and Brandon Keith on as the starting right tackle. Playing against much of the Titans first team defense, both players held their own for the most part but it was Murphy who appeared to be the slightest bit more dominant.

Keith remains the option with the most real experience but I get the impression that Rick Spielman and the Vikings like the unknown potential that comes with a youngster like Murphy. A Harvard grad, Murphy has the brains to fill in in a pinch and both players have the ability to switch from right-to-left and vice versa if needed.

I don’t want to forget about DeMarcus Love who caught his first pass and earned his first professional first down Thursday night. But I can’t seem to get around that unfortunate four-game suspension he has hanging over his head to start the year.

I stick with my guns on this one, Kevin Murphy has the slight edge over Brandon Keith and DeMarcus Love.

 

Head coach Leslie Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman will spend Friday watching film and making decisions on which players they will or won’t keep as they trim their roster down to 53-players. It’s unlikely that any announcements on cut players will be made before Saturday afternoon (the deadline to submit your final 53 is 5pm on Saturday). Stay tuned to KFAN.com and follow @AjKFAN on Twitter for all the latest breaking news on your Minnesota Vikings.

Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. 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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