Editor’s Note: We’re very lucky here at BLD to be part of Fansided, a wide-reaching network with blogs for every NFL team (as well as a huge selection of NBA, NHL, MLB, and other blogs as well). We’d be dumb not to take advantage of these resources, so welcome to our weekly feature: Behind Enemy Lines. Each week, we’ll be checking in with the staff from the Fansided blog representing the Bills’ opponent for that the week.
This week we’re checking in with Dan Zinski, editor of The Viking Age, Fansided’s excellent Vikings blog. I have a soft spot for the Vikings, who are somewhat kindred NFL spirits with the Bills – both teams are old, cold-weather, hard-luck teams with long-suffering fanbases. I really hope both teams get that Super Bowl someday (Buffalo first, of course).
Anyway, big thanks to Dan for taking the time to answer some Vikings-related questions for us as we get ready for Friday’s preseason matchup.
Q: First off, glad to see the Vikings have the stadium situation in order and the team won’t be headed to L.A. anytime soon. Bills fans can emphasize with the fear of losing your team, so we feel good Minnesota isn’t losing the Vikings. Can you just give us a bit of a summary of the stadium deal? When should the Vikings be in their new home?
They’re going to break ground next summer at the latest and the stadium should be open in 2016. The owners have said they want to have some “retractable element” to the stadium which could mean a roof but will more likely mean a wall that opens up. Overall the plans are pretty spiffy. I know Viking fans will be glad because the Metrodome has just become a dump. Maybe the most exciting thing is playing for a year at the Gophers’ stadium after the Dome is torn down (new stadium will be built where the Dome stands now, they can begin construction with the Dome standing but will obviously have to raze it to finish). This will mean the return of outdoor football to Minnesota at least temporarily. The old timers will be dragging out their gear from the ’70s.
Q: Talking actual football now…How’s Adrian Peterson recovering?
Peterson is amazing everyone with his rate of recovery. He’s been ahead of schedule all through the process and is now back out in pads although the defense is under strict orders not to touch him. He’ll probably get a taste of action in the third preseason game and then be ready to roll in the season opener. Some people have suggested this is pushing things a bit, including Jerry Rice who voiced concerns that Peterson is coming back too fast, but everything Peterson’s done has gotten the okay from the doctors so there’s no reason to believe he’s risking further injury. It remains to be seen what kind of explosion he has or if his old cutting ability will still be there.
Q: I loved Vikings first-round pick Matt Kalil in the pre-draft process – how’s he looking so far? How about the rest of Minnesota’s rookies?
Kalil is pretty much doing what was expected of him. His first big test was in practice trying to block Jared Allen and reportedly he had Allen cursing at one point, so that’s pretty encouraging. He looked okay in the preseason opener though he did have a couple mistakes that stood out. But he’s looked good for the most part. As for the other guys, Harrison Smith has been fairly impressive. They brought him along slowly but he’s running with the ones now. His big highlight so far was jawing with Percy Harvin at practice, which takes some guts as Percy is totally crazy and probably capable of tearing a guy’s head off. Josh Robinson we haven’t seen much as he’s been hampered with a hammy. Obviously the whole thing with Greg Childs tearing his patella tendons in both knees in practice was a big blow. Possibly the best rookie so far has been Blair Walsh the kicker who was drilling field goals in San Francisco with all that crazy Candlestick wind swirling around him.
Q: Is Christian Ponder going to be the answer at QB for the Vikings?
Jury’s still out. He’s done some good things so far in camp and preseason but obviously he needs to do it for real. They upgraded the line and receiver corps, so he’ll have a little more help around him than last year. It remains to be seen if he can deliver the ball consistently enough. I still have concerns about his accuracy and he needs to work on ball security as well.
Q: Any position battles or other stories to keep an eye on during this game?
The one big position battle that’s suddenly brewing that has everyone surprised is weak-side linebacker. Everyone thought Erin Henderson had that sewn up but Marvin Mitchell is coming on strong and could push Henderson out. The coaches seem to like Mitchell’s aggressiveness and he may be a little better in coverage than Henderson. Coaches could be sending this out there just to push Henderson, I suppose. I think Erin has gotten the message that he needs to turn it on. We’ll see how he plays Friday. Other guys I’m watching are Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson. Smith will start, Robinson come off the bench but get significant snaps. Those guys are intriguing rookies with interesting skill sets. Robinson is just a flat-out burner and Smith has shown a lot of grit and headiness already in his short time with the team.
Q: What can the Vikings accomplish this year? Can they surprise, or will the brutal NFC North prove too tough?
Vikes are coming from so far down, I think you pretty much throw out the record this year and try to look at it position-by-position, and ask yourself if they’re getting better. I just want improvement. If they win 4 games but their losses are close and they stay competitive all year and get markedly better at a few positions especially QB, I won’t be too disappointed. That shows how low my expectations are I guess. Obviously in that division, contending is out of the question. They’re in good position to be swept by all three division rivals which sucks but, that’s just our reality right now.