Know Your Opponent with Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com
We’ve only been waiting for 29 weeks, 5 days, 2 hours and 30 minutes. But really – no one is counting.
We lie. We’re all counting. So what if it’s the preseason? So what if it’s a non-conference opponent? So what if we’ll barely see any of the starters? It’s FOOTBALL! It’s the TEXANS! It’s checking out all the work Pat has been reporting on that the Texans have been working on all offseason. WE. CAN’T. WAIT!
That being said, we are super-excited to bring in the one. The only. The Vikings know-it-all directly from www.Vikings.com… Mike Wobschall. Wobby is here to fill us Texan-philes in on what’s been happening this off-season up in Mankato, Minnesota, home of the Minnesota Vikings training camp. We’ll hit the high points: the rookies, Adrian Peterson, the turnover battle, and what the expectations are for the 2013 season in the NFC North and throughout the NFC Conference for the Minnesota Vikings.
How has Cordarrelle Patterson looked early on?
It’s hard not to be excited about Patterson. The guy just has the look of a playmaker. He’s smooth fielding kickoffs and punts, and once he sticks his foot in the ground to burst he has an extra gear that you don’t see in most players. I believe he’s going to be a game-changer in that area from Day 1. While he’s changing games as an electric returner, Patterson will continue to develop his skills as a NFL receiver. He’s actually further ahead in this area than I anticipated coming into training camp, but even he will be the first to tell you there is still room for improvement. Ultimately I don’t think it’ll take Patterson long to also become a factor on offense.
Who do you anticipate seeing more of in this matchup, Ponder or Cassel and why?
My guess at this point, and it’s only a guess, is that Cassel will see more time on Friday. I don’t anticipate the starters seeing much action in this first preseason game, and I do think a good next step for Cassel to continue learning this offense is for him to take some reps in a game setting.
How will the Vikings give Adrian Peterson the touches he needs with the reinforced receiving corps?
This is an issue of balance vs. explosion. To me the run-pass balance is not as important as the Vikings ability to explode on occasion in the passing game. Even with the addition of Greg Jennings and Patterson, this is a run-first offense paced by the reigning MVP. Leslie Frazier wants that to be the identity of the offense. But what the Vikings are developing now is a passing game that can be explosive, and by showing the ability to pick up 20-yard chunks in the passing game the Vikings will be able to offset some of the things opposing defenses do to try and slow Peterson.
Who should we be keeping an eye out for on either side of the ball as potential playmakers?
On defense it’s Everson Griffen. He had a breakout season a year ago, registering 8.0 sacks in an increased defensive role. He’s had a great training camp this summer and is poised to follow up his breakout season with another productive campaign. Offensively, I’d point to Joe Webb. He’s made the transition from quarterback to receiver and I’ve been impressed with his progress so far. You don’t see many quarterbacks make this transition with success, and I think Webb is on his way to accomplishing this mission. He’s not there yet, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
What are particular areas of concern we can expect to see the Vikings work on Friday night?
I don’t see any particular areas of concern to work on in the preseason opener. It’s more about the need to see improvement from everyone, whether first-team or third-team. Two things you don’t want to see in preseason games are injuries and mental mistakes. Physical mistakes are going to happen, but at this point there is no reason for mental mistakes to plague the team.
What impact, if any, will the PED violation suspension of DeMarcus Love, LT, for the first 4 games of the regular season have on the team?
The Vikings are rock solid with bookend offensive tackles in Pro Bowler Matt Kalil and the newly re-signed Phil Loadholt. So right now in camp the offensive tackle position is about depth, and Love is one trying to earn a spot on the depth chart.
With Vikings HC Leslie Frazier preaching the importance of turnovers after a lackluster -1 turnover ratio in 2012, who will step up to lead the turnover charge this season?
The top candidate is Harrison Smith. He returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns last season and also made several other impact plays, from a forced fumble and fumble recovery to breaking up passes by hitting receivers coming across the middle. Smith is solid against the run, but it’ll be excited to see him develop his ball-hawking skills.
What are the general expectations for the Vikings in 2013 amongst fans, the team and the media?
I can only speak for myself on this topic, and I have high expectations for this group. The Vikings were one game shy of winning the division last year, and this year’s roster is even better. The passing game will be improved because of more talent at receiver and another year of progression from Ponder, the pass defense will be better because of the addition of Xavier Rhodes, another year of development from Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson and an already respected pass rush that features Jared Allen coming from right defensive end. I would put the Vikings special teams group up against anyone, and I think they, too, will be improved from last year. The goal for this year’s Vikings team should be to win the division and make its fourth playoff appearance in six seasons.
Special thanks to Mr. Mike Wobschall for providing insight into what should be an exciting pre-season matchup for the Houston Texans versus the Minnesota Vikings. All of us are so ready for the return of football and with so much change in store for the Texans’ opponent, we’ll definitely be watching both sides of the ball when either the Texans offense or defense is on the field. Follow Mike on Twitter at @wobby and at www.Vikings.com.