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Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Most fans look to preseason game number three to be the truest of preseason tests for their team. The starters on both sides usually play into the third quarter and the hope is that you are able to get a feel for what the upcoming season will bring. The Minnesota Vikings however are hoping that Friday night's game is as far from what they'll see in the regular season as possible.
With San Diego scratching 18 players (including most of their stars) before opening kickoff, the Vikings were largely going up against the Chargers backups right off the gate. Unfortunately, the final score didn't reflect such a lopsided affair.
Christian Ponder and the Vikings first team offense struggled against a mediocre Chargers defensive unit. The first-teamers played through the entire first half and into the second quarter but were only able to muster up 158 yards of offense, two first downs, three points and three turnovers.
Ponder's line? 9-for-16 passing for 115 yards, one interception and was sacked five times.
"We never really got a rhythm," Ponder said after the game. "When we get the ball first in a game, it's always important for us to set a tone and not only did we go three and out on the first drive but on the second drive as well and started off with an incompletion on the very first play. That set the tone for us the rest of the game."
Turnovers were the name of the game for the Vikings demise on Friday. With cut-day looming and a pivotal competition going on for the third-string running back, all three candidates (Lex Hilliard, Matt Asiata and Derrick Coleman) put the ball on the ground costing the Vikings at least three Blair Walsh field goal attempts.
"It's frustrating when we only put three points on the board," Ponder continued. "Four turnovers and penalties at inopportune times, it makes it tough to overcome...It was a little disappointing. It just shows that we have a lot to work on. We wish we would have performed like we did the first two weeks but we know we have that capability to do so we just have to get better."
At the end of the day the Vikings fell to the Chargers 12-10.
Five DBs go Down as Injuries riddle Vikings' Secondary...
Starting with Mistral Raymond's (back) late scratch during pregame warmups, the Vikings secondary took a big hit health wise on Friday night. CB Marcus Sherels, the team's current number one punt returner, sprained his ankle sometime in the first half, rookie CB Josh Robinson left the game in the second quarter with a concussion, S Eric Frampton strained his groin and second-year safety Andrew Sendejo tweaked what appeared to be his knee late in the game and was carted into the locker room. Add in a Rhett Ellison knee on the offensive side of the ball and you've got a battered bunch heading into Cut-Week and the final preseason game.
For a little good news, Chris Cook has passed his concussion test and is expected to be back on the practice field Monday with his teammates. Rookie safety Robert Blanton is also healthy enough to play in the fourth preseason game and the Vikings are looking to get veteran tight end John Carlson back on the field Thursday in Houston as well.
We Have a Jasper Brinkley Sighting!
After two weeks of being fed the company line that Jasper Brinkley was still knocking some of the rust off after missing all of the 2011 season, Brinkley stepped up against San Diego and made his presence felt. At the end of the day, the Vikings starting middle linebacker took to the sidelines with four tackles and two sacks.
"Jasper seemed like he played a lot better," Coach Frazier said after the game. "He was more aggressive, he seemed like he was out there having fun, kind of letting go a little bit...He made a lot of plays tonight so that should help his confidence. It was inspiring to see him play as aggressive as he did."
Both Brinkley and wheel linebacker Erin Henderson made their presence felt Friday night. Their uptick in performance should put a little more confidence in the minds of Vikings coaches heading into week one against Jacksonville.
Harrison Smith's "Big Hit" Could be Costly in More Ways Than One...
Playing out of necessity in the fourth quarter of Friday night's game, rookie safety Harrison Smith laid a big hit on Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie. The hit ended up being deemed illegal costing the Vikings 15-yards on what would turn out to be the game-winning drive for the San Diego Chargers. In watching it back, the hit may end up costing Smith more than 15-yards in a penalties.
The replay clearly shows that while Smith did not lead with his helmet, he did leave the ground resulting in a likely fine for launching himself at a defenseless receiver.
"My shoulder hurts pretty bad," Smith said in the locker room. "I thought maybe I was going to go for the ball and then I realized maybe I should go for the hit. I kind of got caught in the middle there. I wish I didn't get the penalty...It's easy to watch on T.V. and say 'you should have hit him here or there,' but when you're out there it happens fast."
The hit will likely wind up costing somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000 as the League Office continues to crack down on dangerous hits.
Third-String Running Backs Left the Door WIDE OPEN with Three Cases of Fumble-itis...
With Adrian Peterson's status still very much up in the air, the competition behind Toby Gerhart for what will be the third-running back position continues to be a tight race. In reality, these gentlemen are currently fighting to be the backup running back in the NFL and three of the four in the mix put the ball on the ground Friday Night.
Lex Hilliard was the first one up and he finished his night with two rushes for two yards and a fumble just outside of the redzone. Then came Matt Asiata, a converted fullback getting some run at RB. Asiata flashed in the fourth quarter last week and looked good again Friday night rushing nine times for 48 yards. But Asiata struggled to protect the ball as well, fumbling on San Diego's three-yardline. Que Derrick Coleman. Coleman carried the ball eight times for 15 yards with one of those eight carries falling out and into the hands of a Charger defenseman.
I'd be remiss if I didn't note that Jordan Todman, a wild card due to an ankle injury that caused him to miss most of Training Camp, also carried the rock Friday night. His total? A whopping two carries for seven yards.
With Cut-Day right around the quarter, none of these guys did themselves any favors. Don't be surprised is you see one of these four gone by Monday's cut deadline.
Blair Walsh Continues to Let Questions Linger on Accuracy Issues...
For a second consecutive week, Blair Walsh missed a field goal leaving room for questions surrounding the consistency and accuracy of the rookie kicker out of Georgia. Last week the miss came from 49 yards and was pushed right, this week it was from 45-yards and swung wide left. There's no question about his power but the Vikings put a lot of faith into this kid when they drafted him in the sixth round and subsequently released veteran kicker Ryan Longwell.
Cut-Day is Looming...
Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman are planning to sit down Saturday to discuss the Vikings first rounds of cuts that coach said will likely be announced by Saturday night. The Vikings will have to cut their roster by 15 players down to 75 by Monday at 3:00pm central and then again down to 53-players by Friday, August 31st by 8:00pm central time zone. Many of these players will not be a surprise but there is always one bigger name that slips through the cracks and is released with the first wave of cuts.
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. @AjMansourKFAN