Rookies Contribute To Minnesota Vikings’ Season Opening Win
The Minnesota Vikings selected 10 players in 2012 NFL draft. Eight made the opening roster, another was placed on the season-ending injury reserve list and another was released.
The team also kept a free agent with no NFL experience and claimed a late round 2012 draft pick off waivers.
In total, the Vikings began the 2012 season with 10 rookies.
Five of the 10 rookies got on the score sheet in the season opening 26-23 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Mall of America Field. Three of the other five were placed on the inactive list prior to the game and one is the third-string quarterback.
First round draft pick Matt Kalil started at left tackle. He helped the Vikings’ offensive line keep quarterback Christian Ponder upright.
The Jaguars list Andre Branch and Aaron Morgan as its two right defensive ends (the ones generally lined up opposite the left tackle) on the depth chart on its website. The two young ends combined for one tackle (that by the rookie Branch) and nothing else.
According to ESPN.com’s box score of the game, the Jaguars recorded just one hit on Ponder, in addition to one rush attempt and two sacks. That means of the 58 total plays from Sunday, Ponder had to pick himself off the turf just four times.
If Ponder remains that clean most of the season, the Vikings will be successful.
The other first round draft pick, safety Harrison Smith, also earned a starting spot. He made his presence felt in the secondary with seven tackles (third on the team), three solo. He made his biggest contribution by forcing an incomplete pass by Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert on third down in overtime.
The Vikings drafted cornerback Josh Robinson in the third round of the 2012 draft because of his speed and zone coverage ability. He missed a lot of training camp repetitions because of an injury. He was not in the starting lineup, but had four solo tackles and garnered playing time as the game progressed. He did not force any incomplete passes, but still outperformed the two starters.
The only rookie that did not heavily factor into the outcome was tight end Rhett Ellison. The fourth round draft pick did not make a catch and only got on the score sheet with a late second quarter special teams tackle.
Lastly, the hero of the game: sixth round draft pick Blair Walsh. The kicker was called upon to make a 55-yard field goal as time expired to tie the game. He nailed the kick right down the middle with some extra distance. He finished the game 4-4 on field goals and 2-2 on extra points.
The Vikings will not admit it is in rebuilding mode, but any time you intentionally overhaul your roster with younger players, you are rebuilding.
The Vikings need its rookies to continue their development and get even better as the season progresses. This season’s rookies will determine how quickly the rebuild turns into fruition.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.