In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It’s hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I’m sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Lions preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.
As I was sitting in my hotel room in Detroit watching college football on Saturday evening, I thought I’d try to cover a few more bases and provide a few final thoughts on the Vikings season opener against the Lions.
-- The Vikings return all five starting offensive linemen from last year’s team. The Detroit Lions are not doing the same. Detroit’s offensive line now includes three new starters from last year’s group. Gone are longtime left tackle Jeff Backus, right tackle Gosder Cherilus and veteran right guard Stephen Peterman. Those three started a combined 138 out of a possible 144 games since 2010. In their place are four-year veteran Jason Fox at right tackle, nine-year veteran Dylan Gandy at right guard and second-year player Riley Reiff at left tackle. Fox has never started a game in the NFL, Gandy hasn’t started since 2009 and Reiff is looking to hold down a starting spot after seeing occasional time on the field as a rookie. This isn’t to say this group of blockers can’t come together and play well, but offensive lines rely on continuity and chemistry and you have to wonder how much of that has been developed with this group.
-- For his career, Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has averaged 4.3 receptions and 42.3 receiving yards per game. But for his career against the Vikings (eight games), Pettigrew has averaged a full catch more (5.3) per game and 49.3 receiving yards per game. Even more, in his last four games against the Vikings Pettigrew is averaging 6.8 catches and 67.0 receiving yards per game with two touchdowns. Also, 17 of Pettigrew’s last 27 receptions against the Vikings have been for a 1st down or a touchdown. The point is, the Vikings have had a hard time containing the 6-5. 265-pound playmaker and in order to win today they should probably reverse those fortunes.
-- Detroit rookie punter Sam Martin had a great preseason punting. He had 24 punts in the four exhibition games, with 10 of them inside the 20 and eight of them fair caught. Also, Martin ranked second in the NFL with a 42.2 net average during the preseason. Martin is also their kickoff specialist. Detroit registered 12 touchbacks on 25 kickoffs, so there’s no guarantee that Vikings returner
-- A key free agent signing for Detroit this offseason was safety Glover Quin. We saw him last season in the Week 16 matchup at Houston, where Quin was a key member of the Texans defense. In that game, Quin led Houston with 10 tackles, and three of them were for a loss. Now Quin teams with another quality safety – Louis Delmas – to form a talented tandem on the Lions defense. Both Delmas and Quin are elite against the run, so the Vikings will have to be aware of their location on every snap. With Delmas coming off a knee injury, the Vikings may be wise to test him deep early in the game. But I would stay away from testing Quin too often because eventually he’s going to find a way to make a play.
-- Ziggy Ansah, the No. 5 overall pick in last April’s draft, got his career off to a fast start when he intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass and returned it for a touchdown in the Lions preseason opener. But then on August 24 he suffered a concussion and was held out of action up until this past week. Ansah finished the week taking part in practice and is expected to play today. Ansah will play right defensive end and is expected to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. His first test in the NFL is a good one – Vikings left tackle