With every passing week in the preseason, we start to get more of a feel about which players may make a splash and how a team may perform as a whole for the upcoming year. Although Adrian Peterson did not play in this game, the Vikings and Bills did show us some things to keep an eye on for both next week and for the regular season.
1. The Vikings Offensive Line Needs Work
As I mentioned above, Adrian Peterson did not play in this game. Obviously his absence will always have a tremendous impact on how the Minnesota offense will perform, but with that being said, the line needs to play better. There were a few bad snaps which did not help, but the bigger concern is that the Buffalo defense was able to put consistent pressure on Christian Ponder and Matt Cassell.
2. Buffalo Needs To Watch the Penalties
The Bills racked up 14 total penalties for a total of 106 yards on Friday night and that is simply too much if Buffalo has any aspirations of having a successful season. Although the defense played well in pressuring the Minnesota quarterbacks, there were too many offisdes and pass interference infractions that need to be cleaned up prior to the regular season.
3. Doug Marrone Will Utilize His Running Backs
New offenisve coordinator Nathanial Hackett said that he would give C.J. Spiller the ball "until he throws up" and in the first quarter, that sure looked to be the case. Head coach Doug Marrone was not thrilled with Hackett's comment but the running game sure looked like a point of emphasis that the Bills wanted to make. Chan Gailey was heavily criticized for being too pass happy and it seems Marrone will not make that mistake.
4. The Vikings Will Not Win With Christian Ponder
I'm not sure if we learned this one tonight, but it seemed to confirm the feeling sentiment that Christian Ponder needs to be better if Minnesota is to be a Super Bowl contender, Again, with Adrian Peterson not playing on Friday it is hard to properly gauge how the Minnesota offense will perform this year, but despite the greatness of Peterson, the Vikings will need to be able to pass the ball consistently if they want to have a chance at winning a championship. Either Ponder needs to take the next step or the play-calling needs to let Ponder loose a little more. Enough with the "dinks and dunks."
5. EJ Manuel Will Be The Starter For Buffalo on Week 1
Kevin Kolb played well at the end of the first half, but first round draft pick E.J. Manuel will be the starter on week 1. First, he has the ability to beat you with his legs, giving the opposing defense another dimension to worry about and is a good fit with the style of offense that Doug Marrone wants to employ. Second, he has shown good poise thus far and looks like he will only get better with each passing week. Sure he will have some bumps in the road as a rookie, but his ceiling looks to be very high.
Some other notes:
-Rookie wide receiver Robert Woods looked good in the role of punt returner. With fellow rookie Marquise Goodwin looking good in the kick return game last week, the Buffalo special teams looks to be one of the strenghts of the team.
-Wide receiver Marcus Easley played well again. The Bills are looking for a complement to Stevie Johnson and the 6' 2" Easley may fill that role. Combine Easley with an impressive rookie class and the Bills suddenly look like they have a soild receiving corps.
-Minnesota rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson took a step back in Friday's game, but being a rookie, this isn't too much of a concern, We may learn more about Patterson next week.