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Updated: August 15th, 2010 4:37pm
Who's up and who's down after preseason opener?

Who's up and who's down after preseason opener?

by Tom Pelissero
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Quarterbacks Sage Rosenfels and Joe Webb stole the show on Saturday night, with tight end Garrett Mills one of the main beneficiaries.

Who else helped -- and hurt -- themselves as the battle for roster spots and roles heats up?

Here's the tale of the tape from Saturday's 28-7 win over St. Louis.

Five who helped themselves

LB Erin Henderson: The younger Henderson looked a little like his brother, attacking the line of scrimmage and recording a team-high six tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. He also penetrated to set up a tackle for loss by Brian Robison, stuffed FB Mike Karney for no gain on third-and-1 and pressured QB Thaddeus Lewis into a scramble for no gain late. Coaches are looking at Henderson inside as well as outside -- a sign he's in good position to make the team again as a multi-position backup.

DE Jayme Mitchell: Two sacks were just the start of Mitchell's night. He also provided the pressure that set up a sack for Letroy Guion, batted down a pass and forced RB Chris Ogbonnaya back inside on a failed fourth-and-1 run -- all against RT Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's NFL Draft. Mitchell has stuck with the second string despite the drafting of Everson Griffen and the street signing of Michael Montgomery. Saturday's performance has him a good bet to stick on the roster, too.

RB Darius Reynaud: The converted receiver looked surprisingly comfortable in his first game action at his new position. Reynaud's north-south style on punt returns -- he gained 11 yards on his only chance Saturday -- seems to be translating to the Vikings' zone-run scheme, too. His 3.2-yard average on six carries would look better if he hadn't had 11-yard and 8-yard bursts wiped out by borderline holding penalties. Reynaud's ticket still is on special teams, but don't count him out to carve a role on offense either.

WR Jaymar Johnson: There's no question Johnson has the speed and quickness to be an NFL receiver. The big questions are his hands and route-running -- and he sure looked good on a pair of 19-yard catches at St. Louis. Both came against CB Quincy Butler, who got beat inside on an in-breaking route for Johnson's first catch and couldn't wrap up after a short comeback route on the second, allowing Johnson 10 extra yards. Year 3 can be make it-break it time for receivers, and Johnson is no different. After an up-and-down camp, his preseason performance is off to a good start.

DT Fred Evans: Few players were more invisible in camp than Evans, who ended up relegated to the third team behind DT Letroy Guion. On Saturday, he finally reminded the Vikings why they hung onto him with the second-round restricted tender ($1.759 million) -- albeit against a Rams backup line that wasn't stopping much of anyone. Evans sacked QB Keith Null on a free run, had another tackle for loss and put a hit on Lewis late.

Five who hurt themselves

LT Chris Clark: It's tough to imagine Clark could have been much worse. He was charged with four penalties (two for holding, two false starts), got overpowered for a drive-killing sack by RE George Selvie, whiffed on a block that allowed the Rams to stop RB Toby Gerhart for a loss of 1 and unofficially allowed three quarterback hurries. The Vikings like his feet, and he had a number of good turns in one-on-one blocking drills in camp. But Saturday's performance was so atrocious that Patrick Brown almost surely will replace him immediately as the second-string left tackle. Brown and RT Drew Radovich both held up fine.

S Husain Abdullah: Four days into his Ramadan fast, Abdullah wasn't at his best. He missed arm tackles on the game's first two Rams punt returns -- the latter allowing Danny Amendola to scamper 93 yards for St. Louis' only touchdown -- and also dropped an interception on defense. Not many teams carry five safeties, as the Vikings did last season, and Eric Frampton is a valuable special-teamer as well. So, while Abdullah seems safe as the No. 4 safety for now, he's anything but a lock and needs to earn his keep on coverage units.

OL Ryan Cook: It wasn't a horrible performance by Cook, who played right guard and center, but his inability to hold up against the Rams' reserves was surprising. He appeared lost on two screen passes. He was beaten on two runs gone nowhere. He gave up one QB hit to backup DT Gary Gibson and in essence allowed another by inexplicably snapping the ball on the wrong count. With rookie LG Chris DeGeare seemingly rising and Jon Cooper getting a look as the No. 2 center, Cook's job isn't safe if the Vikings feel they have other options for "swing" players who can handle tackle duties.

WR Taye Biddle: The 26-year-old journeyman has clung to the No. 6 receiver spot throughout camp, but there's a good chance WR Logan Payne will move ahead sooner than later. Biddle dropped one of the three passes thrown his way and couldn't hang onto another when he took a hit at the sideline. Tough catches? Yes, and Payne missed some opportunities on Saturday, too. But while Payne is all grit and guts, Biddle just looks like a guy who'd rather dance on the perimeter. The Vikings have more talented players to do that.

RB Albert Young: The numbers are a little misleading -- six carries for minus-7 yards, with a long of 2 -- on a night the Rams stuffed eight in the box and the Vikings' offensive line wasn't exactly moving people. (To wit: DeGeare went the wrong way on a zone-left run, bumping into Cooper and allowing DT Clifton Ryan to dump Young for a 4-yard loss.) But for a player who is trying to be a change-of-pace back, Young still hasn't shown an ability to turn the corner and always seems to go down on first contact. The Vikings drafted RB Toby Gerhart to be their No. 2 back, and odds remain good he'll end up in that spot eventually.

Up next

The preseason continues on Sunday at San Francisco. Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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