Access Vikings

Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


270204211

Vikings 4 Downs: Walsh, Ponder, Mauti, red zone offense

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 18th at 11:59am 271687491

Every Monday, we’ll take four questions from Twitter for our weekly mailbag using the #VikingsST hashtag.

Even though it’s preseason, there should be some level of concern. He should’ve made the extra point, but it won’t be a 33-yard attempt during the regular season. PATs will be chip shots again this season, probably for the last time, with the ball spotted at the 2.

However, Walsh is 0 for 2 on attempts over 50 yards so far. He sailed a 53-yard kick wide right against the Raiders and hit the left upright on a 51-yarder against the Cardinals on Saturday. The concern is that both misses occurred at home in a new stadium in Walsh’s first two opportunities to gain confidence on 50-yard field goals at TCF Bank Stadium.

Walsh went 2 for 5 on field goals over 50 yards last season after setting an NFL record his rookie season going 10 for 10 on kicks over 50 yards. He set the bar so high that the recent string of missed field goals makes you wonder if it’s mental at this point. Walsh has looked good at practice and drilled this 70-yard field goal during warmups, but it hasn’t translated on the field yet in preseason.

Quarterback Christian Ponder didn’t play against the Cardinals, which was part of head coach Mike Zimmer’s plan entering the game. Matt Cassel played the entire first half with Teddy Bridgewater finishing the game. With the move, the Vikings appear comfortable using Bridgewater as the backup if Cassel wins the starting job.

They should keep Ponder on the roster unless the Vikings find a trade partner. He’s still a valuable backup, and general manager Rick Spielman can get a head start on piling up draft picks for the upcoming draft with whatever he can get for Ponder. It doesn’t make sense to cut him knowing that other teams like the 49ers don’t have a solid backup option.

Yes, linebacker Michael Mauti is on the bubble and in danger of not making the team. He received just nine snaps on defense, while rookie Brandon Watts, who is ahead of Mauti on the depth chart at weakside linebacker, had 33 snaps against the Cardinals.

During his first season as a defensive coordinator with the Cowboys in 2000, the Falcons in 2007 and the Bengals in 2008, Zimmer carried six linebackers on the roster into Week 1. It’s a different situation as a head coach with a different group of players, but it’s not a good sign for Mauti that he didn’t play much in the second preseason game. If Zimmer decides to keep six linebackers, Mauti appears to be the odd man out behind Watts, Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole.

The Vikings first team offense should’ve had a red zone touchdown against the Cardinals, but tight end Kyle Rudolph dropped a great throw from Cassel. It also settled for a field goal right before the first half ended, advancing 35 yards in seven plays.

While it didn’t score a red zone touchdown, the offense looked good. It shouldn’t be a concern, especially something this specific during the preseason. Most of your worries should be on the other side of the ball at this point and probably throughout the season.

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