Notebook: Receiver situation cloudy

Devin Aromashodu (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)

The Vikings entered the preseason with several positions up for grabs, but no one has emerged as the clear-cut answer for Jerome Simpson's replacement at split end. Plus, the offensive line reacts to five sacks surrendered, Harrison Smith explains his penalized hit, the linebackers made plays, the replacement officials are criticized, a big donation and much more.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier went into Friday night's game looking for some clarity to emerge at the receiver position. Consider it as clear as mud as the first round of roster cuts arrive by Monday.

Most likely, the Vikings won't release any off their top seven receivers as they continue to search for a fill-in replacement for Jerome Simpson, who will serve a three-game suspension starting with the season opener on Sept. 9.

"We saw some good things from Devin (Aromashodu); we think we know what Michael Jenkins is going to give us," Frazier said after Friday's 12-10 loss in which 12 players combined for 21 receptions.

Aromashodu had been targeted nine times in the first two preseason games but didn't have a catch. That changed Friday night when he caught all three of his targets for 28 yards.

Jenkins caught one of the three passes that headed his way, but no receiver had more than Aromashodu's three receptions.

One possibility for helping in Simpson's absence is second-year pro Stephen Burton, who is more of a big-bodied target than deep threat. He had three catches on four targets in the first two preseason games, but he wasn't the object of any of the quarterback's passes Friday.

"I'll go back and look at the tape, but he didn't do anything to separate himself from any of the other receivers from my observation on the sideline," Frazier said. "We'll look at the tape and see how he did blocking and how he did running routes."

The Vikings didn't use Jarius Wright much on offense, preferring to see what he could do if he concentrated on returning punts. He returned two punts for 29 yards, including a 24-yarder. Incumbent returner Marcus Sherels returned two for 5 yards before spraining an ankle that could make that position battle interesting heading into the regular season.

Percy Harvin saw his most extensive action of the preseason, being targeted six times and catching two passes for 53 yards, including a 40-yard, over-the-shoulder grab. However, he also had an uncharacteristic drop that might have resulted in a touchdown.

"We're going to spread the field out a lot this year. We're throwing those passes and connecting. Christian threw a great ball. That was me. We'll get that," Harvin said.

"I just kind of lost it with the lighting and the top (of the Metrodome). Like I said, he threw a great ball. If he throws the ball like that, we are going to be alright."

Harvin said he doesn't think there is pressure to find a replacement for Simpson, but he said Jenkins' legs look as fresh as they have since the veteran joined the Vikings last year after the NFL lockout of players was lifted.

Harvin will be the clear No. 1 receiver option when the season opens, but whether it is Jenkins, Aromashodu, Burton or a free-agent option to be found on the waiver wire in the coming week, the Vikings still haven't completely settled on Simpson's fill-in.

"We're still trying to determine which guy is going to step up and be that replacement," Frazier said. "I don't think we could say we answered that (Friday) night."

BLOCKING ISSUES

Vikings quarterbacks were sacked five times and Christian Ponder took all of them. He also took credit for the sacks and defended his offensive line.

"It goes both ways," rookie left tackle Matt Kalil said. "It could be me getting off my block or setting too tight. It just takes time and a little chemistry to work that out. We will be fine. Going to hit the film Sunday and get back at it. We have nothing to worry about."

Right guard Brandon Fusco, who has started all three preseason games, also put a similarly optimistic spin on the protection issues.

"I think it was a good little tune-up for us and then get ready for Jacksonville. We're not where we've got to be yet," he said. "We're getting there. We're starting to jell."

Fusco said the issues the offensive line had were sometimes getting beat physically and other time communication issues.

"It was a little of both, I think. We're out there communicating the stunts and blitzes. We had different looks a couple times that we were confused on," he said. "That's the stuff we've got to get in the film room and clean up and we'll be fine."

HARRISON'S HIT

Safety Harrison Smith could be in line for a fine from the NFL after going high with his shoulder during a hit on receiver Mike Willie, who appeared to be in a defenseless position by the NFL definition.

"I thought maybe I could go for the ball, then I realized I should go for the hit, so I kind of got caught in the middle. I wish I didn't get the penalty. Maybe I could have played it differently. I'll watch the film," Smith said.

"It's easy to watch on TV and say you should hit him here or there. When you're out there, it happens fast. Like I said, I'll just watch the film and see what happens."

Smith said his shoulder was hurting after the hit, but with a safety position that was without rookie Robert Blanton (hamstring) and Mistral Raymond (lower back) to start the game and lost Eric Frampton (groin) and Andrew Sendejo (ankle) during the game, Harrison was still in the game in the fourth quarter.

DEFENSE STEPS UP

To look at the overall numbers, the Vikings defense wasn't the problem. It gave up two first downs rushing and 13 overall, held the Chargers to 3-for-16 on third downs and held the two San Diego quarterbacks to a combined 60.8 passer rating.

"For me, I feel the defense is light years ahead of the first preseason game with (defensive coordinator Alan) Williams," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "He had a lot to say about the way we played and the yardage we gave up, and we understood it. We didn't get down on ourselves and we decided to keep plugging away and that's what we will keep doing as the season continues."

The linebackers played reasonably well Friday night. Henderson led the team with five tackles and Jasper Brinkley had four tackles, three quarterback hurries and two sacks.

"We are kind of tired of hearing the people in the media and all of their stuff that they have to say, but we won't hold it against you guys," Henderson said. "We know what we have going on in this locker room and this organization, in our linebacker corps as well, and just continue to play our way. Like I said, it's a long season and a lot more games to play together, and just sit back and watch and see how it all plays out."

WARREN'S BIG DONATION

Kevin Warren, the Vikings' vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer and the highest-ranking African-American business executive with an NFL team, and his wife Greta will donate 650 backpacks filled with school supplies to Lucy Craft Laney Community School.

Warren will distribute the backpacks at 9:15 a.m. on the first day of school. Additional school supplies for the full school year will also be made available for all students. The donation comes as part of the Warren family's broader commitment to "adopt" Lucy Laney, a school that is predominantly African-American and has 98 percent of its student population coming from underserved communities.

"Hearing that school supplies are considered a luxury rather than a necessity (at Lucy Craft Laney), I was clearly reminded how fortunate and blessed my family is," said Warren. "My recent visit moved me and my wife to act and make a commitment to Lucy Laney and the Minneapolis community."

REPLACEMENT REACTION

There is no doubt the replacement officials blew several calls that were overturned by replay and messed up naming which player got penalties and how the ball was spotted.

Still, NFL teams were told by the league to refrain from criticizing the officials.

That didn't stop punter Chris Kluwe from revealing his thoughts on Twitter.

"The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs," Kluwe tweeted. "These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing."

The Vikings' official Twitter account had a critical message posted on it during the game.

"Reggie Jones makes a great play at corner but somehow is flagged for PI ... Total joke," one Vikings employee wrote.

NOTES

  • Raymond didn't suit up for the Vikings after suffering lower back pain in pregame warm-ups. Jamarca Sanford was expected to get the start anyways, but the safety depth was a concern after the game with Raymond, Blanton, Frampton and Sendejo all out with injuries.

  • Blair Walsh's leg was on display once again during pregame warm-ups. He hit from 55, 59, 61 twice and 63 yards before hitting the crossbar from 65 yards and coming up short two more times from 65. However, in the game, he missed his first attempt from 45 yards wide left.

  • The Vikings had nine players inactive heading into the game: WR Kamar Jorden (hand), CB Chris Cook (concussion), RB Adrian Peterson (knee), S Mistral Raymond (lower back), FB Ryan D'Imperio (unkown), G Bridger Buche (shoulder), G Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia), TE John Carlson (knee) and DT Letroy Guion (knee).

  • Frazier said the Vikings expect to have Cook back on Monday. It could be longer before Carlson returns to practice.

  • In addition, eight others didn't play: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, S Robert Blanton (hamstring), CB Chris Stroud, LB Larry Dean, G Grant Cook, T DeMarcus Love (shoulder), T Levi Horn, WR A.J. Love.

  • TE Rhett Ellison got hit on the knee and will have an MRI performed.

  • CB Marcus Sherels sprained his ankle, but it was unclear how severe the sprain was.

  • CB Josh Robinson suffered a concussion, according to Frazier.

  • The coaching staff and personnel department will meet Saturday to begin discussing roster decisions. The Vikings are required to cut the roster from 90 players to 75 by 3 p.m. Central Monday. Most likely those cuts will be made before the Vikings gather for practice Sunday.

    Trimming the roster to the regular-season maximum of 53 players has be done by 8 p.m. Central Aug. 31.

  • Toby Gerhart, Brinkley and Jamarca Sanford were the captains.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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