Vikings’ offense has been rough with Peterson out

Through their first two preseason games, the best performance

from Minnesota’s first-team offense has been by rookie punter Jeff

Locke.

The Vikings haven’t done much well in these exhibition games

yet. Each incompletion by Christian Ponder or three-and-out series

by the unit has only heightened concerns whether this team can be

balanced enough to build off last year’s playoff appearance.

Even when the wins and losses don’t matter, decent showings will

somewhat appease the fans, soften the skepticism of the analysts,

and most importantly give the coaches and players confidence in a

chemistry carry-over to the regular season.

”Yeah, there would be some reason for concern if we don’t do

certain things that we’ve set out to get accomplished in this

ballgame, or any ballgame,” coach Leslie Frazier said on

Wednesday.

The Vikings are at San Francisco on Sunday, and most of the

starters are expected to play into the third quarter. But before

this becomes an anxiety-raising, must-thrive event, there’s a

critical fact to point out about the way the offense bumbled

through the first two games.

”I was coming off the sideline saying, `Oh, my gosh, what are

we doing?”’ wide receiver Greg Jennings said. ”Like, we were

struggling. And then I saw this guy on the sideline that had this

`28′ jersey on, and he wasn’t dressed, and I’m like `Oh, yeah. I

forgot. We don’t have a big part of our offense out here that draws

a lot of attention.’ So this week will be a lot better.”

Assessing a team without the league’s rushing leader and Most

Valuable Player is hardly worth it, especially considering the way

the Vikings revolve around their star running back Adrian Peterson.

This week against the 49ers, the plan is for Peterson to be on the

field.

”If you’re an offensive player, we definitely want to take some

steps forward,” Peterson said.

The Vikings have averaged only 14 first downs and 276 yards over

the first two games, though that includes all of the time logged by

backups and long shots trying to make the team. Ponder is 6 for 14

for 68 yards and one interception. His passer rating is 28.3.

So this next exhibition will be a valuable opportunity for

Ponder to continue trying to establish a rhythm with Jennings,

rookie Cordarrelle Patterson and the rest of his receivers. Don’t

expect a polished product either, Jennings said.

”Kinks will never completely be ironed out,” he said. ”There

will always be a new wrinkle that we put in that we’re going to be

trying to perfect. Just our relationship, our chemistry, we’re

going to try to perfect that forever.”

NOTES: The finalists for the punt returner role are incumbent

Marcus Sherels and fellow CB Bobby Felder, according to special

teams coordinator Mike Priefer. The Vikings have been grooming

Patterson for that job, too, but they’re trying to narrow his focus

for now. … DT Sharrif Floyd’s minor left knee operation went

fine, Frazier said, and he’s expected to be ready for the first

week of the regular season. … In addition to Floyd and FB Jerome

Felton, who’s out for the rest of August recovering from an

appendectomy, the only other significant player held out of

practice Wednesday was WR Jarius Wright (concussion symptoms).

AP NFL website: http://pro32.ap.org

Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP