Football is back in Minnesota, and the regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, Saturday’s contest against the Denver Broncos was less than exciting. The final score of 33-6 certainly does us no justice, but there’s plenty of takeaways from the Vikings Preseason Week 1.
Sitting 30 Players Makes You Look Awful in the Preseason
Believe it or not, when your team is actively sitting every starter on offense and defense, it may be tough to show some flashes. While Denver did not play many starters themselves, the difference in talent between their 1s and 2s and our 2s and 3s was clear.
Denver already has a tough defense, but when fringe starters are playing against an entire squad of backups and training camp fillers, it is going to look rough. The good news from this, if any, is that the young guys got some good experience.
Questions at QB2
Jake Browning, a Vikings 2020 practice squad player, started the game in at QB for Minnesota. With his impressive spurts in camp, many were led to believe he would be QB2 for the Vikings. However, his struggles to piece together any positives on Saturday hurt that case.
Kellen Mond, coming off of just three days of practice, only offered a little more excitement. While he made some plays with his legs, the Vikings found no rhythm in the passing game. Completing only six of his 16 attempts, he often appeared on a different page than his receivers. Perhaps with more practice, we will start to see a report in action.
The Trenches Are Not Fixed Yet
Minnesota’s key issues last season were an inability to compete in the trenches. The offensive line couldn’t stop a pass rush, and the defensive line could not form one. In Saturday’s contest, that trend continued.
While they only gave up one sack, there was a reason that Mond had the opportunity to make plays with his legs. He was under pressure often, and that is a scary sight to see after 2020’s woes. However, as bad as Dakota Dozier looked, it was good to see Wyatt Davis performing well. Perhaps there is a competition at right guard after all.
On defense, the line struggled to find any pressure at all. I was excited to see DJ Wonnum play some backup-level competition and the return of Kenny Willekes, but there was not much to see. Once again, I have to emphasize the talent disparity due to all of the rested players, but still an unfortunate sight.
The Secondary Backups Were Up and Down
Kris Boyd, a third-year corner, showed up to play on Saturday. While he may have been one of the few Vikings who really shined, it was an awesome sight. With a few great plays on Broncos star WR Jerry Jeudy, the depth at corner is looking nice.
While Dantzler certainly did not look as great as we all hoped, I believe some of the backlash is unwarranted. In the deep, blown coverage against KJ Hamler, it was clear that Dantzler was supposed to have safety help. Instead, Bynum got caught up heading downfield and gave up his inside presence. Dantzler was still slightly out of position, but not an 80-yard TD out of position.
Aside from the TD, Bynum played solid, getting in on seven total tackles. Myles Dorn pushed hard for a roster spot, showing flashes in both run and pass defense. If the communication was there, this game would have been much closer.
The Vikings Backfield is LOADED
The Vikings came into the season with arguably a top-five running back duo already. After Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison are where the room gets interesting. Ameer Abdullah, the team’s former return specialist, is now playing the ultimate gadget role for the Vikings. In fact, he looks as explosive as ever and may have held onto a roster spot.
It was undrafted rookie AJ Rose that really put the league on notice though. With 118 yards on 26 touches, the former Kentucky Wildcat proved that he can handle a workload. He also showed a noticeable toughness and a little wiggle in his cuts. He may not make the cut in Minnesota’s deep room, but he earned a spot with someone else on Saturday.
It is not time to panic in Minnesota. Unfortunately, I have seen plenty of fans spew the “Fire Zimmer” line. While there are some plausible reasons to move on from the head coach, none of them include dropping a meaningless game down without the best 30 players on the team.
This team played one of the deepest defenses in the league with an offense of backups and rookies. Trust me, it is not representative of the entire season just yet. Let us evaluate the next two weeks of the preseason before we get ahead of ourselves.