If nothing else, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has one thing going for him right now: He’s a career 6-0 in preseason games. Minnesota beat Tampa Bay 26-16 Saturday night in the Vikings’ first of two preseason games at TCF Bank Stadium.
Yes, the result means nothing and it doesn’t count. But the means to the result is what the focus remains on as the Vikings get ready for the year. They were dealt a big blow with a major injury, and the defense got tested by Jameis Winston’s NFL debut.READ MORE: Minnesota Lawmaker Seeks Donations To Help Family Charged In Jan. 6 Insurrection
There are still three more preseason games left and plenty can change in the next month, but here are seven takeaways from Saturday’s preseason victory.
Phil Loadholt Tears Achilles Tendon
If the Vikings are going to be a playoff team this year, they’ll have to get there without right tackle Phil Loadholt. On the third play from scrimmage Saturday, Loadholt tore his left Achilles tendon and will have to have season-ending surgery. That’s a major blow to the Vikings’ offensive line. It’ll be a team effort to make up for his absence, but the Vikings will also need rookie T.J. Clemmings to be ready. He likely will start Week 1 at San Francisco.
Cordarrelle Patterson Emerging At Wide Receiver
Cordarrelle Patterson hadn’t done much yet in the preseason, so his performance Saturday night was somewhat refreshing but also frustrating. He caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill in the second quarter. His other catch went for eight yards, but he then got called for a taunting penalty after jawing with the defender he caught the ball over. He’s in his third season and it’s considered a make-or-break year. Sometimes it’s better to let your play do the talking.
Eric Kendricks Making Plays At Linebacker
It took a little while for Eric Kendricks to get on the field, but he was making plays all over when the coaches gave him a chance. Kendricks finished Saturday’s win with five tackles, two for a loss, a quarterback sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection. If he keeps playing like that, he’ll make the team and get playing time at linebacker.
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Teddy Bridgewater Making More Plays
Teddy Bridgewater got better from his first preseason game and appears to be getting more comfortable running the Vikings’ offense with every week. On Saturday, he was 7-of-8 passing for 86 yards in two series. One of the drives ended with a field goal.
Vikings First Team Defense Shines Again
The Vikings first-team defense still hasn’t had every player on the field, and it has yet to allow an offensive touchdown in two games. Tampa Bay scored a touchdown late in the first half, but the Vikings had a mix of first and second-team defensive players on the field at the time. The top unit had Jameis Winston scrambling, sacked him twice and forced him into an interception.
Shaun Hill Proving To Be Capable Backup QB
The Vikings were looking for an insurance policy for Teddy Bridgewater when they signed Shaun Hill to be the back-up quarterback. So far, the move appears to be paying off. Hill was 8-of-9 passing for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He used a pump fake to get Patterson wide open in the end zone, and also connected a short pass to Adam Thielen for a 15-yard touchdown where Thielen did most of the work. Hill will need to be ready because as Bridgewater learned last year playing behind Matt Cassel, you’re only one injury away from playing.
Blair Walsh Looking Great Early After Some 2014 Struggles
Blair Walsh looked like a lock to make any field goal he kicked in his rookie season. He came back to reality a bit last year, making just 5-of-9 field goals of 50 yards or more. He also made 7-of-9 last year from 40 to 49 yards. In Saturday’s win over Tampa Bay, he connected on field goals of 46 and 42 yards and also made two long extra points. In the preseason win over the Steelers, he also made two long extra points. Having Walsh be a consistent kicker this year will help take the pressure off Bridgewater and the offense in general, especially in late-game situations.MORE NEWS: Apartments Evacuated After Fire In South Minneapolis
The Vikings still have three preseason games left, including hosting the Oakland Raiders Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium. If they continue to improve, the optimism around the team and the season will only get bigger.