The Minnesota Vikings opened the preseason slate last Thursday with a 17-10 win at Buffalo.
The result, as with any preseason game, means absolutely nothing. The process by which the Vikings got there, though, may give a few indications for how the season could play out.
It’s a huge season for the Vikings as Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl in February. They have a unique opportunity to be the first team in NFL history to play a home game for the biggest game in sports.
Preseason games are, at their core, meaningless. What they are is an opportunity to face somebody in a different jersey, and an opportunity to apply what you’ve worked on in training camp walk-throughs and apply it to an in-game live situation.
There were some things that happened Thursday that should have Vikings fans excited for the season. There are also things that make you wonder if anything has changed since last season’s 8-8 debacle after a 5-0 start. Here are takeaways from Game 1 as the Vikings head to Seattle on Friday.
Dalvin Cook Impressive
The Vikings didn’t’ have a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, but they’re hoping rookie running back Dalvin Cook plays like one. With Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon sitting out, Cook got the start at Buffalo and was impressive. He had a modest five carries for 13 yards, but also had four catches for 30 yards. He got several touches on the first drive of the game, and didn’t look overwhelmed by the opportunity.
Cook looked ready for the moment, and the Vikings are looking for him to build off that. The hope is that Murray and Cook provide a hefty 1-2 punch for the Vikings’ run game this season.
Offensive Line Still Shaky
Sure, Riley Reiff didn’t play, but the Vikings aren’t using that as an excuse. The offensive line didn’t play very well against Buffalo, and things must change before the games count and the New Orleans Saints come to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 11. Sam Bradford was sacked on the opening series after a missed assignment by Mike Remmers. He was sacked again on the second series. His action was limited, but Bradford looked to check down and throw a short pass on almost every pass play. Was that because nobody was open, or because the offensive line didn’t give him enough time to survey his receivers?
If there’s one area where the Vikings need a vast improvement this season, it’s along the offensive line. Not only do they need to establish the run game after being one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL last year, but they need to be able to take shots down the field. Bradford needs to have enough time to drop back, look at the secondary and throw downfield for big plays. He needs to know that he’ll have time so he doesn’t just do the short, dump-off throws he did last year so he avoids taking a big hit. It’s frustrating for Bradford to not be able to take chances, and it’s boring for fans to watch.
But if Bradford gets hurt or the Vikings can’t run the ball consistently, the offense is in major trouble.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) August 11, 2017
Griffen Gets Sack In First Game
Everson Griffen showed up to Mankato and signed a contract extension that essentially solidifies him finishing his career with the Minnesota Vikings. And he didn’t take long to make his presence known on the field. Griffen sacked Tyrod Taylor last Thursday for his only tackle of the game before getting the night off. Tashawn Bower and Jaleel Johnson also had sacks against Buffalo.
The Vikings are expecting big things from Griffen at defensive end this year after finishing the 2016 season with 48 tackles, including 36 solo tackles and eight sacks. He’s one of the top defensive ends in the NFC, and the Vikings will need him to play like it if they want to be a playoff team and beyond.
.@casekeenum7 finished last night’s game 11/16 for 121 yards and a 90.9 rating.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) August 11, 2017
Case Keenum Makes Case For Back-Up QB
There’s an interesting battle transpiring in camp and workouts, and it’s one not many want to pay attention to. Fans don’t want to fathom the chance that Sam Bradford gets hurt. Teddy Bridgewater is out indefinitely with no timetable for a return. So what if Bradford gets knocked out? Right now, the back-up quarterback spot is a two-player race between Case Keenum and Taylor Heinicke.
Keenum was 11-for-16 for 121 yards and led two scoring drives. Heinicke was 3-of-8 for 20 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown to Rodney Adams. Keenum was the most impressive, showing no fear in stepping up in the pocket and throwing down the field. He wasn’t afraid to take chances, something we didn’t see a lot of with Bradford last season or in the first quarter.
So while it’s only one game and the preseason means nothing, it is something for the players to both build off and learn from. After the third preseason game, where starters could play into the third quarter, we should get a much better feel for where the Vikings will be at this season. What fans are most looking for is improvement in the offensive line, because it didn’t look like much had changed from last year on Thursday.
But it’s one game and there’s room for improvement, lots of it.