The second of five preseason games is in the books.
By Jordan Wright
While Minnesota beat the Buccaneers 26- 16, the Vikings really took a loss with a season-ending injury to a key piece in the Vikings’ plans for the 2015 season.
There were a few good performances from the Vikings’ starters, including Teddy Bridgewater who went seven of eight for 86 yards and was fully in command of the offense yet again. His lone miss was a deep throw to Mike Wallace in the end zone, but it was a decent throw and placed where only Wallace could get it.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph had another game where he looked back to his old form, catching two passes for 24 yards and earning Pro Football Focus’ highest grade for a Vikings player in the game. So far this preseason, Rudolph has caught four passes, and all four have gone for a first down.
Stefon Diggs continues to impress. He looks great returning punts, and is steadily putting pressure on both Marcus Sherels and Adam Theilen. Sherels is battling to be the sixth cornerback, and he might have the easiest route to a roster spot because Josh Robinson is hurt and Jabari Price will be suspended the first two games of the season. Theilen, a Minnesota native, is a long shot to make the roster, mainly due to the Vikings having a lot of options at receiver.
The big story of the night was the season-ending achilles tear to Phil Loadholt. Loadholt was the anchor on the right side and one of the few positions along the line that didn’t have a question mark surrounding it. Last season when Loadholt went down with a pectoral injury, Mike Harris stepped in and played well. Harris could be an option again this year, but the Vikings have been playing him at right guard after shifting Brandon Fusco to the left side. No matter what the Vikings decide to do there will be a lot of trial and error this year. The silver lining here is that the injury happened early in preseason, leaving the Vikings a couple weeks to figure out the offensive line before the regular season starts.
After Loadholt’s injury, I had numerous people ask me on twitter what the chances were of the Vikings bringing in free agent Evan Mathis, PFF’s second highest rated offensive guard last season. I think bringing in Mathis would be a great idea as he could slide into the left guard spot, returning Brandon Fusco to his familiar right guard spot and really solidify the offensive line.
Looking ahead, the Vikings play the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, August 22, and there are three things I will be watching.
The first and most important thing is how the Vikings assemble their offensive line. It will be interesting to see what combinations are tried, which ones work and which ones don’t.
Another thing I will be looking for is the progression of first round cornerback Trae Waynes. Waynes made improvements from his first game to his second, and I will be watching to see if that trend continues.
The last thing I will be watching is the battle for the open safety spot. Robert Blanton has been playing well, while both Andrew Sendejo and Shaun Prater are making a case for more playing time. A dark horse candidate to keep an eye on is Antone Exum, who had a fumble recovery last week and an interception this week against Jameis Winston.
Also, remember Christian Ponder? The Vikings’ former quarterback is now the back up in Oakland, so we will get to see a lot of him in this upcoming game. Even though Ponder was not the answer at quarterback in Minnesota, he was a very likable person and I hope he gets a warm reception in his first game back in Minnesota, even though he’ll be wearing the enemy’s jersey.
And as always, if you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to reach out to me on Twitter (@SkolJWright) or on Facebook (facebook. com/skoljwright).