Don’t look now, folks, but it appears we have all survived the dreaded offseason! I don’t know about you, but I am certainly excited to have live NFL games on my television, even if those games are being played by third and fourth stringers, players who likely won’t make the final 53-man roster of their respective teams.
On Friday, the Minnesota Vikings took on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, with a 17-16 victory. Before becoming the head coach of the Vikings, Mike Zimmer spent six years in Cincinnati as the defensive coordinator. With Zimmer and former Bengals players like Andre Smith and Emmanuel Lamur in purple and gold, there were plenty of connections between these two teams.
Offensively, it was a rough start for the Vikings, particularly the offensive line. In the first series, the only one against the Bengals’ starting defense, Teddy Bridgewater seemed to be running for his life on every play. Luckily, Bridgewater’s second series, which was against backups, went much better. Teddy finished the game with 92 yards and a touchdown, completing six of seven passes. Shaun Hill looked the part of a veteran backup quarterback, and Joel Stave, the Vikings’ current third string QB (because Taylor Heinicke is injured), had a really up and down day. On the whole, the Vikings had 220 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception (Stave).
While the passing game might have been mediocre, the running game was severely inadequate. Playing without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings gained a total of 56 yards on 22 carries. On a positive note, C.J. Ham was able to plunge it into the endzone for one of the Vikings’ two touchdowns in the game. The bright spot for the offense was definitely the Vikings’ receivers, with the play of the game coming when Charles Johnson broke loose with a nifty double move and caught a 49-yard touchdown from Teddy.
Defensively, the Vikings started the game by allowing the Bengals to move up and down the field however they liked. Taking the bend but don’t break approach, the Vikings defense gave up 357 total yards but only surrendered 10 points. Antone Exum Jr and Justin Trattou both had a sack, while the Vikings’ two rookie defensive backs from Clemson (Mackenzie Alexander and Jayron Kearse) each had an interception.
The player of the game was Laquon Treadwell, who caught four passes for 41 yards. Treadwell was able to gain just enough separation throughout the game to give the QB a window to throw into, while also showing the ability to make difficult catches and fight through tackles to pick up important first downs. Trae Waynes also played a wonderful game, staying with the receivers and playing the ball well.
The player who needs the most improvement was (insert any offensive lineman’s name here). It might sound like a broken record, but the Vikings’ offensive line was atrocious. The front office made a concerted effort to strengthen the position during the offseason, but it didn’t seem to matter in the first preseason game. There is certainly plenty of work to be done, but I’m not ready to call it a disaster. Yet.
Looking ahead, the Vikings will take on the Seattle Seahawks this Thursday, August 18. The two teams met twice last year, with the Seahawks narrowly edging out the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs. The rational thing to say is that this game is just a preseason game, and the outcome doesn’t matter nearly as much as player progression. However, it would be nice to see the Vikings come away with a victory. And you can bet the players aren’t going to take this game lightly.