Vikings Notebook: Preseason Game 1

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 10: Rodney Adams
ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 10: Rodney Adams /

The Minnesota Vikings started the preseason out on a good note with a 17-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Jake Andersen shares what stood out to him.

Mike Zimmer sure knows how to win in the preseason. After a 17-10 win over the Bills, the Minnesota Vikings head coach improved his preseason record to 13-1.

Behind a strong defensive effort, 17 points was all that was needed from the offense. Peppering Bills quarterbacks with three sacks and 11 hits, the Vikings defense showed their depth, holding Buffalo to only one touchdown. The Bills tried to comeback in front of their home crowd with 2:24 to go in the game, but after a snap mishap, Vikings linebacker Elijah Lee recovered the ball effectively ending the game.

Offensively, the Vikings struggled, but were able to produce a couple of touchdowns. One, a two-yard run by C.J. Ham, the other a two-yard pass to rookie Rodney Adams.

Here are some more news and notes from preseason game one:

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  • The Vikings first three plays went to first round pick Dalvin Cook. The first two were runs out of the shotgun for five and three yards, while Cook caught an eight-yard pass for a first down on the third play. Cook struggled to get anything going on the ground, thanks to sub-par line play, finishing with five carries for 13 yards. Yet, he did have four catches for 30 yards. If the first preseason game is a sign of anything, Cook looks to be heavily featured in the Vikings offense.
  • The starting offensive line didn’t look great, although Riley Reiff sat this one out. With Rashod Hill in his place, the starting unit didn’t get much push in the run game and struggled in pass protection. Remmers gave up an awful looking sack to rookie defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, while Cook failed to chip Jerry Hughes on another play that resulted in a sack. Those were the only two sacks given up, nevertheless Bradford didn’t look comfortable. Outside of Hill and Remmers, Alex Boone, Nick Easton and Joe Berger manned the middle of the line.
  • As a whole, the offensive line group was less than spectacular. The run blocking struggles of last season continued (90 rushing yards on 29 carries), while quarterbacks were pressured constantly throughout the game resulting in three sacks.
  • Second round pick Pat Elflein had a solid day. Outside of a bad snap, he showed the ability to get to the second level of the defense on run plays and hold his own in pass protection. With the first unit struggling, Elflein should get an opportunity with the first team in the preseason over Easton at some point.
  • Round one of the backup quarterback battle goes to Case Keenum. The veteran quarterback went 11-for-16 for 121 yards and a touchdown, while Taylor Heinicke went 3-for-8 for 20 yards with a touchdown and interception. Keenum showed poise in the pocket and accuracy on his throws. On the other hand, Heinicke showed the opposite, throwing an interception on a play where he should have thrown the ball away. He also missed a couple open receivers on different occasions. Both quarterbacks showed good mobility.
  • Stacy Coley was a bright spot on the offensive side of the ball. He caught a beautiful short pass across the middle from Keenum resulting in a 38-yard play. On the play, the rookie got a majority of his yards after the catch, showing the playmaking ability that was advertised from the young wideout.
    • Later, on a 3rd & 7 at the Buffalo 26, Coley caught a 24-yard pass near the goal line, getting a knee down before hitting the sidelines. The catch helped set up C.J. Ham’s two-yard touchdown. Coley had one mishap on a third down in Bills territory where he missed a hot route call by Keenum resulting in an overthrow and punt. On the day, Coley had three catches for 67 yards.
  • The Vikings starting offense played three scoreless drives, a sign that Zimmer wasn’t happy with the unit. Usually, starting offenses play one to two drives in the first preseason game, so not a good day for the offense.
  • Offensively, Rodney Adams had a decent day. He caught two balls for 12 yards, scoring his first touchdown on a nifty play near the goal line. He also took an end-around for 14 yards. Like former Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, Adams seems like a gadget-type receiver with playmaking ability.
  • Isaac Fruechte had two or three catchable balls, one in the end zone that he could have come up with. Given Adams and Coley’s solid performances, he will have to step up his game if he plans on making the roster.
  • The Vikings used Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Jarius Wright in three-receiver sets. Michael Floyd played with the second stringers, catching two passes for 20 yards.

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  • Defense:

    • After two defensive plays, Trae Waynes came out of the game with an apparent right shoulder injury. The Vikings declared him out for the game. Running back Bishop Sankey also went out of the game with a right knee injury.
    • Anthony Barr had a great start to his preseason. He had three tackles, one for a loss, and also hit quarterback Tyrod Taylor on a blitz up the middle forcing an incomplete pass. After a down season last year, Barr’s start to the preseason is a promising one.
    • Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur made a couple of good plays, but neither separated themselves in the weakside linebacker battle. Robinson had four tackles and a pass deflection, while Lamur had two tackles and a pass deflection. In my opinion, Robinson showed more than Lamur.
      • That being said, I liked Ben Gedeon’s game the best and think he has a real chance of the starting job when the preseason is all set and done. Gedeon was second on the team with five tackles and has a real nose for the ball, especially on special teams. He comes as advertised.
    • The Vikings starting defensive line of Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Danielle Hunter looked as good as it sounds. Griffen bull-rushed his way for a sack and the rest of the line did their part creating pressure. The only negative from the unit was stopping the run. For the game, the Bills ran for 127 yards on 24 carries, a 5.3 yards a carry average. At half time, coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t happy with the defensive effort against the run and likely will make it a point of emphasis heading into the next preseason game.
    • Coming off a season-ending injury, safety Antone Exum Jr. seemed to be around the ball constantly resulting in four tackles. If it weren’t for a pass deflection by Edmond Robinson, Exum Jr. would have had an interception after perfectly reading a route. Also, Jayron Kearse made a couple great stops against the run blitzing from the edge. He continued where he left off in last season’s preseason.
    • Arguably the top performer on the defense was linebacker Eric Wilson. He is an undrafted out of Cincinnati and made himself known in his first game with the Vikings. Wilson led the team with seven tackles and looks solid in pass protection. He did miss an opportunity to intercept a ball that went right between the numbers, but nevertheless, the rookie was all over on defense.
    • Two defensive lineman that really stood out against the second and third units of the Bills were rookies Tashawn Bower and Jaleel Johnson. Bower put on a nifty swim move on his way to a sack and was around the quarterback all night long. Johnson was equally a beast in the middle getting to the quarterback twice resulting in one sack. The Vikings defensive line is deep, but Bower and Johnson helped their case to make the roster in their first preseason games.
    • Mackensie Alexander had a quiet day, a good sign for a cornerback. He looks to hold down the nickel corner spot with strong play in the preseason and game one was a step in the right direction.

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    Special Teams:

    • Kai Forbath took a majority of the kicking duties, making one field goal from 36 yards and an extra point. Marshall Koehn made the other extra point attempt. It’s assumed that Forbath holds a lead in this battle and there’s no reason to think that’s changed after this game.
    • Contrary to Ryan Quigley’s status on top of the depth chart, Taylor Symmank took a majority of the punts and performed well. He nailed his first punt 60 yards pinning Buffalo at their own six yard line and also pinned the Bills two more times within their 20 yard line. As for Quigley, he punted twice and pinned Buffalo within their 20 once. Based on Symmank’s strong performance, I’d say this battle has evened out.
    • Rodney Adams took all three kick returns averaging just below 22 yards a return. He also returned two punts, one that he muffed, almost resulting in a turnover. In all, Adams was shaky in the return game, a good sign for veteran Marcus Sherels.

    Next: Linval Joseph's extension is another stellar deal for the Vikings!

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