Five takeaways from the Vikings' 3-0 start in the preseason

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2014 - 9:42 AM
hide

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel (16) looked down field during preseason NFL football between the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs Saturday August 23 , 2014 in Kansas City ,MO .

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Vikings are a perfect 3-0 in the preseason, but there still is plenty we don’t know about Mike Zimmer’s team with the season opener against the St. Louis Rams now less than two weeks away.

Who is the quarterback? Who will start at safety and middle linebacker? And are these guys actually for real?

We have learned some things about the Vikings, though, in their preseason wins over the Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs. These are five of the biggest takeaways.

1. Norv knows a thing or two about offense

Zimmer was widely praised for hiring offensive coordinator Norv Turner to serve essentially as the head coach of his offense. Turner is regarded as one of the savviest play-callers in the league, and wideouts, tight ends and running backs have all seemingly put up big numbers at each of his stops.

Second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and towering tight end Kyle Rudolph both look poised to have productive seasons — each has scored on a long touchdown reception during the preseason — and if Adrian Peterson’s backups are averaging 4.3 yards per carry, you have to figure the perennial Pro Bowl back will be able to break into space once the regular season rolls around.

And then there are the quarterbacks. Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater have each completed at least 65 percent of their passes. Bridgewater has thrown four touchdown passes with no interceptions and Cassel has averaged an impressive 9.4 yards per attempt.

2. Zimmer must work wonders in the secondary

The Vikings have three building blocks in the secondary in safety Harrison Smith and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn. They also have more question marks there than anywhere else. They still haven’t picked a second starting safety, Josh Robinson looks like he will be tabbed to be the team’s third cornerback by default and the Vikings lack quality depth in the secondary.

Zimmer has a reputation for getting the most out of defensive backs who are willing to work, whether they are first-round picks or castaways from another team, and he must deliver on that promise for the Vikings to survive an early-season schedule stacked with top quarterbacks.

It is encouraging that the Vikings are allowing just 5.8 yards per pass attempt during the preseason.

3. The pass rush will have life after Jared Allen

Of course, the secondary’s job will be made a lot less difficult if the Vikings can get after the quarterback like they did against the Chiefs. They racked up five sacks in the win, and after the game, Zimmer lamented the few times they let quarterback Alex Smith wiggle out of their grasp.

The Vikings allowed defensive end Jared Allen, who had 85½ sacks in six seasons here, to walk in part because Zimmer believed he could help Everson Griffen, Allen’s younger successor, become a star.

But Griffen won’t have to do it alone. Top pick Anthony Barr has showed promise with 1½ sacks in the preseason, and eight Vikings defenders have recorded at least half a sack through three games. Credit Zimmer’s clever blitz package and improved execution from the defense for that stat.

4. The return game will be explosive again

The Vikings had perhaps the NFL’s most productive overall return game in 2013, with Patterson leading the league with an average of 32.4 yards per kickoff return and Marcus Sherels ranking second at 15.2 yards per punt return.

Sherels and wide receiver Adam Thielen have averaged 16.6 yards per punt return this preseason — Thielen’s 75-yarder the other night helped — and the Vikings are getting 24.4 yards per kickoff return, with Patterson yet to be unleashed in the preseason.

5. The QB’s success will likely hinge on the O-line

The Vikings have surrendered 10 sacks during the preseason. All three they allowed against the Chiefs came with the starters in, and Cassel also endured a hard hit when a Chiefs defender drove him into the ground while he chucked up a deep ball to Rudolph during the third quarter. With Cassel on the run, the first-teamers didn’t muster much offense after their opening drive.

Zimmer still hasn’t named his starting quarterback — a trail of tea leaves from TCF Bank Stadium to Kansas City to St. Louis suggests that it will be Cassel — but regardless of who is under center this season, the offensive line must pass protect better to give the quarterback a chance to thrive.







 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Brooklyn 109 FINAL
Boston 107
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Orlando 89
Indiana 109 FINAL
Detroit 119
Milwaukee 107 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Houston 117 FINAL
Memphis 111
San Antonio 90 FINAL
New Orleans 97
Charlotte 75 FINAL
Oklahoma City 98
LA Lakers 98 FINAL
Dallas 102
Minnesota 102 FINAL
Denver 106
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Portland 114
Phoenix 115 FINAL
Sacramento 106
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 1:10 PM
Duke
Miami-Florida 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close