Mike Zimmer won another preseason game, a perfect 8-0 for those tracking of Zimmer’s preseason record over the last two seasons, as the Vikings defeated the Cowboys 28-14 on Saturday. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had another sharp performance, completing all seven of his pass attempts for 76 yards, but we’ll focus on five other topics that stood out in the Vikings’ fourth preseason game.
1. Eric Kendricks was everywhere on the field. For a rookie linebacker in his fourth preseason game, he looks very comfortable both against the run and in coverage. He was used with the first team in the nickel package as the middle linebacker with Gerald Hodges receiving the start in the base, but Kendricks served as the backup middle linebacker with the second unit. The UCLA product recorded four tackles in 27 snaps. As much as Zimmer has mentioned how other defensive players haven’t cut it loose during the preseason, that hasn’t been an issue for Kendricks.
2. The running game struggled again without running back Adrian Peterson and center John Sullivan. It fared better later in the game when the third stringers were in the game, but Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata finished with 12 yards on nine carries. Despite the emphasis in practice on the running game, McKinnon’s longest run went for four yards. I still wouldn’t panic, however, considering the Vikings’ best player and best offensive lineman weren’t out on the field, but the Vikings didn’t improve in this area at all.
3. It’s starting to look more and more like the Vikings will keep six receivers on the 53-man roster. It’s a pretty good unit, too. We saw that Mike Wallace is still capable of taking the top off a defense when he caught a 39-yard deep ball from Bridgewater. It should ease any concerns fans may have had about the lack of receptions for Wallace, who had one catch for two yards prior to the Cowboys game. He finished with three catches for 50 yards.
Stefon Diggs had another impressive game on both offense, three catches for 49 yards, and on special teams with a 23-yard return. Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t have a target on 16 snaps, but he scored on a 107-yard kickoff return in the first half. The Vikings aren’t going to give up on a first round pick like Cordarrelle Patterson after two seasons, regardless of the growing pains he continues to go through as a wide receiver. Adam Thielen also didn’t have any catches on 16 snaps on offense, but he’s been reliable on both offense with the backups and special teams, where he had 16 snaps as well.
4. The penalties were a problem on every phase of the game. The Vikings were called on 11 penalties for 80 yards. It’s the most penalties the Vikings have been called for this preseason, and it’s a week after they were penalized just once against the Raiders last week. The penalties included a delay of game on backup quarterback Shaun Hill, a false start on left tackle Matt Kalil, a false start on offensive lineman David Yankey and 12 men on the field on punt return. These are all mental errors that could’ve been avoided but racked up 20 yards of field position for the Cowboys.
5. Tom Johnson is a very valuable backup defensive tackle for this team. Sharrif Floyd had a good outing, but Johnson has performed very well throughout the preseason. He finished with a sack and two quarterback hurries. The Vikings are set up well at nose and three-technique tackle with Johnson and Shamar Stephen backing up Floyd and Linval Joseph.