The Vikings took on the Texans Friday night, and after having watched it twice (while also celebrating my daughter’s first birthday) I have come to the table with a look at some of the key takeaways from the contest. The Vikings lost by a score of 27-13, but it is preseason so the final score is as inconsequential as a training camp scrimmage. Instead, we try to dissect certain aspects of what happened in an effort to predict things to come.
- The Vikings are believed to have finished their first week of the preseason without any additional injuries, at least no super serious ones, which is probably the most important thing about the game. Rookie Sharrif Floyd had a good debut, with a couple of flashy plays (batted pass and tackle for a loss), but gave us all a scare when he hit the ground with a knee injury and was unable to return. While he will have an MRI today, he is expected to be okay. Often times, the best teams in any given NFL season are the ones that can stay the healthiest, so it was nice to see them come out of this relatively unscathed.
- By all appearances, the Vikings got exactly what they expected when they signed veteran quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel looked exactly like Cassel has looked almost his whole career, which is to say he looked decent but unspectacular, which is an improvement over Joe Webb’s postseason performance that is still fresh in our memory. Cassel had some very poor play on the line in front of him, but he still managed a decent outing completing 12 of 19 passes for 212 yards, a touchdown, and one interception.
- The combination of Zach Line (1 catch, 61 yards, 1 TD) and Bradley Randle (3 rushes, 16 yards) has me excited, I must admit. I have thought all along that Toby Gerhart would finish out his rookie contract as a Viking, and still consider it likely, but if Line and Randle can continue to make things happen in the preseason then the Vikings might feel tempted to explore trade options for Gerhart. Line’s rumbling touchdown was quite impressive and Randle pass blocked as good as any Vikings running back since the days of Chester Taylor.
- One penalty. 10 yards. The entire game. That’s the type of discipline that wins football games!
- Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson got as much attention this week as any rookie in the league. As a prospect, he was billed as a “raw talent” and that certainly appeared to be the case against the Texans. On the opening kickoff, Patterson used his talent to get himself to the 35 yard line with ease, while being raw prevented him from patiently following Rhett Ellison’s lead which gave the kicker a chance to trip him up, effectively killing his chances of taking it to the house. Similarly, Patterson made some nice grabs after running crisp routes, but the rookie seemed out of position on a couple of occasions including a sideline grab where he never even gave himself a chance to come down with both feet in bounds. Overall, Patterson’s four catch and 54 yard performance was very encouraging, and he is officially inspiring some buzz.
- If both Brandon Burton and Stephen Burton can build off of what they did Friday, and bring it into the regular season, then that will serve as a good reminder to us all (including me) that talent sometimes takes time to realize its full potential. The young cornerback played with a certain swagger that I have yet to see out of him in his young career, ending the night with a team-leading seven tackles. Meanwhile, the receiver Burton had three catches for a team-leading 67 yards, including a very impressive spin-and-run play that went for 56 yards. Stephen Burton also returned two kickoffs and a punt with positive results in each case, while also throwing a key block on Line’s long touchdown scamper. Consistency has plagued these two players in the past, so the task for them is to show that they can perform like this on a weekly basis.
- Rookie punter Jeff Locke came into this game with rumors of 80 yard punts grabbing some attention. On five attempts, he didn’t boom anything nearly that long, but he did pin the team inside the 10 on two occasions and was overall pretty solid. Most importantly, he appeared comfortable in his role as a field goal holder, and Blair Walsh made both of his attempts without incident.
- Like many Vikings fans, I am trying really, really, really hard to give Christian Ponder a clean slate, and hope for significant improvement. It isn’t fair to draw any conclusions about Ponder after just two attempts, just as it isn’t fair to give Jerome Simpson at least part of the blame for one of them being an interception, but things certainly could have gone better for them both one their one-and-done opening series. I’m looking forward to getting an extended look next week.
- Overall, I was disappointed in The Defense. The run stoppers gave up too many big plays, the linebackers were incredibly vanilla, and the secondary looks to have some good competition but failed to take full advantage of opportunities. I know important veterans like Chad Greenway and Jared Allen didn’t suit up, but I was disappointed that the depth guys weren’t able to provide us with some more excitement. The most important measurable this time of year is improvement, so I am hoping to see more next week, including some (gasp!) takeaways.
- Am I just getting grumpy in my old age or were those uniforms much better in the pre-canned photoshoots than they are in reality? The helmets don’t match the jerseys. They just looked weird. Maybe I’ll get used to them, but I thought they just looked odd.
- The offensive line play was quite worrisome, from nearly beginning to end, and that was very disappointing. The running backs had to really work for the yards they got, while each quarterback (excluding Ponder’s two plays) were under fairly consistent pressure. The Texans have a good defense and good depth, but that was starting to get a little ridiculous.
- In case DeMarcus Love’s suspension didn’t already give the Vikings a reason to part ways with him, getting abused on what seemed like every play on Friday should seal the deal. He was awful, and Matt Cassel must agree with me there.
- Rookie Travis Bond was pretty disappointing, as well. He just got pushed around and doesn’t look like he has what it takes.