Normally, a team with low expectations looks forward to preseason victories. With each win usually comes a performance or two that provide a boost to the optimism within the fan base.
In 2015, the Vikings are not used to entering August with high expectations, but that is indeed how the end of their offseason concluded. Unfortunately, as the preseason victories pile up, the list of potential downfalls continues to grow and enough things are going wrong that fans have to be worried about just how snake bit this roster could end up being by December.
HALL OF FAME GAME: Trae Waynes Isn’t An Immediate Star
Regardless of what history tells us, fans can’t help but hope their team’s first round selections are immediate contributors and, in some cases, immediate stars. Vikings fans have somewhat recent experience watching top selections dominate the NFL with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin both earning rookie of the year honors and others earning Pro Bowl honors right out of the gate.
This year’s first round selection, cornerback Trae Waynes, got abused in his preseason debut in Canton and reality is upon anyone thought he was going to walk into the NFL as the next Darrelle Revis. Many reactions were overboard and patience should be granted to any young cornerback adjusting to the NFL, but it certainly isn’t the feeling of elation that many would prefer to have when first watching their team’s newest addition.
The deal with a rookie cornerback is that you have to be willing to wait for the “lightbulb to come on” and gradually increase responsibilities until that time comes. Right now, the Vikings have enough talent and depth at the position to keep Waynes lower on the depth chart and work him into the rotation.
The worry, however, is that injuries change those circumstances and Waynes is forced into action before he is truly ready. That scenario would likely lead to a predictably brutal trend of opponents targeting Waynes, while avoiding Rhodes, and taking full advantage of his rookie rawness until such time that the light bulb finally comes on.
Health at the cornerback position, something that never seems to go our way, is paramount to making sure Waynes being a liability can be avoided and allowing him to grow into his NFL role at the appropriate pace.
WEEK ONE: That Offensive Line
If Norv Turner’s offense had one worry coming into the preseason, it was Matt Kalil and that offensive line. Then the Week One victory over Tampa Bay proved costly when mammoth right tackle Phil Loadholt injured his Achilles and forced the Vikings to start looking into alternatives for the 2015 season and possibly beyond.
Despite plesantly surprising play from the original worry, Kalil, the Vikings offensive line continues to be a worry as the regular season approaches. Loadholt is being replaced, at least in the short term, by rookie fourth round selection T.J. Clemmings and center John Sullivan had to sit out in Week One due to a spasm.
The unit has struggled to open holes for Jerick McKinnon and company so far and the pass protection has not been convincingly consistent yet. Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and this speedy group of receivers will be limited in their productivity if the big men on the line can’t gel in a meaningful way and all eyes will be on them when the season opens.
WEEK TWO: Sure, Add Kicker To The List
The Vikings managed to beat Amari Cooper and the Raiders by eight points in Week Two of the preseason, but kicker Blair Walsh left a whopping 10 points on the field at TCF Bank Stadium.
Walsh, the latest Viking to get a lucrative contract out of the Vikings, missed on three field goal attempts and even shanked an extra point. The conditions on Saturday evening definitely short of ideal, but these misses seem to be just a continuation of the woes that started early last season.
Many theories have been thrown out there regarding Walsh’s sudden unreliability, from the Vikings moving their home games outdoors to the absence of holder Chris Kluwe, but at the moment the Vikings have to be worried that this could cause some heartbreaking moments throughout 2015.
“It was discouraging in the moment, but when you look back on what I’ve done in camp that’s the most frustrating thing is you want to take the results of what you did pre-game and in camp,” Walsh said of his performance. “I’m not doing it right now, and I’m not translating it over, and I need to fix it.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer was visibly upset about the misses on the sidelines Saturday night. You just know that a performance like that during the regular season will be as close to unacceptable as anything can be.
“Yeah, a lot of things concern me,” Zimmer said of the situation. “Not just that.”
Walsh is a concern for Zimmer as his second year leading the Vikings is now upon us, but it isn’t the only thing that worries him. Something tells me that the offensive line and progression of his first round cornerback are also near the top of his list of worries.