I’m not one to overreact, but we need to be honest about what we saw last Thursday night. The Vikings won their first preseason game, but the final score was of course irrelevant; a preseason victory is worth about as much as a share of Green Bay Packers stock— valuable only if you’re willing to engage in some serious self-deception.
The win over the Bills was, as most preseason victories are, the result of the winning team’s third- and fourth-string players being slightly better than those of the losing team’s. And I suppose there is a pale silver lining in this, because, judging by recent history, those players will likely see the field at some point for the Vikings this season. But alas, my main takeaway from the first preseason game was the same as many Vikings fans’: the team was sloppy, and bad, and the starting units — most notably, the offense – gave us no reason to believe they’ve improved upon their many deficiencies from last year.
Here we go again.
First, the offense. In three drives, the starters scored zero points and looked generally hapless against the Buffalo defense. Sam Bradford (eyeroll) continued his quest for the NFL’s all-time completion record at the expense of the team, going five of seven for 35 yards. That’s an average of five yards a pass, gang, so it looks like Sammy Checkdown is back to his old tricks. We’re in for another season of three-yard dump-offs on third and nine. Yipee!
Highly touted rookie Dalvin Cook carried the ball five times for 13 yards — the team could’ve just kept Adrian Peterson and still gotten those kind of numbers — and showed none of the big play ability we were sold around draft time. It’s too early to label Cook a bust, but it’s hard to see how the running game is going to improve with a starter that averages 2.6 yards per carry. Not a fan of the Vikings’ new running back.
And of course, the offensive line. They were once again atrocious in pass protection, giving up two sacks in the first three drives, including a Clemmings-esque whiff by shiny new right tackle Mike Remmers. Speaking of Clemmings, did you see this gem? Good lord.
atta boy TJ pic.twitter.com/ZQa896U5Jt
— Drew Mahowald (@DrewMahowald) August 11, 2017
It’s hard to see the offensive line not being completely awful again this year, especially if Reilly Reiff can’t even get on the field. I know everyone likes Rashod Hill, but he isn’t saving the season at left tackle. And it simply doesn’t matter how good your skill positions are if you can’t block anyone up front. At least Pat Shurmur will be happy he gets to employ his patented dink and dunk scheme, because that’s all this team is going to be able to do.
And then there’s the defense. What am I missing here? This is supposed to be one of the top defenses in the NFL, and yet they gave up 5.3 yards per carry to the Bills. The vaunted Vikings defensive line got pushed three or four yards off the ball on numerous occasions, and the starters seemed to be on their heels all night. Danielle Hunter, everyone’s favorite breakout candidate, had zero sacks. Sure, the pass defense was okay, but it was against Tyrod Taylor, a man named after an auto part. Not exactly Hall-of-Fame level competition.
The injuries are happening already. Trae Waynes got hurt, and there’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Two of the team’s top three running backs didn’t even suit up for the game, and Bishop Sankey tore his ACL and is done for the year. It’s still a few weeks before the season begins, but that is just extra time for more injuries to pile up. I don’t know if it’s a problem with the training staff or something else, but we’re seeing the same old brittle Vikings.
Sure, there were bright spots against Buffalo. Pat Elfien looked solid, but he’s still playing behind Nick Easton, and forgive me if I’m not over the moon about a guy who can’t even beat out Nick Easton. Tashawn Bower was all over the place, which is good considering he’ll be the team’s starting defensive end by Week 6. Case Keenum led a touchdown drive, but if Case Keenum is playing at any point during the regular season, we’re screwed anyway. Don’t get me started on the door kicker.
The list of miscues goes on, by the way — maybe want to hold on to that football, Rodney Adams? — but there are too many to name here. I’ve been told not to read too much into one preseason game, but it’s all we have to read into at the moment, and quite frankly, I think we have enough information to make a call.
The Vikings are not a good team; that much was obvious last Thursday night, and I see no reason why it would change going forward.
Of course, things could improve, theoretically. Maybe every team is rusty in the first preseason game, and defenses are usually ahead of offenses at this point in the year, and it’s tough to get in a rhythm with only three series’. Maybe it truly wasn’t a big enough sample to glean anything meaningful. Yeah, maybe, but we know better than that, don’t we?
With the Vikings, when it looks bad, it is bad, and when it looks good…well, that’s when it’s about to get bad. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be excited about the season, nor am I saying you shouldn’t root for the team to get better. I’m just saying I think we’ve seen enough to know what’s ahead of us. And that is, at best, a 7-9 season — probably 5-11, realistically — so we all need to prepare ourselves accordingly.
Someday, maybe this godforsaken team will sign the right free agents, instead of the wrong ones, and draft the good players, rather than the bad ones. Someday maybe they’ll actually get better in the offseason, rather than staying stagnant or getting worse. Someday, maybe. But I’m afraid that day isn’t here yet, and we’re in for another long year in Minnesota. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
In case you somehow haven’t realized it at this point, this post is satire. Let’s all take a deep breath and relax. It’s going to be fine.