There will be a full game recap later at Vikings Territory, but for now we half quick reactions to the first half. With Teddy Bridgewater in the game, there’s a new atmosphere for fans and possibly the team itself.
With Teddy Bridgewater in, there’s not much to say about Matt Cassel‘s play. He did very poorly, in part because of consistent pressure. He got knocked down or sacked on almost half of his plays, and pressure on other plays. Even in the scant plays he had without pressure, he did poorly. Interesting if bad choice to flip the ball up early on in one clean pocket, and had a bad throw to Rudolph on a later play.
Teddy Bridgewater has looked decent, but there hasn’t been much opportunity to be explosive, in part due to the number of clean plays and in part due to the conservative playcalling. He had a late decision on the first throw, but a completion to Jennings was more than the Vikings had seen so far. Good work on the QB draw, bad work on the scramble. Has been handling pressure better than Cassel has. It does not seem as if he’s calling the protections, but we’ll see.
Kyle Rudolph dropped another pass, even if it was a bad ball, but has been blocking adequately in the run.
The running back battle between Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata may statistically favor Asiata, but there’s not much to say that one is definitively better at this point, really. Asiata has not been a poor decision-maker so far, though one or two instances his speed showed up to slow down the potential gain. He had a huge gain on a dumpoff. It was well-blocked and schemed open, but solid.
McKinnon hasn’t shown up in terms of reaching his hype quite yet. Some of it is opportunity—free defenders getting to him on his only run and a high pass on one of his two targets. The other target was off as well after Teddy adjusted his throwing lane in response to pressure from the left. His pass protection so far has been good.
Phil Loadholt has been blocking well on the run, though not a lot have gone in his direction. Has been largely fine, though pressure given up because of the protection calls—being forced to block two defenders and so on.
Brandon Fusco needs to show some more awareness and he’s not quite getting it done. I’ve counted at least one pass pressure and a miscue in the running game as well as too-late help on a pass-rush.
John Sullivan has been blocking well, but if some of the extra pressure is due to some miscommunication errors, that’s on him. He seems to have drawn a difficult assignment as he’s often asked to block Brodrick Bunkley one-on-one instead of with help.
I have not seen much of Charlie Johnson, but Matt Kalil has been nothing short of abysmal. When left alone, he’s given up pressure on nearly every play, and himself looked to have sacked Teddy Bridgewater. He has been responsible for a few knockdowns and a lot of the scrambles. He has been the worst player on the field for either team so far.
Linval Joseph hasn’t shown up much today, and was pushed around a little bit on the first drive. The pressure packages from the Vikings means he’s getting rotated out a little more than we would expect. Since the third drive, he has anchored well. Sharrif Floyd has had some issues reading the play and getting pushed out. He hasn’t been particularly great so far.
On the other hand, Tom Johnson has been getting the rare interior pressure the Vikings have produced so far and had a hand in the Anthony Barr sack late in the half. He showed up with a tackle in the run game as well, though the Saints got the required yardage to convert at this point.
Everson Griffen hasn’t really shown up much. He may have put one or two pressures on the quarterback, but so far it doesn’t look like it. He also allowed a running lane to open up more than once. For a defense that asks its defensive ends to contain first, rush second, that’s pretty bad. At least he blocked the extra point. Brian Robison has been a little better definitively, forcing Brees to move around in the pocket, but nothing has been all that great.
Outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Barr did show up with his first sack of the season, but he’s had some issues. He’s been exposed in coverage once and missed a run assignment another time. With that, he also hasn’t been able to get off blocks all that well in the running game.
Chad Greenway has missed at least two tackles so far in the running game and has been a nonfactor otherwise. Hodges has had fewer snaps (when Barr was a defensive end) and hasn’t done much.
Harrison Smith continues to play like a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, with two pass breakups (one should have been an interception) and a key third down stop. He’s been all over the field and it’s almost all been good, excepting getting frozen by a pump fake by Brees to get a Josh Hill touchdown.
Robert Blanton, on the other hand, has been abysmal. There was a string of three successive failures, giving up a reception to Brandin Cooks, Jimmy Graham (and getting destroyed on the run after catch), and getting dragged on a Pierre Thomas run. After that, he was judged (by me) to have given up the touchdown to Josh Hill, though Harrison is at fault, too.
Josh Robinson has done well as a corner, both preventing targets from heading his way and tackling to prevent gains. Xavier Rhodes hasn’t been tested much, and Captain Munnerlyn has been mixed, allowing a reception or two but doing well in the run game to get off blocks and get to the ballcarrier.