Skol Scale Vol. 3: Preseason Underreactions

Skol Scale
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Vikings Territory staffer Drew Mahowald presents the third edition of his brand new segment for the 2017 season, the Skol Scale.

The preseason is finally here. Full uniforms are on and pads are clashing and stadiums are filling with fans.

But preseason football isn’t always the best. In fact, most preseason games are downright ugly because offenses are still disorganized and not yet established. This calls for low-scoring games and defensive struggles.

It was no different for the Vikings in their first preseason game of 2017 at Buffalo. The offense sputtered for the most part and both defenses had their way. Ultimately, Minnesota came away with a 17-10 win.

The fan base nonetheless reacted as if the Earth itself was caving in after a mere three series for the first-team offense netted zero points. WELP, THE OFFENSIVE LINE IS STILL BURNING GARBAGE, MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP ON THE SEASON. OH, AND BRADFORD CHECKED DOWN THAT ONE TIME. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THIS DUDE IS TRASH.

Hey, you, person reading this: calm down. It’s preseason. The 0-16 Lions went 4-0 in the preseason.

In this edition of the Skol Scale, I won’t even mention the first time on either side of the ball (other than who earned first-team reps at various unresolved spots). It’s not worth it after literally one quarter. (If you want dramatic overreactions, read Sam’s post from a couple of days ago. WARNING: THE SATIRE READING GLASSES ARE REQUIRED. Just check the comments for proof).

I will instead mention a few individual performances that stuck out for better or for worse. A number of bubble players helped their cause for a roster spot, while a few others struggled.

The Good

Undrafted Free Agents Shine In First NFL Action: Two of Minnesota’s free agent pick ups following the NFL Draft performed beautifully in their first professional game. Tashawn Bower, a defensive end out of LSU, wreaked havoc in the backfield on seemingly every snap. His impeccably long arms and enormous stature caught the attention of Vikings scouts, but it was his fundamentals that were showcased against the Bills. He used finesse technique both rushing the passer and against the run, recording a sack and a number of hurries.

Former Cincinnati linebacker Eric Wilson also brought his ‘A’ game last week. His range and athleticism were on display and he too showed fundamental improvement from his college film. Wilson is listed as the No. 2 Sam linebacker on the Vikings depth chart and it appears as if he has a very strong case for a roster spot.

Stacy Coley Has Got It Goin’ On: I’m not one to toot my own horn — actually, yes I am — but my predictions about Stacy Coley making the roster are looking quite good right now. Coley can line up outside or in the slot and has boasted clean and crisp route running to go with explosive yards-after-catch potential. I’ve made the comparison to Stefon Diggs several times before and, while Diggs’ acceleration out of breaks is simply impossible to match, Coley has many similar traits to the 2015 version of Diggs.

Making a Strong Case: Backup quarterback Case Keenum thrived in his first preseason action as a Viking, albeit against second-teamers. He was poised in the pocket and went through his reads calmly before firing accurate passes much farther downfield than many expected. Additionally, Keenum showed some mobility that I hadn’t seen before on a couple of scrambles. The QB2 battle is beginning to shape over the past couple of weeks, and it’s favoring Keenum.

The Bad

This Play: I’ll just get this out of the way.

Injuries: Third-year cornerback Trae Waynes suffered an apparent shoulder injury against Buffalo and it doesn’t appear as if a structured timetable has been set. Additionally, Alex Boone is having left knee issues and has missed multiple practices since the Bills game. There is no worse time to suffer an injury than in a meaningless game (unless it’s in a non-contact practice drill).

Taylor Lownicke: Third-year quarterback Taylor Heinicke was erratic throwing the football in his first NFL action since he picked apart the Titans en route to earning a roster spot as an undrafted rookie two years ago. He did not look poised and many of his throws were rushed. As noted above, the QB2 battle has begun to take shape and it looks like Heinicke will need to ball out to enter back into the conversation.

Starting WLB Spot Still Up For Grabs: I’m not sure if this is a weakness or not, but I think it’s more concerning than not that the third linebacker position has yet to be filled. Emmanuel Lamur, Edmond Robinson and Ben Gedeon all received snaps in the first-team weak side linebacker role in Week 1. I was hoping a player would show out in camp in preseason to take hold of that role, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The Skol Scale figure: 6

The Skol Scale didn’t change. You know why? Because it has been one preseason game. The starting offense played three series. It’s a wild overreaction to jump to any kind of conclusion after three freaking series.

Several players improved their stock in preseason game No. 1, no doubt. But a fringe player fighting for a roster spot won’t have much of an impact on the Skol Scale, though it is fun to watch positional battles unfold and undrafted free agents put themselves in the conversation for an NFL roster spot.

Bottom line: If your level of optimism or pessimism changed after one preseason game, you’re overreacting. If the same first-team trends continue throughout preseason, then you can start fluctuating your Skol Scale.