After months of objective blah, the Vikings were back on the field and playing Saturday night and there was so much to pay attention to that it took me a day to really compile my thoughts about what we all saw on Saturday night. Luckily, we’ve become official enough to work with Pro Football Focus and they actually sent out their “Insights” from the game, so that helps when you’re like me and you were so excited by that first drive that you can’t really remember the rest of the game (mostly because I spent the rest of the first half sprinting full speed down Hiawatha avenue in South Minneapolis). So, let’s follow PFF’s lead and break down some of the talkers from the offense and the defense!
Now, yes, this was the pre-season and yes, the Broncos didn’t play their best player in Von Miller. The headlines out of Denver said what you’d expect, which was that they “Couldn’t Lose” Miller so they didn’t want to risk doing just that by playing him against the Vikings, so take a lot of what the Vikings accomplished with a grain of salt but at the same time the Broncos have a pretty deep defensive line, so it’s a pretty good sign that this Vikings offensive line that has been through so much this off-season was able to not only keep players like Bradley Chubb, Domata Peko, Shane Ray, Adam Gotsis and Derek Wolfe at bay, but that they were able to overpower them and create gigantic holes for Latavius Murray and Roc Thomas. Beyond that, they gave new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins the time he needed to drop dimes all over the field (if you consider throwing four passes “all over the field”)… Or should I say, drop dimes to Stefon Diggs all over the field? That semi-deep ball to Diggs was super impressive, as was the touchdown pass that he threw to Diggs in the slot. Both passes, and really that entire first drive, showed how hard it’s going to be to cover this Vikings offense when it’s got all of its players on the field with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo pulling the strings (even though the drive didn’t actually have all of those weapons). I really couldn’t be happier with how things turned out in that regard and don’t want to get super hyped about ONE drive in the pre-season, but considering that people are still basing their opinion of Trae Waynes from that pre-season game a few years ago when he had all those penalties, I’ll enjoy this one immensely and re-watch it for the tenth time.
One of the larger talking points going into training camp from some people that cover the Vikings was that training camp and the pre-season was going to be about as boring as camp has ever been because there’s not a ton of competition for starting spots on this team. Whether or not that’s true (the “boring” part), it is a good problem to have as it means you’re basically stacked at every position as the Vikings currently are (the offensive line notwithstanding). However, that (again the “boring” part) was only true to only an extent, as there are some interesting battles for third spots out there when it comes to both the wide receiver and running back positions and also as fellow purplePTSD/VikingsTerritory writer Luke Braun showed this off-season, there are interesting stories at basically every position (peep his 90 series if you want proof of that). One player threw his hat into the ring for both Saturday, in a way, as if he was able to continue to put up the numbers he did Saturday he’d probably end up being the third running back AND receiver on the team, statistically. That player was Roc Thomas, who shined and most likely found himself a future as a Viking on Saturday by putting up insane numbers for a guy who only had 16 snaps.
According to PFF he ended up with a grade of 89.6, which is astounding, most of that coming from what he did as a receiver, where he ended up with three catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. PFF also noted that he did something that should be of particular interest to the Vikings offensive coaches which was that he averaged just under 3 yards after getting hit, with an average of 2.9 yards after contact. Considering the question mark(s) at the offensive line position, having someone who is able to catch the ball and pick up chunk yardage that way that can also create significant yardage after he gets hit, will be extremely important for this team regardless of what happens with the O-line. It’ll be interesting to see how they use Thomas moving forward but it feels like the third running back job is now his to lose.
I’ll be the first to admit that I made a prediction off-air/the site that Brian O’Neill was going to implode against the Broncos and Monday morning every writer would be writing about what a bad pick he was in the second round back in late April. Like most things I predict, I was wrong, as PFF noted that over the course of 23 pass-blocking snaps O’Neill did not give up a single pressure (again courtesy of Pro Football Focus). That’s impressive for a guy who is still learning the position both in terms of technique and also in terms of converting his body into the size it needs to be to be a successful tackle in the NFL. It wasn’t all great for O’Neill, however, as he didn’t perform as well in the rushing game with a run-blocking grade of just 48.2. That’s surprising as when you have an athletic (but still learning) tackle like O’Neill you’d think that it’d be the opposite, in that he’d be better in the rush game (where he’d go out and create contact versus sitting back and waiting for it). Then again, I’ll take him performing this good in the passing game over the running game than the opposite, as the other will come in time and because he’d literally be protecting the most expensive player in the history of the NFL should he end up getting game action during the regular season. Perhaps he’ll be able to contribute this season after all, but then again this was the first pre-season game and he was basically going against backups that were running base packages (for the most part).
Stay tuned to purplePTSD.com and VikingsTerritory.com for any and everything Vikings! We’re going to be rolling out some amazing content as the season approaches and look forward to covering the season with you all!