4 Takeaways from the Vikings Final Preseason Game
The Minnesota Vikings uncharacteristically dropped all three preseason games in 2021 after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night.
It marks the first time since 1979 that the Vikings went winless in a preseason. In that season 42 years ago, Minnesota finished 7-9 with quarterback Tommy Kramer getting full-timer action for the first time in his career.
The Vikings showed a bit more optimism versus the Chiefs than displays previously against the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. But on the whole, the preseason product was disappointing. Thankfully, preseason is not generally an indicator of regular season performance.
These are the four primary takeaways from Minnesota’s last preseason game of 2021.
One Good Drive by 1st Team Offense
Any discontent over the Vikings preseason offensive performance must be caveated with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen playing next to zilch. Those men are the keynote playmakers, undoubtedly. When they do not play — as a sum of all parts — the offense feels grimy.
Irv Smith Jr. shined on Friday night while Cousins looked sharp for a single drive. The offensive line provided Cousins some time in the pocket on the first drive, and the sequence ended in a field goal.
After that, it was back to doldrums for the first-team offense. Cousins was sacked after a missed block by RB3 Ameer Abdullah, killing the second drive on arrival. And then Cousins’ final drive came up empty deep in Minnesota’s own territory.
If preseason was a predictor of future performance — it historically is not — panic would be legitimate. But now the Vikings will travel to Cincinnati on September 12th will very little momentum vis-a-vis moving the football. We will see if all of this Broncos-Colts-Chiefs first-team offense stuff was much ado about nothing.
But hey — on-the-bubble halfback A.J. Rose did score an offensive touchdown, Minnesota’s first such score of the preseason.
Griffen Was Fantastic
Wearing #58, Everson Griffen played like his 2017 self, if only on a few snaps. The recently returned pass rusher showcased his vintage spin move, disrupting the pocket on about three occasions. He even notched a sack and celebrated with his patented shimmy.
In a first half when Vikings fans fumed over the first-team offense’s inability to score a touchdown, a return to normalcy from Griffen stood out gloriously. He briefly played like a shoo-in for RDE1 duties — like the old days — and smiled all along the way.
Head coach Mike Zimmer and friends insist Griffen is a “situational pass rusher,” but if he causes quarterback terrorism as he did on Friday night, situational will soon morph to starting.
Kellen Mond Matures on the Fly
Drafted out of the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Texas A&M rookie has been all over the board for production. That’s what raw rookies do. Some practices he looks magnificent. Then in some preseason spots, he seems lost.
On Friday, both tendencies hit the airwaves. Mond tossed an airmailed interception over Zach Davidson’s head — Davidson curiously didn’t bother to jump for the pass — and the rookie quarterback’s night was off to the races, in a bad way.
Yet, Mond made amends. Gradually in the second half, he settled in and moved the sticks. Under his leadership, Minnesota made the last preseason game entertaining and competitive. Mond has a long way to go, but if the Vikings sign no other backup quarterbacks, the team could limp to some offensive proficiency under Mond when Cook, Jefferson, and Thielen are actually on the field. Everything Mond did this offseason was surrounded by second and third-stringers, for the most part. Remember that. It matters.
Oh, and Jake Browning — once the heir apparent to QB2 — was dreadful.
Greg Joseph Misses Another Long Field Goal
To date as a Viking, Joseph has little problem drilling field goals from 50 yards in. Versus Kansas City though, he missed another field goal over 50 yards. That’s problematic. This one was blamed on “the wind,” so that is supposedly a factor to consider. A lot of stadiums have wind — Green Bay, Chicago, anyone?
General Manager Rick Spielman has a decision to make in the next two weeks. Get back on a familiar train and sign a free-agent kicker? Or ride with Joseph, who has struggled to hit field goals from distance?
That’s a tricky sell because Spielman’s track record on kicker personnel (Kaare Vedvick, Daniel Carlson) is splotchy. Eddy Pineiro or Riley Patterson are the logical fallbacks, and both are available.
Regardless, 2021 is another season when Vikings fans will experience anxiety with extra-point and field-goal kicking. Joseph did very little in the preseason to relax longstanding kicking fears.