Alrighty, the first pre-season game of the year is in the books, which means that we can officially look back on what went well and what didn't.
Let's clarify one thing before we get started. . .it's the first pre-season game. Therefore, it's too darn early to really judge anything, and it's certainly too darn early to panic. However, while we can't really judge anything in the bigger picture at this point, we CAN take a look at this game as a whole, because it did have its ups and downs for the Beloved Purple.
(And, yes, I will probably come up with a snappy theme for this sort of thing like the Scarlett/Rosie deal I experimented with last season. It's pre-season for me, too, darn it.)
What Was Good
Tarvaris Jackson - Any discussion of what went well last night against Seattle needs to begin wtih #7. In the first two pre-season games of 2007, Tarvaris Jackson threw a total of 15 passes. Last night, he threw 13. In fact, here's how the play calling went on the drives that Jackson led the team, all against Seattle's #1 defense:
Pass to Kleinsasser (13 yards)
Pass to Berrian (10 yards, brought back by penalty)
Pass to Shiancoe (10 yards, fumble lost)
Pass to Berrian (24 yards)
Pass to Rice (incomplete)
Pass to Wade (incomplete)
Pass to Berrian (19 yards)
Pass to Tapeh (6 yard TD)
Pass to Rice (9 yards)
Pass to Berrian (incomplete, but a nice deep ball)
Pass to Wade (28 yards)
Pass to Wade (10 yards)
Pass to Rice (incomplete, drew pass interference flag from Marcus Trufant. . .would have been a 20-yard TD without the mugging on another beautifully thrown ball)
And then Chester Taylor took 3 tries to get 1 yard for Minnesota's second touchdown.
Jackson's overall numbers were 8/11 for 118 yards and a touchdown, and he looked about as comfortable as one could hope for the first pre-season game of the year. He showed much better presence than he did in 2007, much greater patience, and really only made one bad throw that I saw (the first incompletion to Rice where he almost threw it right to Marcus Trufant). I certainly hope that this carries over, but if the play-action passing game can work as well as it did last night, things are going to be quite different this year for #7.
Great game plan, too. . .we know we can run the football. Hell, the entire world knows we can run the football. No point in putting Adrian Peterson's neck on the line in the first pre-season game. From all the camp reports, #28 is already in mid-season form. Besides, he needs to work on his pass blocking, too.
Minnesota's New WR Corps - I was quite impressed by the receivers at the top of the depth chart last night. I'm not sure if Trufant was mailing it in last night or what, but every time he lined up across from Berrian, #87 appeared to abuse him pretty good. Sidney Rice looks to be bigger and stronger than he was last year, and I hope we see many more attempted fade passes/jump balls to him in the red zone this year. With the running game this offense has, there's no reason that Rice can't double his output from 2007, when he had 31 catches and 4 TD receptions. I think that, by the end of the year, we'll see Berrian and Rice less as a #1 and #2 and as more of a #1 and a #1a. Bobby Wade also had a couple of nice grabs.
Young Return Men - The Vikings, by and large, had rookies handling the return duties last night, and they looked fairly impressive. Darius Reynaud had a great 53-yard kick return on the kickoff following Seattle's first TD. (Note to Darius, if he's reading out there. . .run AROUND the kicker. Seriously.) Fellow rookie Jaymar Johnson looked pretty good on a 23-yard punt return in the second half as well. Both of these youngsters have to know that they're probably fighting for one roster spot, so they need to make all the positive impressions that they can get.
Jared Allen - I haven't seen anyone in purple get off the ball as quickly as this guy since Chris Doleman was roaming the Dome. Allen spent the night lined up against Walter Jones, one of the NFL's better LTs, and there were quite a few plays that #69 just flat out whooped Jones and wound up in the Seattle backfield. This guy is going to be fun to watch this year, folks, and is going to end up being a very prudent investment by Zygi Wilf and company.
What Wasn't Good
Heath Farwell's Injury - In what's becoming an annual tradition, it appears that the Vikings have lost a linebacker for the year in their first pre-season game for the third consecutive season. After Chad Greenway and Rufus Alexander tore ACLs in 2006 and 2007, respectively, it appears that we might be looking at the same fate for Heath Farwell in 2008. He got carted off of the field last night, and Vikings sideline reporter Greg Coleman said that it appeared that Farwell's knee was "shot." Never a good sign. Farwell, who was the Vikings' special teams MVP in 2006 and 2007, would be a big loss for the Vikings if he can't come back. He's scheduled to have an MRI done today sometime, and as soon as anything is available, we'll pass it along.
Hold On to the Damn Football - The Vikings turned the football over 5 times on Friday night, leading directly to 20 Seahawk points. When you basically hand the opposition 20 points, it becomes very hard to win football games. Three of Minnesota's four lost fumbles came inside of Viking territory. Regardless of whether it's the first pre-season game or whether the people that fumbled are going to make the roster or not, fumbling five times in a game and losing four is pretty unacceptable. I realize that the Vikings aren't going to fumble five times in EVERY game they play this season, but it's still kind of frustrating to watch.
The Rest of the Defense in General - I don't know if the Vikings defenders are guilty of buying into their own hype a little but, but outside of Jared Allen, the entire unit. . .first team, second team, third team. . .just got abused by the Seattle offense. I realize that Pat Williams and Madieu Williams were healthy scratches, but we still shouldn't have looked THAT bad. It's vanilla, we didn't blitz much, and it's still early in the pre-season, but this is probably the aspect of last night's game I was the most disappointed with. But, fortunately, I also think that it will get much better as the pre-season rolls on, and by the time we hit the regular season, the Vikings' defense should be exactly what we're anticipating them to be. . .outstanding.
You all saw the game last night. . .well, most of you did, hopefully. What are your impressions of what happened under the teflon sky last night? Talk about it right here! And be sure to check out Field Gulls, SBNation's Seahawks site, for their perspectives on last night's clash.