There's a lot of good and bad to take away from pre-season games, especially the first one. For one, we're so happy football is back, we tend over over analyze things. There's an air of optimism about the Vikings among the faithful this year, so every positive play is hyped.
Seriously, did you listen to Paul Allen last night? I normally like his play by play, but he was godawful last night.
Consequently, every negative play is just as hyped. And the truth, as we always find, is somewhere in between. For the Vikings, there are a couple of new players where that emphasis, on both ends of the spectrum, came in to play last night.
But the most important thing, for all of us, is that the boys are back in town, and they will be here until (hopefully) into 2015.
Guess who just got back today?
Those wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But man, I still think those cats are great
They were asking if you were around
How you was, where you could be found
I told them you were living downtown
Driving all the old men crazy
The boys are back in town (the boys are back in town)
Your 'hey, it's the pre-season for the SMR, too' SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Matt Cassel, QB: Cassel only played on the opening drive, but it culminated in the only touchdown of the game. Cassel was efficient, going 5/6 for 62 yards and a near score to Kyle Rudolph. Stats are fairly meaningless in pre-season games, so I hesitate to use those. But I was impressed with Cassel's pocket presence and decision making with the football. We watched a legitimate NFL quarterback running the Vikings offense last night. I liked it, not gonna lie.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: There aren't a lot of guys I'm more excited to see blow up this year than Flash. If Friday night was any indication, it's going to be fun to watch. Patterson had three catches for 38 yards, including a nice one handed, falling down grab on the Vikings first drive.
Adam Thielen, WR: If you're a guy that is in a street fight for a roster spot, you need to make the most of every single opportunity. Adam Thielen did just that last night, standing out on punt return, making a nice catch for 15 yards, and making a highlight tackle on punt coverage. It's still early, but at this point I'd be stunned if Thielen doesn't make the team.
The first unit defense: Three three and outs for the Raiders first unit defense was impressive. I hesitate to say it's a blue chip stock, though, for a couple reasons. For one, it's the Oakland Raiders. And two, it's the first pre-season game. Still, there's a lot to like so far. It's a lot more aggressive as a unit, and the mentality is that they're going to try and dictate the tempo to the offense, and make the offense react to them. That's a 180 degree flip of what we've seen the last seven or eight years, and it's a refreshing change.
Anthony Barr, LB: Anthony Barr is raw, but he's going to be a force. He had a sack last night, and it was a combination of speed and power we haven't seen from a linebacker in a long, long time. He still has a learning curve, to be sure, but when it's all said and done, we'll look back on the 2014 draft and say to ourselves 'how is it that Anthony Barr fell to 9?'
Jerick McKinnon, RB: Like Barr, McKinnon has a learning curve, but I liked his debut. He seemed to hit the hole, had good downfield vision, and yeah, he's still fast.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Bridgewater had some good and bad but for a debut, I wasn't disappointed at all. He had the bad strip fumble and was under 50% in his completions, but he made smart decisions with the football. He didn't force the ball, made some good throws (one 15 yard completion was nullified with a penalty), and seemed to have a pocket presence beyond his years.
Pretty much the third team: Maybe it was me struggling to watch guys that probably won't make the team, or see the field often if they do, but I just wasn't impressed with anyone past the two deep. The offensive linemen did their best to get Christian Ponder flat out murdered, the defensive unit lost the shutout and made Matt McGloin look like a decent QB, and I was just happy that the Vikings were able to hold on at the end.
Christian Ponder, QB: I just don't remember a guy being so DGAF about being in the NFL. Maybe he does, and he's still dealing with being demoted and all that. Still, for a guy that could be an asset for this team as a backup, or as a guy trying to showcase his talent for a new team and a fresh start, he just seemed like he was going through the motions.
Buy: The secondary is better this year than last. Seriously, I love this man/press scheme. It's a lot more aggressive, and players seem to respond to it more. I saw more passes defended last night in one game than I think I saw in almost any game from last season, and there were Vikings defensive backs actually, you know, covering receivers. Sure, Raiders guys got open, and that's going to happen. But I love this new scheme. LOVE. IT.
Sell: There's a lot of depth in the secondary. I'm still not sold on the depth in the secondary, though. S Kurt Coleman (OHIO STATE REPRESENT IN PURPLE AGAIN WOOOOO) had a nice pick as a starter, but as we got later in to he game, you could tell that the depth isn't where it needs to be yet.
Buy: Outdoor football in Minnesota: Look, I love the new stadium, it's going to be awesome. And I understand that the political climate didn't allow for the Vikings to build an outdoor venue. But the Vikings are staying in Minnesota, the stadium is going to be fantastic, and I'm good with that, I really am. But for a guy that grew up watching the Vikings play outside at Met Stadium, I love the fact that they'll play outdoors for the next two years. I really believe the Vikings are in the very beginning of what will be a special time in Vikings football, and I think it's appropriate, in many ways, that the Zimmer era will open by having the Vikings playing outdoors, in the elements. But that's just me.
Buy: Bridgewater is going to be a good NFL quarterback. I'm just as excited about Teddy Bridgewater as the next Vikings fan, and I saw some very good things from him last night. He actually audibled out of a play in the first half, and his pocket awareness was pretty good. It was exceptional for a guy making his NFL debut, actually. He seemed to settle in more and more as the game wore on, and as he did his throws got better. He made good decisions all night, and was always looking downfield for a receiver, as opposed to tucking it and running.
Sell: Bridgewater is ready to start right now. All those good things aside, Bridgewater isn't ready for prime time. His first couple of drives were kind of uneven, and a bad fumble forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal when they were knocking on the door of the goal line. Maybe it was nerves, but it could've also been the speed of the game. Yes, he got better as the game wore on, but the level of competition dropped, too. He struggled against the Raiders first and second units, and he still has a ways to go before he becomes the starter.
That said, he's going to get there. Sooner rather than later, and he's going to be very good. It's just not going to happen right away. And that's okay, because Matt Cassel is going to be fine for the time being.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
Me: You wanna come over and watch the game?
Dad: It's on TV? I thought the only game we got was the Rams.
Me: No, I gotta record it, but I can get it live on the Internet.
Dad: Internet...you mean on your computer?
Me: Yeah. I can put it up on the main TV, though.
Dad: Why the hell would I want to watch a pre-season game on a computer? Just tape the damn thing on one of those big cassette tapes you have, and I'll come over and watch it this weekend.
Me: Uh, nothing. Okay, Pop. No problem.
Don Glover mocks your technology, because Don Glover mocks you.
So week one of the pre-season is in the books, and we finally have football back. I like the vibe of this team. I've said that since Zimmer and free agency, and I still feel that way. If they can stay healthy, the Vikings are going to surprise a lot of people