It's back. It's really back! Real, live, 11-on-11, full-pads, against-another-team Minnesota Vikings football. And the Vikings won! Sure, the points mattered about as much as Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but meaningless victory still trumps meaningless defeat every time. For the first time in over seven months, we finally got our Vikings football fix.
And to be honest, we could tell it had been a while. The 2015 Hall of Fame Game between the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers was low-scoring, sloppy, and pretty boring overall. The sidelines in Canton were full of current and former NFL greats, but out on the field it was largely players that won't be on a roster in a month's time. It looked like...well, early August NFL football. It was pretty bad.
But that's the thing--bad football is like bad pizza or bad sex. Even at its lousiest and most basic, it's better than having none at all. Especially when you haven't gotten any for over half a year.
Which is why tonight's first time felt a lot like...that first time. Incredibly awkward, nobody really knew what they were doing, yet somehow soooo satisfying in the end. Ain't that right, Foreigner?
I know I can't help myself
You're all in the world to me
It feels like the first time
Feels like the very first time
It Feels like the first time
It Feels like the very first time
I have waited a lifetime
Spent my time so foolishly
But now that I've found you
Together we'll make history
And speaking of first times, this is the first time that we're doing a Stock Market Report without the irreverent and irreplaceable Ted Glover, who hung up his virtual cleats here at Daily Norseman a few months back. So you'll be getting the JV version of the SMR for the 2015 season from yours truly. I know it stinks, but we can take solace in what happened to the Ohio State Buckeyes immediately after Ted stopped writing for Land-Grant Holy Land--they won a National Championship. Hopefully the Ted Glover Corollary works in the pros as well!
Blue Chip Stocks
Audie Cole. The greatness of Preseason Audie Cole is rivaled only by the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson, and Bill Brasky. Preseason Audie Cole generates 48.7 turnovers per game, including his forced fumble on Sunday night. NOBODY dominates second and third team offenses like Preseason Audie Cole. (But seriously, he looked pretty good tonight.)
Gerald Hodges. He was all over the field, making tackles and stopping plays before they got going. He has been impressive in Mankato and it was great to see him carry it over to Canton on Sunday.
Stefon Diggs. CHOO CHOO! STEFON DIGGS HYPE TRAIN COMIN' THROUGH! Sure, the next Mr. Mankato kind of got off to a slow start. But just after he readily acknowledged calling for a fair catch too early with space in front of him, he returned the next punt all the way to the Pittsburgh 1 (he probably scored although there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it on the replay). That is a Lloyd Christmas level of redeeming yourself.
(image via The Cauldron)
Teddy Bridgewater. He went 5/6, looked very comfortable in the pocket, made good (safe) decisions, and has even stepped up his slide game with that scramble on the long drive. Get ready to hear the word "poise" thrown around in regards to Teddy about a bajillion times this season.
Jerick McKinnon. He only got a few touches in with the first team but he made them count. He made a Pittsburgh defender look completely ridiculous on that short pass. Even with Adrian Peterson back in the fold, I think we're still going to see plenty of McKinnon this season.
Matt Kalil. For real! I didn't accidentally put him in the wrong section! He had a really solid drive with the first team! Maybe we aren't totally doomed at left tackle! I can't stop using exclamation points when describing how pleasantly surprised I was at Kalil's performance!!!!1!!
MyCole Pruitt. Yes, he scored a touchdown, but you're not going to get much easier of a TD thanks to the Steelers' blown coverage. I was more impressed with his blocking before making his wide open grab. Pruitt is a versatile talent at tight end.
Tom Johnson. I think he could start for at least half the teams in the NFL. Johnson can disrupt plays up the middle in so many different ways. The Vikings have some excellent depth along the defensive line.
Justin Trattou: He got called for a penalty but spent a lot of time in the backfield and had a nice deflected pass. Again: that defensive line depth tho.
Kyle Rudolph: Rudy got open, he made some catches, and he didn't get hurt. That's three for three in my book.
Jabari Price: I can't believe I'm saying this, but a certain first round rookie corner could learn a lot from how Price played tonight. He defended several passes well and timed his breaks on the ball perfectly.
Tyrus Thompson. I guess I'll have to hold off on buying that new Thompson jersey because he struggled pretty mightily. His fellow second string offensive linemen didn't fare much better on the whole. That Mike Harris as starting right guard thing makes a lot more sense after what we saw on Sunday.
Jeff Locke. Yuck. When the team needs him to boot a 60 yarder, he shanks one for 35 yards. When the team needs him to pin the opposing team deep, he sends a cannon into the end zone. The punting situation must get better. Soon.
Trae Waynes. #VikingsTwitter definitely had their claws out in regards to the Vikings' first round draft pick. And truthfully, Waynes deserved a lot of it. He got beat pretty bad on a couple plays. To make things worse it looked like he lollygagged it after committing defensive holding on one play. That infraction was his first of three contact penalties on the night, which led to us being reminded of all those "grabby" scouting reports Waynes had coming into the draft. He was straight up getting picked on by Landry Jones and the Pittsburgh receivers for much of the night. Methinks Zimmer might have a word or two with his rookie this week.
Blindspot, Mondays this fall on NBC. I already hate this show after seeing about 273 commercials for it throughout the broadcast. IF YOU DON'T KNOW HER, THEN WHY IS YOUR NAME TATTOOED ON HER BACK?! IT'S BECAUSE HER TATTOOS ARE A TREASURE MAP, YOU GUYS! No thank you very much.
Buy: No injuries that we know of yet! This is always the most important statistic about any preseason game. Of course there are still four more gauntlets to run through before Week 1, but so far so good. I'm already worried enough about Anthony Barr so I don't need any other names filling up the injury report.
Sell: Running 4th and 1 with McKinnon over Matt Asiata. Although the onus was mostly on Blake Renaud for a terrible lead block, Matt Asiata was put on this Earth to run for exactly three yards at a time. I'll just chalk this one up to Norv trying new things.
Buy: Linebacker depth! Suddenly the whole season may not hinge on the iffy health of Barr! We've already talked about Cole and Hodges--don't forget about the solid performances turned in by Eric Kendricks and Brandon Watts. Linebacker was a pretty big concern for me heading into the season but those fears are starting to subside.
Sell: Speaking in absolutes when it comes to final roster moves after one preseason game. For instance: Marcus Sherels is definitely gone because of that one Stefon Diggs return. Or Waynes is a "huge project" or a "bust" because he struggled in his first action at a position that might be the hardest to learn in the modern NFL. Or Chase Ford is absolutely off the team because of his bobble that led to an interception and Pruitt's TD. Pump your brakes, kids. There's still a lot of football to be played before the final 53 is announced.
Buy: Babatunde Aiyegbusi not playing. Sorry, but Babs isn't ready for NFL action yet from what I've seen. The only way he's making the squad is by the international practice squad exemption. If the Vikings trotted him out there before he was truly ready to take NFL snaps it would be nothing more than a sideshow. I'm still rooting for Babs as much as anyone, but we have to be realistic about how (little) he will contribute this season.
Sell: NBC not mentioning Mick Tingelhoff during its broadcast until there was 4 minutes left in the game and most fans had already tuned out. I get that Tingelhoff's health struggles don't exactly make for good television (especially with the league so gun shy about football players and memory loss) but that was really disappointing. But hey, at least they spent about ten minutes rehashing Adrian Peterson's legal timeline two and a half quarters earlier! And don't forget: Blindspot, Mondays this Fall on NBC!
Buy: Blair Walsh is automatic on kickoffs. There are going to be a lot of touchbacks and opposing returners gambling on returns from 9 yards deep in their own end zone this season. Distance has never been a problem for Walsh and it won't be anytime soon.
Sell: Blair Walsh is automatic on field goals. I know 48-yarders aren't gimmes but he needs to make those more often than not.
Sell: Long snapper battles. Cullen Loeffler was the snapper on Walsh's missed FG and Kevin McDermott had a rather low snap on Locke's first garbage punt. I'd mark this battle as a scoreless draw so far.
Buy: Football is back, in
all most of its glory! The Hall of Fame Game is now over, meaning the first of 24 Vikings games this season is now in the books. (See what I did there?) It's officially time to buckle in and enjoy the ride.
Sell: Reading too much into any of these assessments, good or bad. This wasn't even preseason Week 1. It was technically Week 0 and Week 0 isn't even a thing which means this game technically didn't even happen so I'm not even sure why you bothered to read anything I wrote about it. As always, when it comes to the Vikings, don't panic--there will be plenty of time for that later.
Gemma Thompson Quote of the Day
The one department of Ted's Stock Market Reports that I'll miss the most is the quotes from Don Glover, one of the greatest sumbitches to ever cheer for the purple. My dad is also an awesome Vikings fan, but I couldn't ask him to live up to the impossibly high bar of awesomeness that Don set every week. So instead I'll be playing the cute card! My daughter Gemma turned two in April and is starting to grasp her daddy's love of sports while she enjoys her last few months as an only child. (Little sister is due to arrive around Halloween.) Gemma saw daddy break out his laptop before the game, so she said:
"Thass yours Daddy? I go get mine!"
And so we covered the first half of the game via TweetDeck and Fisher Price.