But who cares?! It was only the preseason! Barely any starters played! And it is now officially over! It's September! We made it to real football again! Let's dance!
Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day
Time to get to the stocks for the last time before they start to count.
Blue Chip Stocks
Taylor Heinicke. It was truly #TaylorTime last night. Heinicke was the only quarterback that took snaps against the Titans. And with how the third string quarterback played, he might have just forced the Vikings to keep three quarterbacks. I don't think he would stay on a practice squad for long after the performance he had in Tennessee. Heck, with the shaky performances Shaun Hill has shown us this preseason, would anybody be vehemently opposed to making Heinicke the QB2 going forward? OK that might be jumping the gun a little but there's no doubt Heinicke's future is much brighter than the 35-year-old Hill. Heinicke made several great throws despite being under pressure for much of the night (we'll get to that later). It was a very impressive performance from the kid out of Old Dominion.
Dominique Williams. He still might be a long shot to make the squad but he did everything he could to make his case on Thursday. He looked sharp and decisive on his runs without much help from his offensive line (again, we'll get to them later). By contrast, DuJuan Harris kept jump-cutting to nowhere on his carries. If this touchdown was Williams' last as a Viking, he went out even better than Joe Banyard did last week.
Stefon Diggs. At first, Diggs seemed to be dropping the ball on his inevitable Mr. Mankato title--literally. He had a very slow start with his fumble and offensive pass interference penalty in the first quarter but he rebounded quite nicely. He finished the night with 8 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. And this was his lone punt return on the night:
Not bad. And if you needed any more convincing of why Diggs is the undisputed 2015 Mr. Mankato, I'll let Ben Goessling drop the mic:
For the preseason, Stefon Diggs caught 15 passes for 174 yards, and finished with 413 all-purpose yards. All team highs.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) September 4, 2015
Trae Waynes. The rookie cornerback had a quiet night, finishing with one tackle on 36 snaps, which is a good thing. Some of it was not getting thrown at for most of the night. But again, this is a good thing when you consider how he was picked on in the first two weeks of the preseason. Waynes has improved with each game. He probably won't make a big impact on the defense right away in his rookie year. However, I believe he will make an impact on special teams right away. Waynes has looked solid on coverage teams throughout the preseason.
Justin Trattou, Danielle Hunter, and Scott Crichton. The backup defensive ends showed why the defensive line is the deepest unit on the team. With the starters taking the night off they still created plenty of disruption in the Tennessee backfield. It's crazy to think Trattou's spot on the final roster isn't a certainty with how well he has played throughout the preseason. Hopefully the team can find a way to keep all three.
Shaun Prater. Waynes didn't get picked on last night but Prater sure did. And he got beat a lot, including several times on a fourth quarter touchdown drive by Tennessee. Just look at what Chase Coffman--the Titans' fourth string tight end--did to him:
Oof. Prater might want to call in sick for film review today because didn't do himself any favors with his performance.
All of the backup offensive linemen. If you thought the starters were a concern heading into the season, the depth might even be more alarming. It's amazing that Heinicke survived some the hits he had to endure thanks to shoddy blocking in front of him. At least the Vikings averaged 3.3 yards per carry, which sadly is an improvement over the past couple weeks.
I feel that I need to call out two players who had an especially bad night: David Yankey and Babatunde Aiyegbusi. Yankey continues to disappoint with each opportunity he gets. He played mostly right tackle last night but the results were about the same as when he played on the left side last week. For someone who supposedly had such great feet in college, he's certainly getting beat a lot in the pros. Watch how Yankey (right tackle) allows Heinicke to get hit on a short drop:
And Babs...oh Babs. We love you buddy, but you still have soooo much to learn. His play at right tackle made Yankey look like an All-Pro. This is how most of his 18 snaps went:
Hopefully the giant rookie from Poland will get a year to learn on the practice squad international exemption because at this point he wouldn't start for most FCS teams.
All of the kickers. Blair Walsh missed yet another field goal, bringing his tally on the preseason to a paltry 5 for 11. Going 5 for 11 is OK if you're Miguel Sano, not an NFL kicker. Jeff Locke has also reverted to his usual form after a promising start to the preseason. At this point I wouldn't be that upset if the Vikings went for it on every 4th down like an online game of Madden.
Robert Blanton. He wasn't terrible last night but he was still disappointing. Blanton was the only defensive starter that played on Thursday and he didn't do anything that solidified his starting gig. He appeared to miss his coverage on the Titans' second touchdown of the game and didn't make any positive plays in the few series he played. I don't think Andrew Sendejo or Antone Exum Jr. have done enough in the preseason to usurp Blanton's starting spot but he's definitely leaving the door open.
Buy: IT'S TIME FOR REAL FOOTBALL NEXT! WOO HOO! We're finally going to see Teddy Bridgewater hand off to Adrian Peterson in a game!
Sell: Playing in the Hall of Fame game is an "honor". It's a chore in every respect. It's an extra opportunity for players to get hurt and it throws the Training Camp schedule all out of whack. (Selfishly, I could have covered an extra day in Mankato if it wasn't for a random Thursday off day.) When it was first announced that the Vikings were playing in the game, I was excited because they would be in the first game of the new season; now I know better.
Buy: Outside of Tyrus Thompson going through the concussion protocol, there were no major injuries! If it wasn't for Phil Loadholt tearing his Achilles the Vikings would have made it out of the preseason nearly unscathed. Still, after running through 5 preseason gauntlets, it could have been much worse.
Sell: Talking about Zimmer's undefeated preseason streak coming to an end. He was the first to say how completely pointless his 8-0 record was heading into the game. I'm almost glad the record is 8-1 now so it won't be a talking point next August.
Buy: The awesome two-point conversion from Ryan Succop that was called back due to a penalty:
To be honest they should have just let it count. It's the preseason and that was too awesome.
Sell: Dismissing Michael Mauti. About five minutes after I sent out this tweet:
Pretty sure these are the last snaps Mike Mauti is going to take in a #Vikings uniform. Getting shoved around tonight.— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) September 4, 2015
He went and blocked a punt, reminding us all how solid he is on special teams. That said, I still don't think Mauti is making the final roster.
Buy: The cuts down to the final 53 being tougher than they have in years. This is the most depth the Vikings have had since the Favre days. There are still a lot of question marks for the Vikings heading into the regular season but there are a whole lot of reasons to be excited as well.
Sell: Still having to wait ten more days for real football. We're the very last game of Week 1, which means fans everywhere else outside of San Francisco will get their fix before us. But I want football now!
(image via gfycat)
Buy: The team having more confidence in Adam Thielen than Cordarrelle Patterson. Thielen got the night off, meaning he didn't even have to prove himself to earn his spot on the roster. That's amazing when you think back on how his career started. Meanwhile, the former first round pick had to grind it out with the rest of the scrubs, snagging one catch for 7 yards on 16 snaps.
Gemma Thompson Quote of the Day
My daughter must have known that it was the last preseason game because she wasn't really interested in watching football last night. Here was our brief exchange as the game got underway:
Gemma: Hi Daddy! Is this football?
Me: Yes it is!
Gemma: OK. I go play outside with Mommy.
Oh well. Can't say I blame her. At least she looked the part.
Skol to real football a week from Monday!