Ahhhhhhh, nothing says pre-season football like 'Joel Stave sets up over center, Vikings in the Victory formation', does it? Still, it was Vikings football, and that's something. Even though it was just a cameo performance for the first team offense and defense, we can still take away several things from this game.
And although we shouldn't glean too much from this, we, as a collective group of Vikings fans (well, any fanbase, we're not the only ones) tend to way WAY overreact to this first game. I mean, in looking around week one of the pre-season, one would think Dak Prescott is going to be THE BEST QUARTERBACK EVAH, BROCK OSWEILER IS BROCK OSWIZARDZOMG!!11!!, and the LOS ANGELES RAMS ARE GOING TO BE SO TERRIBLE OH MY GOD.
Wait, that last one could very well be true. Regardless, we tend to look at a few plays, or extended plays by new guys against second and third team opponents, and make over the top generalizations based largely on hysteria, isn't that right, Mr. Leppard?
Oh, I get hysterical, hysteria
Oh can you feel it, do you believe it?
It's such a magical mysteria
When you get that feelin', better start believin'
'Cos it's a miracle, oh say you will, ooh babe
Hysteria when you're near
Your Bengals pre-season SMR that will not, hopefully, border on hysteria but YOU GUYS ZOMG AUDIE COLE STARTED FOR THE VIKINGS DEFENSE WITH THE FIRST TEAM WOOOOO ZOMG !!!!!!!11!!!!
Blue Chip Stocks:
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: When Teddy got time, he played very well. He made smart decisions, found open guys (although a couple passes were a little high), and his TD throw to Charles Johnson was gorgeous. Somewhere, the Teddy Bridgewater haters are meeting in secret trying to come up with something to bitch about, now that he can apparently throw the deep ball.
Alex Boone, G: Boone was just mauling guys from what I saw in the two series that he was in. I thought he played really well in both run and pass blocking. Also, Alex Boone went to Ohio State.
Charles Johnson, WR: On his only reception, Johnson beat coverage deep, and there was no one within five yards of him on his TD reception in the second quarter. If he's fully healed and is back to the end of 2014 Johnson, the Vikings are going to have a legitimately good WR corps.
C.J. Ham, RB: Is Ham going to make the Vikings final 53 man roster? I don't see it, but if he keeps playing like he did against the Bengals, he is a prime candidate for the practice squad. And once you get your foot in the door, anything can happen. Ham ran and caught the ball well, and had the Vikings only rushing touchdown of the evening.
Antone Exum, Jr., S: Although Jayron Kearse had the interception to seal the game, of all the backup safeties I thought Exum had the best night overall. Looked decent in run support and pass coverage, and just seemed to look the most comfortable in the defense.
Trae Waynes, CB: Starting in place of Terence Newman, Waynes acquitted himself well. When he was in with the first team, I thought he played with a little too much cushion, but he didn't give up a big play, didn't allow any yards after catch, and had a nice pass breakup early in the game. I thought he did well, and made the most of his opportunity.
Laquon Treadwell, WR: This was a solid debut for the rookie out of Ole' Miss. He was the Vikings leading receiver with 4 catches, but his first one was his most impressive. It was a clutch grab right before the half that got the Vikes into position to kick a field goal and go in to the locker room with the lead. It looked like it was a dig route (maybe a deep curl), then he sat down in a void, and was wide open for Hill. 18 yards later, the Vikings are kicking a field goal.
Andre Smith, RT: Complete hot garbage. Responsible for giving up one sack, and had not Bridgewater thrown a pretty sweet stiff arm, would've given up two sacks in the Vikings first three plays. Just horrid. In all honesty, I'd like to see T.J. Clemmings back in there if that's the best Smith has to offer.*
*This might be a hysteria-type hot take
Jabari Price, CB: Price was pretty much the Andre Smith of the defensive secondary. If he hasn't been already, I'd expect to see Mackensie Alexander passing him on the depth chart.
Buy: The goal line stand by the defense in the second quarter. With the Vikings facing a 4th and 1 on the three, the Bengals tried to run up the middle, and they were stuffed for a one yard loss. It was a great job by the second unit on that play, led by Danielle Hunter.
Sell: The 21 play, 89 yard drive that preceded it. LOLWUT??? But seriously you guys...how do you give up a 22 play drive? Well, you start by letting the Bengals go 6-7 on third down. Then you don't put any real serious pressure on the quarterback when they decide to pass the ball. 22 play drive, 89 yards...and zero points. That might be the most incredible statistic we'll see this pre-season.
Buy: The performance of Shaun Hill and Joel Stave. Honestly, I thought Hill and Stave both had nice games. Both guys made some nice throws and ran the offense efficiently. Stave had a pick that was in large part his fault (he threw well behind Isaac Freucthe, who had to spin to try and catch it, and the ball was batted in the air), but that was really only the bad throw either guy had all night.
Sell: The Vikings backup QB situation is fine. Performances aside, I am still wildly uncomfortable with Hill and Stave as the primary backups to Bridgewater.
Buy: The Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse interceptions. I thought both of those guys had decent to good games, and it was cool to see guys that had been teammates in college last year both get an interception in their professional debut.
Sell: Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse are going to start soon. Although they had solid debuts, there are still a lot of guys both players need to hurdle in order to crack the starting lineup. I'm not saying it can't or won't happen, but I am saying if it does, it won't be right away.
Buy: Matt Kalil had an awful play that almost cost the Vikings a safety. On the Vikings second drive, on a sweep to the left side deep in their own territory Kalil got blown up, even with tight end help, and Jerrick McKinnon looked like he was going to be tackled about six or seven yards deep in the end zone for a safety. Fortunately, the entire defense flowed to that side of the field, and McKinnon was able to cut back and turn that into a 10 yard gain. But Kalil was flat out clowned on that play.
Sell: Matt Kalil was hot garbage. But other than that...Matt Kalil wasn't bad. On the Vikings first sack, it looked to me like Bridgewater held the ball too long, and it was more of a coverage sack than the offensive line. the rest of the game that Kalil played...wasn't horrible. He is still vulnerable to an outside speed rush, but he did a good job of re-directing the rush upfield and the rusher out of the play. No, it's not a pancake block, and no, it's not stonewalling his guy, but the result is just the same--no sack.
Don Glover Quote Of The Day:
My dad didn't watch the game with me, because Don Glover doesn't waste his time on pre-season games. But I did call him, and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Did you see any Vikings highlights?
Dad: No. When did they play?
Me: Friday night, in Cincinnati.
Dad: Did they win?
Me: Yeah, 17-16.
Dad: How did Drinkwater look?
Me: Pretty sharp, had a really long TD pass.
Dad: He did? Maybe Drinkwater will be on this year, son.
Maybe he will, Dad. Maybe he will.
So the Vikings open up the pre-season with a 17-16 win over the Bengals, but still have a lot to work on. Overall, there were a lot of things I liked, and I'm looking forward to the next game against Seattle.