It’s funny how the end of football season gives us a yearning for the next football season, and how much we get the ‘I’d kill to just watch a pre-season game, man’ feeling, somewhere by mid-March. Finally, after what feels in forever—after free agency, the draft, and the beginning of training camp, we all get what we wished for.
Pre-season football, baby!!
And collectively, as soon as the offense and defense fail to live up to our ridiculously unrealistic off-season expectations three plays in to the first game, we’re ready for it to end and move on to the regular season.
I’m just as guilty as the rest of you, and I don’t care. I love that football is back, and that we’re here, ready for another season. My head tells me that pre-season is what it is, to quote modern day philosopher Kelly Campbell, but my heart tells me after one quarter of the first pre-season game that the Vikings are either going to the Super Bowl or drafting in the top five. We all do this every year, without fail, and we all love doing it. Because football is back, and that’s all that matters.
Here we go again, kids. Isn’t that right, Mr. Coverdale?
I don't know where I'm going
But I sure know where I've been
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
An' I've made up my mind,
I ain't wasting no more time
But, here I go again
Here I go again
Tho' I keep searching for an answer,
I never seem to find what I'm looking for
Oh Lord, I pray
You give me strength to carry on,
'Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams
An' here I go again on my own
Goin' down the only road I've ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
An' I've made up my mind
I ain't wasting no more time
The SMR that wishes the 80’s version of Tawny Kitaen would dance on the hood of my truck follows. Not the modern day one, though. Her plastic surgeon was...not good.
Blue Chip Stocks
Dalvin Cook, RB: There were few highlights made by the first team offense, playing in the ironically named New Era Stadium. But it seemed every time they did make a play, it was Cook that was involved. His numbers weren’t eye popping, as pre-season numbers rarely are, but he looked smooth and efficient, especially as a receiver.
Everson Griffen, DE: Griffen and the first team defense seemed to pick up right where they left off, at least in rushing the quarterback. Griffen had a nice sack of Tyrod Taylor on the first series, and the first team defense kept the Bills from scoring on the two series they played.
Tashan Bower, DE: The amount of talent the Vikings seem to have at defensive end is deep. Bower played a lights out game last night, recording a sack, 2 QB hits, and he even knocked down a pass. As always, these performances need to be taken in the context of the competition he was playing against, but it was hard not to notice him on the field last night.
Stacy Coley, WR: Every year, it seems like there is one player that comes from nowhere and rockets up the charts to make the team. I’m not saying it’s definitely going to be Coley this year, but after an impressive training camp, he followed it up with a great night against Buffalo. He had three catches for 67 yards, including a 38 yard catch and run partly nullified by a Michael Floyd penalty, and a really nice sideline grab on the Bills 2 yard line that set up a touchdown. I think for the time being, he’s solidified as the guy that’s going to replace Floyd when he starts his suspension. And depending on the severity of Laquon Treadwell’s injury, he could inch ahead of him, too.
Eric Wilson, LB: When you’re not talked about a lot during the first couple weeks of training camp, that’s generally not a good thing if you’re a guy down the roster trying to fight for a spot on the team. You need to stand out on film during games, and that’s exactly what Wilson did last night. When he was in, he seemed to always be around the ball, registering five tackles, and two passes defended, one of which should have been an interception.
Jaleel Johnson, DT: After what seemed to be an up and down camp, Jaleel Johnson really had a nice game last night. The fourth round pick had a sack and 2 QB hits, and showed a nice ability to shed blocks and close to the QB.
Case Keenum, QB: The backup QB battle has gone back and forth, but last night felt like Keenum put a lot of separation between himself and Taylor Heinicke. Keenum looked poised, confident, and accurate, and he had a knack for avoiding the rush that I hadn’t seen in him before. Granted, it was against future truck drivers and stock brokers, but still, the second quarter play where he avoided a sack by ducking, tucking the ball, and running for a nice gain was downright impressive.
First team offensive line: STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE GANG...but the ability to protect the quarterback was not good last night. And the Vikings had a hard time running the ball, too. Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill each gave up a sack, and running backs had very little room to maneuver, which was very much a carry over from last year. I’m not going to panic, because Riley Reiff didn’t play, and I think they got better the more they were in there, but it was still a disappointing debut.
First team run defense: For as much pressure the Vikings put on Tyrod Taylor and the Bills quarterbacks all night, the run defense put up as much resistance as a pre-paid hooker for most of the night. The Bills ended up with 127 yards rushing and a 5.3 yards per carry average. The Bills top two backs last night, Jonathan Williams and Mike Tolbert, had 66 yards on only 8 carries. That has got to get cleaned up, and fast.
Sam Bradford, QB: I feel like every discussion or critique of Sam this year will have to have the ‘I’m not a Sam hater, but...’ disclaimer in it. I hope not, but yeah, like my Dad used to tell me: ‘Son, why don’t you hope in one hand and shit in another, and let’s see which hand fills up first.’ Anyway, the Sam Bradford we saw last night was not the Sam Bradford many of us watched in Mankato. He had good completion numbers (5 completions in 7 attempts), and yes, he was sacked twice, but he also had time to set up, and several very clean pockets with opportunities to throw downfield. And he didn’t. At least not accurately. All his completions seemed to be dump offs and checkdowns, with no involvement of the tight end. It wasn’t what I was expecting, at all.
Taylor Heinicke, QB: I think even if Taylor Heinicke had put up numbers like Case Keenum did last night Keenum would still be second on the depth chart, but the competition would still be open. However, when you juxtapose Heinicke’s relatively miserable performance to Keenum’s pretty solid outing, I’m finding a hard path for Heinicke to win the backup job. Heinicke looked anything like a guy that could be groomed for a job down the road, as he was inaccurate, indecisive, and generally looked like the game moved too fast for him, which was surprising to me. He most certainly did not put his best foot forward last night (womp womp).
Buy: The offensive line will be better. The sacks on the first two series were frustrating, but I did think they got better as the game progressed. There were several instances where Sam had a very clean pocket to throw the ball, and the up and down night from the o-line was a lot like we witnessed in Mankato. I think the players they have to work with are better, and I’m not going to freak over one pre-season game. No, it wasn’t what we hoped, but if you look a little deeper, you can see a respectable line forming.
Sell: Mike Remmers is as bad as anything the Vikings had last year. Remmers gave up a bad sack, but it wasn’t a full on jailbreak off the right side the whole time he was in. I’m just not gonna pull the plug after one sack, in one series, in the first pre-season game.
Buy: Case Keenum is the clear number two quarterback. If there was any lingering doubt about who Sam’s backup was going to be to start the season, it pretty much ended faster than Johnny Manziel’s career last night. Keenum was far and away the better quarterback between him and Heinicke last night, and barring something completely unforeseen at this point, we can put this competition to bed.
Sell: The Vikings don’t need Teddy Bridgewater this year. That said, a healthy Teddy Bridgewater is miles better than either Kennum or Heinicke, and the quicker he can get back on the active roster, the better off I’ll feel about things going forward. Oh, this is probably a disclaimer I’ll need to add as well: No, I don’t want Sam to get hurt. He’s the starter, but if something does happen, I’d much rather have a healthy Teddy trotting out to the huddle more than anyone else.
Buy: Overall, I was disappointed. Yes, last night could have been better. I was really hoping to see an crisp, efficient offense when the first team was on the field, and we didn’t see that. I was hoping to see a dominant run defense, and we didn’t see that, either. The second half was entertaining, though, as some young guys really flashed some potential, and hey, the Vikings won.
Sell: The season is over. There’s a lot of work to do to get ready for the season opener against the Saints, but the over reactions by a percentage of the fan base for the first pre-season game border on the ridiculous. Keep in mind that both teams are just playing basic concepts, and it was the first live game action in seven months. That said, I’d really like to see an improvement on both sides of the ball, just because it’s a lot more fun watching a good offense and good defense together.
Quote Of The Game
Still not sure how I’m going to do this section, so bear with me while I get the kinks for this part worked out. Last night, my grandson Grayson was over. I didn’t get the game on local TV where I live, but I was able to stream it online. So he was watching some super hero show on Netflix, and I was watching the game. He walks over to me, and this is the conversation:
Grayson: Papa, what are you watching?
Me: I’m watching football.
Grayson: The Minnesota Bikings?
Me: Yes! Would you like to watch?
/Grayson smiles, nods head
/Leans head in, looks at screen
Grayson: GO BIKINGS! Papa, are they the purple guys or the white guys?
Me: The purple guys.
/Grayson watches 2-3 plays
Grayson: Papa, the purple Bikings guys don’t look so good. Let’s play super heroes.
Somewhere, my father nodded in agreement.