Hi kids...how goes it?
I know everyone is less than amused with what we saw from our intrepid heroes in purple on Saturday. It was a sloppy game, full of penalties and poor execution on offense. There were more injuries to the offensive line, the first team offense didn’t look anything close to ready for prime time, the first team defense couldn’t stop a screen pass, and special teams once again floundered.
It doesn’t matter.*
*The new penalty rules matter, though. But that’s for another post.
I mean, to an extent it does, but it really doesn’t. These are just nothing more than dress-rehearsal practices, featuring mostly understudies. The approach a team takes to a preseason game is different than a regular season. There is no game plan installation, there is no film study of the opponent. It is focused on player evaluations, and on practicing concepts, plays, and techniques that they’re learning in training camp, regardless of what the other team is doing on the field.
I watch it to look for player development, and those are important things. Having the strongest 53 man roster possible helps win games. But I quit taking stock in preseason statistics and results from the first team players in 2005, unless one of those positions is up for grabs.
‘Ted’, you’re thinking, ‘what in Odin’s name does 2005 have to do with anything?’
Let’s travel back to the not too distant past, gang, for a quick walk down memory lane. At the end of the 2004 season, the Vikings traded away WR Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders (aka the Last Red McCombs Eff You), signaling that the offensive torch had passed to QB Daunte Culpepper. Even without Moss, Culpepper said he ‘felt like a Jedi Knight’ running the Vikings offense. Daunte was coming off an MVP-caliber year in which he completed almost 70% of his passes, threw for over 4,700 yards, 39 TD’s, and only 11 interceptions.
It’s an understandable quote to make in context during that time, so I won’t go into a whole diatribe of how the Jedi are literally the worst Special Operations force in the history of the Universe. I won’t mention that with all their collective psychic powers they were unable to detect that the Sith Lord of Sith Lords was literally down the street from their headquarters, impersonating a senator and getting ready to stage a coup. Nor will I mention that for all their greatness, and how much they were ‘loved’ and ‘respected’, NO ONE in the Republic’s Army gave them a heads up about Order 66...NOR did they detect such a plan through their ‘superior’ psychic abilities. No, I won’t mention that the most overrated Special Operations force in history got wiped out in about two hours because they were completely caught off guard, and when they got ambushed, they brought light sabers to a blaster fight. Good job, good effort Jedis.
No, I won’t discuss any of that, because that wasn’t the point of Daunte’s quote. But it’s ironic that when he referenced the Jedi back then how true he was in referring to the 2005 team, because woof...that 2005 team got ambushed and wiped out.
In the preseason, though, the Vikings new-look offense was lights out. Culpepper went an incredible 36-44 for 520 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. They looked close to unstoppable, and people thought the Vikings were going to be a tough out in the NFC North. Then the regular season started, and the Vikes were absolutely horrible, starting 2-5. They were blown out in three of those losses by more than 20 points, the offense had issues running and throwing the ball, and during post Love Boat 38-13 humiliation in Carolina, Culpepper had his knee destroyed. Brad Johnson took over for the rest of the year, and the next season Daunte was in Miami.
If you want an even more recent history, let’s go back to just last year. With a new look offensive line, and exciting rookie Dalvin Cook to replace long time fixture Adrian Peterson, it was expected Sam Bradford the Vikings offense would get on track, and we’d see a lot more downfield passing.
Then LT Riley Reiff got hurt early, much like Mike Remmers has this year, and missed most of the preseason. The offense didn’t look in sync at all, and if anything seemed to get worse with each game. There was a fair amount of consternation throughout the land, and a lot of folks thought that the offense was going to be another big mess, like it had been in 2016.
Then they came out and lit it up against the Saints in their first game of the year. And even after they had to absorb the losses of Bradford and Cook less than a full quarter into the season, the Vikings still fielded a top 10 offense, won the division, and advanced to the NFC Championship game.
I’m not worried yet, and you shouldn’t be, either! Are there things to keep an eye on, though? Sure. No one is happy Remmers and Pat Elflein have missed most/all of camp, and that’s giving the offensive line a mini-vibe right out of 2016. That said, assuming Elflein and Remmers start practicing this week, and they should, that group should settle down and the Vikings can concentrate on finding a LG. There are things to like about Danny Isidora, Tom Compton, and Aviante Collins, guys who are considered the top candidates for the job, and RT Brian O’Neill is flashing in camp as well. Finally, if there has been a surprise on the offensive line, it’s been C ‘Yukon’ Cornelius Edison. He has played pretty well under the circumstances, and I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t make the final 53.
I guess my point is that the overall depth the Vikings have on the line is immeasurably better now than it was in 2016, or even last year, and we won’t have to worry about anything like this anymore. At least not on darn near every snap, anyway:
Let’s once again check in on Matt Kalil pic.twitter.com/PXn5wckARB— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 18, 2018
Folks if you look up what ‘addition by subtraction’ means, you’ll get this clip of Matt Kalil. Anyway, the o-line needs to get settled and work together as a unit for a couple weeks before the first regular season game and if they can do that, I don’t have a lot of worries here.
The only other nagging concern I have is at kicker. Most of you already know the Vikings ended the kicking competition by releasing Kai Forbath a little while ago and handing the job to rookie Daniel Carlson. It’s not that I don’t have confidence in Carlson per se...it’s just that kicker memories conjure up a post-Apocalyptic Vikings Dystopia, where everything is dead, including my feelings and my football soul. Forbath wasn’t ‘Blair Walsh with the yips’ bad for the Vikings, and he made what was arguably the most clutch field goal in team history against the Saints in the divisional playoffs last year. You have to make extra points as well, I get it, and Forbath missed way more of those than he should have.
Which is why Daniel Carlson is the kicker today, and not Forbath.
I’m just worried that Minnesota will need to make a big field goal in a really pivotal point in the season...and we’re going to trot out a rookie to make that kick. I’m not saying he can’t, I’m just saying I’d be more comfortable with a veteran right now. Hopefully, he’ll change my mind in short order.
But overall, there’s a lot more to like with this team than there is to be worried about. The offense should be okay, the defense looks fierce, and the pieces are in place for a serious run at the Super Bowl. So, let’s step back from the ledge for now, and let the rest of the preseason play itself out.
And then after the first regular season loss, let us all lock arms and jump off into the abyss together.