The Vikings won their second preseason game at home against the Seahawks, 25-19. But once again, more important than the score was evaluating how the Vikings performed.
Here are a few notes from the game.
Top and Bottom Performers
On offense the top performers according to PFF were Brett Jones, Brandon Zylstra, Laquon Treadwell, Kyle Sloter, Brandon Dillon, and Oli Udoh.
Defensively, Harrison Smith, Kentrell Brothers, Jayron Kearse, Karter Schult, Duke Thomas, and Ben Gedeon got top billing.
And on Special Teams, Khari Blasingame, Devante Downs, De’Angelo Henderson, Jeff Badet, and Reshard Cliett topped the list.
On the bottom end offensively, Pat Elflein, Cornelius Edison, Chad Beebe, John Keenoy, and Jordan Taylor had the worst grades.
Defensively, Anthony Harris, Curtis Cothran, Holton Hill, Trae Waynes, and Cameron Smith were the lowest graded.
And on Special Teams, Austin Cutting had the worst grade, followed by Eric Wilson, Brandon Zylstra, Dillon Mitchell and Marcus Epps.
Offensive Line Didn’t Look As Good
Overall the Vikings offensive lines - first and second string - were overwhelmed at times. Run blocking wasn’t that great. Pass protection okay, but not as solid as last week. Of course the first team last week didn’t have many reps last week either.
Pat Elflein was the same old 2018 Pat Elflein. Yes, he was that bad. He was easily the lowest graded player on offense for the Vikings - something he’s used to from last season - with a 35.7 overall grade. He was the one who allowed Poona Ford into the backfield to nail Mattison for a loss and near fumble. He also struggled too much in pass protection. This cannot be overlooked by Rick Dennison, Kevin Stefanski, Gary Kubiak, and Mike Zimmer. If Pat Elflein is not very much improved over last year, and he’s not as of yesterday, he has no business being a starting offensive lineman for the Vikings.
Contingency plans need to be made ASAP if Elflein doesn’t show significant and immediate improvement. Frankly I was surprised the coaching staff handed Elflein the starting LG spot in the first place this off-season, without any competition.
Those contingency plans could involve Brett Jones. In sharp contrast to Elflein, Jones was the highest graded player on offense for the Vikings, with a 90.5 overall grade. Giving Brett Jones first team reps at left guard makes immediate sense.
Beyond that, there were some positive performances. Oli Udoh looked pretty good on third team. He’s really improved from his college tape. Leaps and bounds better. Still has a ways to go, but he’s really made a lot of progress. Rashod Hill, Riley Reiff, and Dakota Dozier all had decent performances, particularly in pass protection - if not run blocking.
Garrett Bradbury showed improvement over week one, but doubtless will learn the importance of pad level when it comes to leverage with bigger defensive tackles. Poona Ford de-cleated him at least once.
Cousins to Thielen Proving Deadly Downfield
The Vikings offense continued to get chunk plays by taking shots down the field to Adam Thielen. Both last week and this week, Cousins chucked it to Thielen, who was never really open, but managed to come down with the ball. A third shot resulted in a big pass interference penalty.
This looks like it will be a staple in the Vikings offense, complimenting the run and short passing game.
Boone, Badet, Bisi and Blasingame
These four up-and-coming offensive skill players didn’t do anything to hurt their chances, and most did some things to help them.
Boone looked good again as a running back, making some nice plays for extended gains, including a 45-yard scamper on a short pass over the middle. He had a good blitz pickup as a blocker as well. I’d be surprised at this point if he doesn’t make the roster.
Ameer Abdullah did not play. He was a bit banged up after the last game, but it was a bit surprising he didn’t play. It certainly didn’t help his chances with other players looking good in his roles.
Khari Blasingame had another big gain as a receiver out of the flat. He also scored on a goal line run, which showed his short yardage ability. Importantly, he was also the highest graded Viking on special teams. C.J. Ham had 2 carries for 8 yards and did well as a pass blocker, but he seems increasingly at risk of losing the fullback competition.
Jeff Badet had some decent kick returns, and a couple catches too. His positioning in terms of reps suggests he’s got the inside track for a WR roster spot, assuming the Vikings don’t keep Treadwell,
Bisi Johnson did the least to help his chances against the Seahawks, but he still looked like he belonged out there as a receiver - he did a good job trying to haul in another contested TD catch with defenders all over him - but couldn’t get there this time to bring it in. That play might have been a defensive pass interference or hold looking at the replay.
He also learned a lesson about making fair catches on punt returns. He got nailed the instant he made the catch on his only punt return attempt. While he’ll likely learn from that experience, credit him for making the catch and hanging on to it. Coaches will remember that too.
Brandon Zylstra had a good game against the Seahawks, with 5 catches on 5 targets, but didn’t do as well on special teams. It may be too little, too late for Zylstra, especially with Johnson, Badet and Beebe getting the returner reps on special teams.
Kyle Sloter, As Always, Looks Like The Best Backup QB
Sean Mannion looked better than last week, but he was still the third-best QB for the Vikings. He threw a pick-six in what looked like an inaccurate throw and miscommunication - both. He had a pick-six worthy throw last week too. Mannion continued to look just a bit more tentative at times compared to Cousins and Sloter, although not as much as last week. His performance seems more labored in general, and he looks less confident than either Cousins or Sloter.
By contrast, Kyle Sloter continued to look very comfortable- having fun and confident - and more than ready for the challenge. His first throw was a bit high (but catchable), but after that right on the money every time en route to a couple more touchdown drives in the second half. He’s got a lot more zip on his throws than Mannion too.
Overall Sloter had a 129.5 passer rating for the game, while Mannion had an 86.9. Cousins finished with an even 100.0.
I’m not sure there’s ever been a preseason game since Sloter was acquired by the Vikings - and probably in Denver too - that he didn’t look the best backup QB. I don’t know what more he can do on the field to earn the primary backup spot.
He deserves to get 2nd QB reps the remainder of preseason.
The Vikings defensive interior took a step back against the Seahawks. Jayln Holmes, Hercules Mata’afa, Jaleel Johnson, and Curtis Cothran were all graded sub-par for the game. The only bright spot was Armon Watts, who continues to grade well.
At defensive end, Karter Schult had a nice game, and helped himself and his roster chances. Ifeadi Odenigbo continues to do so. Stephen Weatherly, surprisingly, hasn’t done as well in preseason so far. I don’t think he loses a roster spot over it, but it will be interesting to see how the defensive line roster spots are distributed come August 31st.
Kaare Vedvik Can Do It All
Vedvik had some good punts and kickoffs. Made an extra point too. He didn’t get a chance to make a field goal, but I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity at some point. What really remains to be seen with Vedvik is not what he can do, but how the Vikings choose to use him. He got the primary reps at punter this time, leading one to believe he could be punter and kickoff guy, and maybe used for longer field goals too. Marwan Maalouf didn’t sound like he wants Vedvik to do it all, as it may be a strain on his leg to practice and do everything. That would seem to heighten injury risk as well.
And who knows how he’ll be used next week. Maybe he gets the primary kicker reps for field goals and extra point attempts, and Wile gets them for punter reps.
Once again, a key stat for preseason games, particularly among depth players, is how many reps they got - which is a measure of coaching interest. Here are the tallies of those who got the most reps, broken down by offense, defense, and special teams.
A couple observations:
- Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, and Dakota Dozier got nearly all the reps at C, LG, and LT respectively after the first team left. Jones had 14 reps at RG.
- Depth corners getting a lot of reps wasn’t much of a surprise, but those who did likely helped themselves - particularly Duke Thomas - who bounced back well from a poor showing at the Saints.
- Armon Watts getting more reps than Jaleel Johnson may be significant, particularly as Watts is grading better than Johnson.
- Duke Thomas also getting the most reps on special teams is interesting.
There appear to be a few players that have shown up consistently over the past two pre-season games. Guys like Mike Boone, Khari Blasingame, Armon Watts, Oli Udoh, Kyle Sloter and Ifeadi Odenigbo among them.
A few others who had a disappointing first pre-season game bounced back against Seattle - guys like Irv Smith Jr., Duke Thomas, Karter Schult and Brandon Zylstra among them.
Meanwhile, some other struggled a bit more against Seattle - guys like Herceules Mata’afa, Jalyn Holmes, Holton Hill, and Pat Elflein.
All that leaves room for movement when it comes to evaluating depth charts and roster spots - the next two preseason games could help spell some of that out a bit more.