The Vikings are now 3-0 in pre-season, beating Arizona 20-9. But the first teams didn’t look good in the process, although there were some good individual performances mixed in with the bad.
For depth players, it was another opportunity to show their stuff. For several players, trends are emerging - both good and bad. For others, it’s more difficult to determine.
Here are some notes.
Top and Bottom Performers
Offensively, Brandon Dillon graded highest according to PFF, followed by Dakota Dozier, Olabisi Johnson, Kyle Sloter, and Dru Samia. At the bottom of the list was Sean Mannion interestingly, followed by Kyle Rudolph, Alexander Mattison, Chad Beebe, and Cole Hikutini.
Defensively, the top graded players were led by Anthony Barr, followed by Jayron Kearse, Shamar Stephen, Ben Gedeon, and Anthony Harris. At the bottom of the list was Nate Meadors, followed by Xavier Rhodes, Derron Smith, Jalyn Holmes and Eric Kendricks.
On special teams, top grades went to Ameer Abdullah, Eric Wilson, Reshard Cliett, Derron Smith and Austin Cutting. At the bottom were Marcus Epps, Brandon Zylstra, Devante Downs, Olabisi Johnson, and Irv Smith Jr..
Cumulatively, over the first three preseason games, top PFF grades go to Brett Jones, Brandon Dillon, Kyle Sloter, Tyler Conklin, and Olabisi Johnson on offense. Defensively, Jayron Kearse, Shamar Stephen, Ben Gedeon, Harrison Smith and Ifeadi Odenigbo get the top grades. And on special teams, Laquon Treadwell, Khari Blasingame, Ameer Abdullah, Isiah Wharton, and Reshard Cliett get top marks.
The worst grades over the three games go to Chad Beebe, Alexander Mattison, C.J. Ham, Pat Elflein, and Cornelius Edison on offense. On defense, Curtis Cothran, Cameron Smith, Reshard Cliett, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes get the lowest grades. And on special teams, Brandon Zylstra, Olabisi Johnson, MacKensie Alexander, Austin Cutting, and Tyler Conklin were the lowest graded.
Kirk Cousins had easily the worst game of his preseason, going 3/13 for a mere 35 yards. He overthrew a bomb to an open Stefon Diggs that would have been a touchdown, and was off-target on a few other throws too. To be fair, a couple throws were dropped by receivers as well. He also faced more pressure than in the first two preseason games, and was sacked twice. He finished with a miserable 39.6 passer rating.
Dalvin Cook Shines
He had only two carries, but the 2nd one went for an 85-yard touchdown and showcased the big-play threat Dalvin Cook is whenever he touches the ball. His vision and elusiveness was top notch in that house call. He had some good blocking from Josh Kline and Rashod Hill to cutback into the secondary on that play.
Sloter Has Another Near Perfect Performance
The Vikings offense had looked fairly sluggish until Kyle Sloter entered the game. Once again, Sloter drove the offense down the field and scored touchdowns, converting on a couple 4th downs, in the red zone, making key throws, and fully in command. He finished the game 6/7 for 102 yards and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
Earlier in the week head coach Mike Zimmer made some comments that seemed intended to sandbag any thought of Sloter being the primary backup quarterback over Sean Mannion. Sloter responded by saying he’d let his performance Saturday do the talking.
In his post-game press conference, Zimmer was complementary of Sloter’s performance, if somewhat dismissive as well. It was interesting that Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, and Ben Leber announcing the game also stuck to the company line about the backup QB spot - Mannion’s experience (1 regular season start) being paramount in deciding the primary backup spot. They also cited working with (and being let go by) Sean McVay as an important part of his resume. Mannion was let go in favor of Blake Bortles as backup QB for the Rams.
Sean Mannion had a similar game as last week against the Seahawks - 6/9 for 57 yards, 84.0 passer rating, one sack. No TDs or INTs for Mannion this time, however. No scoring drives either.
Mike Boone Close to Cementing His RB3 Status
Ameer Abdullah was back after missing the Seahawks game, and didn’t do anything to hurt his chances. But he’s being overshadowed by the performance of Mike Boone, who’s really playing well in all phases for a RB3. He runs well, catches well, blocks well, and is even making plays on special teams. Abdullah had some ok returns, but the Vikings have other returners that can do as well, so I don’t see his return performance as helping him that much.
To be honest, you can make a pretty good case for Boone as RB2 over Mattison at this point.
Vedvik Blows It
Kaare Vedvik’s status as a “can do it all” kicker/punter was cast in doubt as he missed both of his field goal attempts from 43 and 54 yards. Mike Zimmer’s post-game comment that both Dan Bailey and Matt Wile seemed to be doing a better job than him as of late didn’t help either.
Once again, an interesting stat for preseason games is how many reps players get, as it shows the level of coaching interest. Here are the tallies of most reps on offense, defense, and special teams.
A couple observations on rep counts:
- Storm Norton, Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia getting the most reps on offense is interesting as it relates to the bottom of the OL roster.
- The coaching staff is taking extended looks at bubble DBs - Boyd, Epps, and Thomas - including special teams.
- Armon Watts getting more reps (including first team reps) than Jaleel Johnson is interesting, along with Ifeadi Obenigbo getting extended reps.
- Cameron Smith getting the most reps among depth linebackers on both defense and special teams is interesting too. He did alright under a more extended spotlight.
It will be interesting to see how preseason game performance impacts the final roster and depth charts this coming weekend. There will likely to a handful of surprises, and at least a few roster spots may come down to the final preseason game on Thursday.