The Vikings knocked off the Oakland Raiders in the preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium, but what stood out in tonight's game? Daniel House opens up his notebook and provides all the details.
Updated: August 9th, 2014 12:55am
By: Daniel House
The Vikings opened up the 2014 pre-season campaign tonight against the Oakland Raiders, launching the first full season at TCF Bank Stadium. The crowd had high energy and the stands were packed, as the team began a new era of Vikings football. Mike Zimmer coached his first game on the sidelines and the team went on to win the first game 10-6. Take a look inside my notebook to see all of the highlights from tonight's game.
Cassel crisp, Bridgewater still adjusting
Matt Cassel finished 5-for-6 for 62 yards in his debut within Norv Turner’s offensive scheme. It was an encouraging sign for Vikings fans who were uncertain about quarterback play this season. Cassel commanded the huddle well and connected on an out pass to Greg Jennings, a dragging route by Cordarrelle Patterson, and a smooth corner route by Kyle Rudolph. It seemed very evident that Cassel had complete control of the huddle and his familiarity of the system looked rather eloquent.
Teddy Bridgewater made his rookie debut in tonight’s game and seemed a little starstruck at the pace of the NFL. Bridgewater finished 6-for-13 with 49 yards and he failed to take control of the game. He entered with the first-team for one series and sloppy penalties led to a stalled drive. Later, he continued to be pressured frequently behind the second-team offensive line and he couldn’t seem to find anywhere to go at some points. He did fumble a ball, but offensive tackle Matt Kalil quickly recovered the potential turnover. Teddy seemed a little uncomfortable with the pace of the NFL and how fast he needs to make decisions. He missed a wide-open Rhett Ellison on a drag across the middle and decided to throw the pass towards a double covered Jarius Wright. Bridgewater needs time to mature as a quarterback and he will only continue to improve as he sees more action in the preseason.
Mike Zimmer wasn’t concerned with Teddy’s performance and encouraged Vikings fans to wait for the future with the rookie quarterback.
"They should be excited about Teddy. They’re going to be cheering for him for a long, long time,” Zimmer explained during his postgame press conference.
As it appears now, Matt Cassel holds the key to the starting quarterback job and it looks as if Bridgewater may need more time to develop in this league.
Asiata explosive, McKinnon shifty
Matt Asiata bursted through the line of scrimmage and gained some tough yardage early in the Vikings first preseason game with the Raiders. He rushed for 13 yards on three carries and added a touchdown to cap a ten play 70-yard touchdown drive by the Vikings first-team offense. Asiata continued to show his ability to play agressive and he was utilized more on the outside, which is a testament to how much he has refined his body for this season. Jerick McKinnon saw plenty of action in his debut with the Vikings and rushed for 45 yards on 12 carries. McKinnon showed superior athletic skills and insane elusiveness at times. Jerick provided nice vision on several runs, but he needs to learn how to become more patient in certain situations. After the top two running backs, the Vikings considerably witnessed a decline. Joe Banyard rushed for 22 yards on eight carries and undrafted rookie Dominique Williams sprinted for 27 yards on just nine carries. Neither running back showed insane abilities out of the backfield, but it was hard to evaluate them behind the Vikings third-tier offensive line.
Patterson and Jennings look comfortable
Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in three catches for 38 yards and proved early in tonight’s game that he will be a focal point in Norv Turner’s offensive scheme. Patterson made several nice catches and ran some beautiful routes to garner separation from the defense. He was the leading receiver for the Vikings tonight and was certainly able to make the plays necessary in the offensive scheme. Greg Jennings caught one 13-yard pass on an out-route towards the sidelines. He began to drag across the field and made a fluid decision to continue his route, while hauling in the pass from quarterback Matt Cassel. Rodney Smith made a couple smooth routes and caught one pass on an out towards the sidelines. Smith continues to show his athletic ability and savvy route running abilities. The Vikings didn’t pass the ball to the wide receivers much and just five of the pass catchers saw one reception in tonight’s action.
Rudolph provides fireworks, Higgins emerges
Kyle Rudolph hauled in a catch after a beautiful corner route and should have had a 22-yard touchdown, but the officials called him short of the goal-line. He hauled in the pass from Matt Cassel and did a great job of gaining separation and finding the open zone of the defense. The Vikings will continue to utilize Rudolph in this capacity during the regular season. The Vikings signed Mike Higgins on the first day of camp, but tonight he showed us some potential on the football field. He hauled in two catches for 27 yards and made a nice athletic move on a defensive back in the 3rd quarter. Don’t be surprised if Higgins makes a charge onto the roster if Chase Ford isn’t ready to begin the regular season.
Offensive line looks shaky
The Vikings first-team offensive line played rather well in limited action, but Phil Loadholt seemed to make the only mistake in the grouping. He was burned off the edge and allowed a quarterback pressure early in the game. That wasn’t the problem on the offensive line though. The second and third team offensive line was downright atrocious at moments during tonight’s game. Tiny Richardson was burned off the edge twice and David Yankey allowed a quarterback hit late in the game with the second team. Mike Remmers was smoked twice and allowed Christian Ponder to be obliterated in the 4th quarter. The Vikings have young players behind the core group of offensive lineman and it appears that growing pains will take place early this season.
Defensive Lineman apply pressure
The Vikings defensive line was rotating and applied pressure early in tonight’s contest against the Raiders. Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd applied interior pressure and made several athletic plays, which in turn provided opportunities for the defensive ends to make plays. Everson Griffen was held once and should have sacked Matt Schaub. Corey Wootton applied some sweet pressure on the outside and notched a sack in the 2nd quarter. Scott Crichton nearly reached the quarterback twice, but was rather nondescript tonight. Shamar Stephen corralled a team-high five tackles at defensive tackle and showed his athletic ability on multiple occasions. He provided a run-stuff and nearly reached the quarterback for a sack in the 2nd quarter of tonight’s game. Finally, Isame Faciane batted a pass at the line of scrimmage late in the game and applied some pressure in the middle. Faciane was a undrafted rookie out of Florida International and is a player to watch as a potential member of the practice squad.
Linebackers continue to shuffle
Anthony Barr introduced himself to the Vikings fans early in the matchup with Oakland. Barr picked up a half sack in his debut and flashed his athletic ability during moments of the contest. He did miss an assignment covering a running back, but he will be used heavily on the line of scrimmage. Considering the defense didn’t reveal too many packages, Barr should be exciting to watch in the regular season. Chad Greenway provided a pass defensed and Jasper Brinkley made three tackles in his return as the Vikings middle linebacker. Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole flashed with the second-team and contributed to several plays at the position. Hodges made a big hit on Oakland running back Kory Sheets and blocked a field goal attempt. Cole registered three tackles and added a sack late in the game. The Vikings continue to shuffle linebackers in the rotation, but the young talent continues to flash early in the preseason.
Cornerbacks are aggressive
Captain Munnerlyn made his Minnesota Vikings debut tonight and proved why the Vikings worked so hard to add him in free agency. He blanketed a route early in the games and shut the door on a Matt Schaub pass. He tackled Maurice Jones-Drew for a short gain and flashed his superior abilities in run support. Derek Cox notched three tackles and a beautiful pass defensed in the second quarter of the game. Cox continues to show his ability to be physical, while making agressive plays in the secondary. Jabari Price saw time with the first-team on the outside in nickel defense tonight. He displayed his aggressiveness and added one pass defensed, along with three defensive tackles. Price appears to have a big role in this defense and may be further ahead of the learning curve than many anticipated.
Coleman corrals an interception
Kurt Coleman started alongside Harrison Smith at safety tonight and corralled a tipped interception with the second-team late in the second quarter. He made several nice stops on edge runs and seemed very comfortable in run support. He recorded three tackles and showed the coaches he can play aggressive and smart in the defensive scheme. Mistral Raymond left tonight’s game with a concussion in the first quarter and did not return. Zimmer had no details on his injury, but it is concerning considering Raymond’s past with these types of injuries.
Blair Walsh started his 2014 campaign with a 30-yard field goal, but missed a 53-yard kick in the 3rd quarter. This is nothing to be concerned about, but it certainly is worth noting that Walsh missed his first long kick playing outdoors. Jeff Locke boomed his first two punts, while plopping a beautiful Aussie-style roller. His final punts weren’t very impressive and he he finished with a net average of just 38.9 yards. Locke needs to show more consistency this season and he didn’t bring that tonight.
Thielen shines in punt returns
Adam Thielen returned three punts for an average of 17.3 yards and he added a 26-yard long. He showed some shifty moves and filled in nicely for the injured Marcus Sherels. Jerick McKinnon and Kain Colter also saw punt return reps, but Thielen easily was the better of the three returners tonight.
Jamarca Sanford (back), Andrew Sendejo (just back from back/ankle), Marcus Sherels (hamstring), Blanton (hamstring), and Chase Ford (foot) all missed tonight’s game with injuries. Mike Zimmer indicated he isn’t concerned about the injuries in the secondary and expects everyone to be healthy very soon. Chris Crocker didn't play tonight because he just arrived on Wednesday, but he is expected to be ready for the next preseason game.
The Vikings will return to Mankato for training camp practices on Sunday, with a morning walkthrough at 10:30 a.m. to 11:30am, followed by a afternoon session from 3:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. The Vikings will continue their preseason slate with a home preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals a week from Saturday (7:30 p.m.) at TCF Bank Stadium.