Thursday, August 28, 2014

Notebook: Vikings knock off the Titans, finish the preseason undefeated

The Vikings picked up a 19-3 win over the Tennessee Titans and wrapped up the preseason undefeated for the first time since 2001. As the roster battles intensified, Daniel House complied all the notes from tonight's game. 

Updated: August 28th, 2014 11:15pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings closed out their preseason schedule strong and knocked off the Tennessee Titans, 19-3. Most of the starters didn't see any action on the field, but the reserves managed to play well enough to provide a win in the final exhibition game. The Vikings finished the preseason undefeated for the first time since 2001 and will head into the regular season with some confidence. Young players were battling for roster spots and the coaching staff will have to make some difficult roster decisions on Saturday. Nonetheless, I compiled all the notes and let you take a glance into my notebook from tonight’s matchup.

Bridgewater starts, Ponder finishes 

Teddy Bridgewater started the game tonight and finished the evening 4-for-9 with 17 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to wide receiver Adam Thielen. Bridgewater perfectly lofted the fade to Thielen, who grabbed the pass and managed to haul in the reception, despite a defensive pass interference call, which made the catch more difficult. Teddy played without gloves tonight and considering the rain was falling during his time on the field, he managed very well. Christian Ponder entered the game late in the first half, finishing 12-for-15 with 121 yards passing. He did nothing to significantly improve his trade value, but he managed the game against the third-string defense, as you should expect.

Banyard runs with steam

Running back Joe Banyard finished the night with 18 carries for 111 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Banyard continued his strong preseason campaign and is making a strong case for himself among the coaching staff. The Vikings likely won't have room for four running backs on the 53-man roster and it seems unlikely Banyard would be able to slide onto the practice squad, without being claimed on waivers. GM Rick Spielman didn't completely rule out the chance the team would keep four running backs during his TV interview with Paul Allen and claimed that Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams were battling tonight. The coaching staff will need to decide the best course of action, based upon how they can construct the roster.

Thielen hauls in a touchdown 

Adam Thielen hauled in a touchdown on a fade pass from Teddy Bridgewater and was the leading wide receiver tonight. Thielen notched three catches for 30 yards, but left the game with a hip injury, after a 14-yard completion. The injury did not appear serious and it seems as if Thielen could have punched his ticket to the Vikings 53-man roster. Undrafted rookie Donte Foster emerged tonight and added two catches for 27 yards. He should have added another 15-yard completion, but the pass was negated by a illegal hands to the face penalty. Foster saw extended reps and could be a player the Vikings consider placing on the practice squad.

Reisner leads the tight ends

Allen Resiner continued his solid preseason and hauled in four catches for 33 yards in tonight's matchup. Reisner has notched three touchdowns in the preseason and has emerged as a pass catcher in Norv Turner's offensive scheme. The real battle will come against Chase Ford, who missed the entire preseason with a foot injury. Can Ford's film from last year and his athletic skill-set be enough to claim him a roster spot? Only time well tell, but the coaching staff will have a difficult time releasing Reisner, if they keep three tight ends on the roster.

Offensive Line rotates at 'swing' position, Yankey struggles

The coaching staff was working hard to find the right mix at the swing tackle position and were rotating Austin Wentworth, Antonio Richardson, and Mike Remmers on a frequent basis. Richardson was seeing time at left tackle, while Wentworth was continually rotating to both tackle spots. Remmers entered the game and spent some time at right tackle, but his odds to make the roster appear slim. The team could decide to place both players on the practice squad, but it seems likely one of them would be claimed. This will be a position group to watch when the roster cuts begin to filter in on Saturday.

Guard David Yankey was drafted in the fifth round and tonight he was exposed as a pass protector. He was beaten twice off the line of scrimmage, one of which led to a sack. This was an area many were concerned with when the team selected Yankey and the coaching staff will see this on the tape. He played the entire game and you could see the coaches were trying to get him more snaps tonight.

Defensive Line gets to the quarterback

Corey Wootton corralled a strip sack, which resulted in a turnover deep in Titans territory. He reached over the top of the offensive tackle, snatched the ball at the top of Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger's throwing motion and quickly registered the turnover. Tom Johnson added some interior pressure tonight and notched a sack in the third quarter. Justin Trattou continued to play well off the edge and added a sack late in the game. Mike Zimmer indicated he injured his shoulder, but it didn't appear to be serious. Trattou has had a great training camp and preseason and is a developmental player that the Vikings simply don't have space for on their roster.

MLB position battle still in question

Jasper Brinkley started the game at middle linebacker, while Audie Cole played at MIKE linebacker. Both players eventually rotated into the middle and the competition appeared to edge towards Cole tonight. This is at a quick glance, without film study, but Cole was involved in several pass breakups, along with a few run stops. Brinkley missed two tackles, which certainly didn't help the situation, but Mike Zimmer indicated the starting middle linebacker hasn't been determined at this point and will be decided once the coaches evaluate the tape tomorrow.

Posey notches an interception

It was tough to evaluate the cornerbacks, especially since the Titans only threw 22 passes in tonight's game. With that being said, the only highlight came from an interception by cornerback Julian Posey. Posey timed his jump on a hideous pass from Titans quarterback Dominique Davis. He may have pushed off in the process of corralling the interception, but it was the most noteworthy accomplishment from the Vikings secondary tonight.

Strong Safety spot undecided

The coaching staff was rotating Robert Blanton and Kurt Coleman at the strong safety position early in the contest. Coleman made a few tackles in run support, but was beaten in coverage on one occasion. Blanton really didn't stand out in tonight's game and saw a limited amount of playing time early in the game. Andrew Sendejo entered the game late and missed two tackles, but he did make one nice play in coverage. Mike Zimmer indicated in the post-game interview that the safety position was tough to evaluate with the rainy weather conditions, but he said the coaches will take a long look at the tape tomorrow to determine who played the best.

Walsh is perfect tonight

Blair Walsh finished tonight's game 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts, hitting from 45, 22, 35, and 30 yards. He has bounced back nicely over the last two preseason games and appears to have resolved any issues that were resulting in missed field goals.

Injury Report

Zach Line (ankle), Justin Trattou (shoulder), Adam Thielen (hip), and Antone Exum (undisclosed) all left tonight's game with injuries. The severity of these injuries were unknown following the game.

What’s Next? 

The Vikings will open the 2014 regular season, during a road matchup with the St. Louis Rams next Sunday. The coaches will trim the roster to 53 players on Saturday and must do so by 3 p.m.

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