Saturday, August 13, 2016

Inside the Film Room: Vikings vs. Bengals


The Vikings picked up a 17-16 win to open the preseason, but which plays stood out when the tape was rewound? Daniel House breaks down some of the best film clips from last night's game and provides his analysis. 

Updated: August 13th, 2016 4:10pm

By: Daniel House

I recapped the game last night in my post-game notebook, but I have now watched tape and evaluated the game closer. As I noted several times in the recap, I needed to see some film to confirm some of my surface observations. For the most part, my quick notes were fairly accurate. I pulled some of the most informative film clips I found when I watched the game back. I hope you enjoy some of the analysis and come away with a clear understanding of some areas that need improvement before the Vikings take the field next Thursday against the Seahawks.

For more, take a walk into the film room with me:

Here is the first clip:

The first-team offensive line recovered after a poor first series, but they still have some work to do. On this first play, it was a designed play action roll out to Teddy Bridgewater's right. MyCole Pruitt chipped his man and left the line of scrimmage to run his route. After he vacated, right tackle Andre Smith didn't pick up Carlos Dunlap and he managed to chase Teddy backwards. John Sullivan didn't even put a body on Michael Johnson. He isn't supposed to pick Johnson up, but he at least needs to slow him up. Sullivan puts his hands on Johnson for a second but then wanders aimlessly forward. Bridgewater nicely stiff-armed Geno Atkins and got the throw away for a completion to MyCole Pruitt, but there was a major blocking problem up front.

On the second play of the game, Teddy Bridgewater had some time to make a throw. Matt Kalil kept Michael Johnson outside, but brought some inside pressure into the pocket. It forced Bridgewater to step into the pocket. He had time to throw the check down, buy didn't get the ball away quick enough. However, Joe Berger could have done a better job of holding his block too.

Finally, on the third play of the first offensive series, Carlos Dunlap bull rushed Andre Smith and used his speed to put a huge amount of pressure on Bridgewater. After the ball was snapped, Bridgewater had 2.3 seconds to get the pass off before Dunlap was in his face. This type of pressure is definitely unacceptable and is something that gets people concerned. The offensive line may need time to mesh and cohesively perform together more this preseason. They fared a little better on the second drive and gave Bridgewater some time to make some great throws. I highlight those passes in the next two offensive film clips.

Now onto a few defensive clips:

On defense, Chad Greenway is one of the best linebackers on this team when it comes to shedding blocks to make tackles against the run. In this play, Greenway gets off of the block and mauls the ball carrier. On a night where the defensive line didn't play the most physical and linebackers weren't getting down hill, this was encouraging to see. The reserve linebackers played a little passive and didn't pound the gaps like they are expected to in this system. I detail this problem later in the next clip.

The defensive line was not getting a good push up front and on these two plays, the Cincinnati offensive line was winning the line of scrimmage. What's more, the linebackers are not attacking the gaps or penetrating rushing lanes. Albeit, the defensive lineman weren't holding their ground to give the linebackers space to penetrate. However, they still need to show more effort than they did on each of these two plays. None of the linebackers are getting past the second level and aren't even engaging with any defenders. Mike Zimmer even noted the linebackers played "soft" and when you watch all of the film clips back, that was definitely the case.

Jabari Price was beaten deep by Tyler Boyd later in the game for a huge gain in the red zone. I pulled this clip to illustrate Price's struggles last night. He is playing about nine yards off the line of scrimmage and doesn't recognize the wide receiver is ready to break his route off to the inside. Price was reacting late to plays and wasn't in position on several throws last night. He isn't helping his chances of making the team, especially considering this was a reoccurring theme in training camp too. He was one of the only defensive backs I had a significant problem with last night. Otherwise, the other players held up pretty well. I highlight both Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes on some upcoming film clips.

The defensive line didn't play very physical against the run at all last night. As a team, the Vikings gave up over 3.2 yards per carry in the running game last night. That number needs to get better and Mike Zimmer wasn't pleased with their performance against the run either. Tom Johnson was one of the only defensive lineman that played with any physicality. All of the other players were pushed around up front by the Bengals front-five. On this play, Johnson sheds his blocker and lowers a huge hit on the running back. He had two run stops last night and really flashed against the run. Shamar Stephen had trouble getting off of his blocks and couldn't hold the offensive lineman in the pass rush either. Johnson performed much better as an overall defensive tackle within the interior.

Back to the offense:

The left side of the offensive line got blown up on this play. Matt Kalil needed some help off the edge, but luckily the right side of the line was getting the job done. Joe Berger and John Sullivan forced their defenders outside and Andre Smith/David Morgan beautifully sealed off the edge. McKinnon cut his run back to the right and picked up 10 yards on what could have easily been a huge loss or safety in the end zone. Also, it is worth noting how well Kyle Rudolph engages his man up in the top corner of the play. He did a really great job.

Teddy Bridgewater stepped into the pocket and had some excellent velocity on this pass across the middle to Adam Thielen. More notably, Thielen made a phenomenal leaping catch between two defenders. He high-pointed the ball and got open by running a smooth route. Thielen has been stealing Jarius Wright's playing time and with more positive plays like this, the trend might continue.

So much for Teddy Bridgewater having arm strength and deep ball passing deficiencies. The young quarterback stepped into the pocket and fired a deep pass to Charles Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown. Johnson ran a great double move and had over 10 yards on the cornerback up the field. Bridgewater proved that when he has time to make the throws up the field, this is the result you can get. This looked similar to the connection Johnson and Bridgewater had in 2014 and it is an encouraging sign for the Vikings' passing game.

Jayron Kearse was left on an island as cornerback Mackensie Alexander blitzed off the edge. Kearse looked confused as his head drifted inside before the ball was snapped. He had no time to recover as wide receiver Alex Erickson beat him in the flat. Kearse reacted a little late and couldn't make up for it. Nonetheless, he did add an interception later in the game off a desperation heave into the middle of the field. Kearse needs to cover the receiver when the cornerback blitzes and he definitely wasn't ready for this play.

Laquon Treadwell settled into the soft spot in the coverage to haul in this reception during the 2-minute drill before halftime. Treadwell added some nice catches in traffic throughout the game and will consistently help the Vikings across the field in the quick, short, and intermediate passing game. Shaun Hill placed the pass well and knew he could trust Treadwell would settle into that spot of the field. Hill handled the backup duties better last night and didn't leave as much room for concern with his performance.

Vikings fourth round pick Willie Beavers was one of the only problems I could find up front last night. He was pushed to the ground on back-to-back plays and hardly touched the interior defensive lineman on this play. Beavers didn't even set his anchor or punch the defender at the time of the snap. He certainly had trouble with this when you watch his college film and not much looks different here.

Joel Stave can't quite connect with Laquon Treadwell who was blanketed up the field, but the protection on the right side was spectacular. Jeremiah Sirles and Zac Kerin had great hand placement and footwork during this sequence. The right side of this offensive line unit played really well last night. If you ignore Willie Beavers on this play, it makes you feel pretty good about the depth the Vikings have up front on the offensive line.

This running play is pretty phenomenal by Duluth, MN native C.J. Ham. He follows the blockers, while using excellent patience and vision to reach the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run. Zac Kerin pancaked his defender and Blake Renaud led the way near the end of this run. Ham showed a nice blend of power and awareness as a runner in this game. With Jhurell Pressley missing practice near the end of the week, Ham saw all the reps at running back and really took advantage of them.

Cornerback Tre Roberson didn't stay with the underneath receiver and got caught up with Antone Exum on the route over the top. It resulted in a long 47-yard gain. A mistake like this is something you would expect from a quarterback making a transition to cornerback at the NFL level. However, Roberson had several good moments, including several pass breakups. I will highlight one of them in the next few clips.

This is just a terrible special teams effort all the way around. The Vikings allowed a long 80-yard punt return touchdown by Alex Erickson late in the fourth quarter. Mike Zimmer wasn't happy with the length of the punt and voiced that in his post-game presser. However, I'm most irritated by the effort on this punt return. Blake Renaud missed a tackle, Brian Leonhardt over ran the play, and Kyle Carter couldn't catch up with Erickson. What's more, Jeff Locke was helpless when Erickson ran past him. He shouldn't have punted it so deep without angling it to the sideline. Nonetheless, the coverage should have still made the play.

Cornerback Trae Waynes had a great evening in last night's game. He knocked away this pass on a fade up the sideline and nearly hauled in a diving interception. Waynes had two other passes defensed, including a breakup on a quick slant by A.J. Green across the middle. Waynes is getting better position, but had some trouble in the second half. He gave up a long completion after playing 9 yards off the line of scrimmage and Coach Zimmer was unhappy about it.

This is so awesome to see if you are a Vikings fan. Mackensie Alexander did not allow the receiver to catch the pass and nicely knocked the pass away as he reached across the pass catcher's body. He was in position frequently and even added an interception later in the game. Alexander had a few lapses throughout the game, but definitely had more positive moments in his NFL debut.

As I noted earlier, cornerback Tre Roberson was one of my favorite under-the-radar players leaving training camp. On this play, he was in perfect position to force an incompletion on a fade up the sideline. Roberson had position on two other occasions and forced pass deflections too. He is a player to keep watching as the preseason continues. Could he challenge for a roster spot or is he a practice squad candidate? The latter seems more realistic.

Justin Trattou had a sack and was extremely solid as a pass rusher. However, he had some serious trouble last night against the run. By my count, he over pursued three times and this play was one of those examples. He drove the offensive lineman off the ball, but lost contain, giving the running back a wide-open lane to pick up yardage. If he pulls off of his blocker to the outside, he would have picked up a tackle-for-loss.

Nick Easton and Zac Kerin totally obliterated the Bengals' front-seven on this play. They blocked through the whistle and opened a big hole for Matt Asiata. Also, T.J. Clemmings and MyCole Pruitt did a nice job winning their respective matchups. This is the type of domination one wants to see with a reserve offensive line unit.

Finally, the most impressive defensive play of the night came on a pass deflection by safety Antone Exum. He was in great position on the pass up the seam and might have intercepted the throw if Andrew Sendejo did not nearly collide with him. Exum impressively flashed his range and solid ball skills during this play. Later in the game, Exum had a sack on a safety blitz and flashed his athleticism as a defensive back. He needs to string together some solid performances if he wants to survive roster cuts in a deep safety room.

Overall, the Vikings need to improve from a physicality standpoint on defense and the first-team offensive line needs to become more cohesive and consistent. Those were the two major takeaways I had from my deep look through the tape.


  1. ON the Teddy to Thielen pass - don't you think if Teddy hadn't thrown it high the defender coming underneath would have picked it off?

    1. The placement was perfect. He had to put it there so it wouldn't get picked.

  2. Nice analysis. Am I right that Cincinnati only played Atkins, Dunlap, and Johnson in the first defensive series? If so, any apparent improvement in the performance of our offensive line in the second series has to be taken with a grain of salt. Very disappointing performance from our starters.

    1. Yeah, you are correct. However, the unit as a whole didn't do too bad. Andre Smith was the main problem. They will find a way to become cohesive before the season begins.

  3. What's also nice to see is how wide open Rudolph got on the Teddy-to-CJ TD. Good second option if the safety had reacted better.

    1. You are exactly right. Talk about an awesome problem to have. Two guys wide-open on one play. I think Rudolph is poised for a big year. He looks much improved as an overall player.

  4. Daniel, some nice work on the clips.

    I would recommend including the jersey number of the players (especially linemen) in future articles. You obviously know them, but a lot of other people do not, and that will aid the reader in quickly grasping the points that you are making.

    1. Thanks so much! I will definitely add the jersey numbers when I do this in the future. Awesome idea and thanks for reading!

  5. Daniel Great clips & analysis. Few additional thoughts on some additional execution problems in the video: Clip 1 - Mycole Pruitt has to chip or late release the outside shoulder of the defensive end so Smith can take over (Pruit gives ground and gets stuck on inside walling off Smith from taking over. Clip 2 Viking play fakes have to be better Kalil pass sets 1st step rest of line is high and retreating. LBers see and swallow up the routes designed to get open by them stepping to run fakes first. LBers read line as pass and take away Teddy's targets. Bad play action is a waste (takes QBs eyes off defense and makes Oline block 25% longer. Gotta sell it) Clip 3 - Teddy can't take a gun snap 4 yds deep and then retreat 5 yds more! Pocket is designed to be 5 - 7 yd area. Vs speed rush Smith is supposed to just steer speed rushers bye the pocket into the empty 9 - 12 yd area behind the QB. How is Smith supposed to know Teddy is sitting at 10 yds deep. These problems are not just line problems. These are partly line tipping play action + Bad TE delay release. Partly Norv pass scheme stubbornness. Partly Teddy holding ball too long on 1 play and pass setting in no man's land on the other. That is a lot of problem in 3 plays. It's all fixable and its not all on the line. Love the clips. Love your work.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment! All of your analysis is very fair. I agree that some of the problems are definitely attributed to design. It is hard for the OL to do work when they are not placed in the best situations. However, they do need do a better job setting an anchor and laying a punch. That is the especially the case with Andre Smith in those clips.

  6. That's fair analysis also. Enjoy your stuff Daniel.