Monday, August 29, 2016

Inside the Film Room: Vikings vs. Chargers

Photo: FoxSports
The starters on both sides of the ball had their final tune-up before the regular season begins on September 11th in Tennessee. Daniel House took a closer look at the film and broke down the game in closer detail.

Updated: August 29th, 2016 4:05pm

By: Daniel House

After watching the film from Sunday's game against the Chargers, I came away very impressed with the overall performance during the Vikings' third preseason game. The first-team unit was extremely effective and really put together a solid showing in their final tune-up before the regular season. Teddy Bridgewater was phenomenal and Stefon Diggs was equally as impressive. The offensive line held up rather well, but T.J. Clemmings had a rough day and allowed some strong inside pressure on three occasions. The coaches had to bring a tight end over to his side to chip defenders near the end of the first half. Matt Kalil will be back for the regular season, which, in fact, should be an upgrade over Clemmings. The running game improved with more physicality among the offensive lineman up front. Tackle Jeremiah Sirles gave up a bad sack, but it appeared the ball may have been snapped too early. Initially, I thought Sirles performed rather poor in this game, but at a second glance, I wasn't nearly as disappointed. Jerick McKinnon ran the ball much better and had more rushing lanes to work with. The pass rush didn't dominate this game, but it appeared the focus of the game plan was to improve against the run. For the most part, I saw an improvement. There weren't many negatives on either side of the ball and this was by far the most impressive performance of the preseason for this young Vikings squad. The first-team unit looks cohesive and ready to get the season underway.

Don't forget, I provided some surface observations at the conclusion of the game and you can pair them with these film clips. For more in-depth analysis, take a step inside the film room:

On this running play, Jerick McKinnon (#21) had a huge hole to run through as he sprinted for a 35-yard gain. It was set up by a fantastic lead block by fullback Zach Line (#48) and a solid block by center Joe Berger (#61). The interior runs really flourished in this game with Joe Berger at center. He opened lanes on two other reasonable gains. In addition, left guard Alex Boone (#76) did a great job of sealing a linebacker in the second level to spring the run outside the line of scrimmage. This is the type of run blocking people have been waiting to see in the preseason. Mike Zimmer said they were more physical in practice as they worked to improve run blocking and it definitely was evident on Sunday.

In this clip, Stefon Diggs (#14) gets open on an out and nicely rounds off his route out of the break. He set up the defensive back inside and used speed and a head fake to gain a step on the cornerback. Teddy Bridgewater (#5) placed the throw well and the pass reached Diggs in stride with a good amount of velocity. This is a route Diggs frequently ran well in training camp. Bridgewater was always comfortable making this throw in practices as well. On Sunday, it translated to live game action.

On this play, right tackle Andre Smith (#71) couldn't get leverage in the running game. He was blown off the ball and nearly slammed into running back Jerick McKinnon (#31). The linebackers easily penetrated through the open gap and slowed McKinnon for an easy run stop in the red zone. The Vikings squandered two opportunities to score touchdowns inside the 20-yard line and need to do a much better job converting in these situations.

During this play, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers (#17) handed the ball off out of the shotgun to running back Danny Woodhead (#39). Vikings defensive end Brian Robison did a great job of shedding the block by San Diego right tackle Joe Barksdale (#72). Robison pulled away from Barksdale and wrapped up Woodhead. Safety Harrison Smith (#22) was already coming off the edge and helped finish off the ball carrier.

When a running back is in space, linebacker Anthony Barr (#55) is going to make the play 99% of the time. This delayed draw play out of the shotgun was obvious through the eyes of Barr. He flew through the gap and mauled Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (#39) for a loss. Barr can be isolated in space and will make so many plays with his athletic ability. Not to mention, his instinctive playing style allows him to make plays other linebackers can't. He is such a huge asset to the defense and must stay healthy for the Vikings to reach their maximum potential on defense.

After the game, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said this 39-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon (#28) was his fault. He sent a blitz and it left a wide-open lane for Gordon to score. Audie Cole (#57) nearly tackled quarterback Phillip Rivers on the dropback, but that designed pursuit came at a cost. Harrison Smith (#22) was blitzing off the edge and nearly the entire linebacker group was pursuing the quarterback at the line of scrimmage. Safety Michael Griffin (#33) tripped and got sucked too far inside to make the tackle. He needs to take a better angle on this play. Nonetheless, this was an error from a defensive call standpoint and shouldn't be a big concern.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph (#82) got open on a crosser, but as he was fighting for an extra yard, had the ball poked out by Chargers safety Dexter McCoil (#38). It was a great play by McCoil to pull the ball out of Rudolph's grasp. However, Rudolph probably shouldn't have been fighting for another yard with three defenders converging on him. Kyle made up for it later in the game as he made a tough grab for a touchdown across middle. Nonetheless, this is a play where he either needs to secure the ball better or go down before he loses it. The latter option makes the most sense.

This is probably one of the most beautiful plays you will see between a quarterback and wide receiver. Teddy Bridgewater perfectly placed this throw with velocity, touch, and arm strength to Stefon Diggs (#14). Diggs' footwork at the line of scrimmage is incredible. He sets the cornerback up outside with a head fake and smooth/precise cuts off the line of scrimmage. Diggs pulled his route back outside by rounding it off and making the tip-toe catch near the sidelines. I can't stress enough how fundamentally sound this route was by Stefon Diggs. His attention to detail and work ethic were on full display with every route he ran in this game, including this one. Additionally, the throw was literally perfect to the sidelines by Teddy Bridgewater.

In the NFL, it is all about how you bounce back and recover from mistakes. After a drop and a fumble, Kyle Rudolph (#82) made a very difficult leaping grab in traffic look easy. Teddy Bridgewater threw a dart across the middle over-the-top of a linebacker and an incoming safety. Rudolph can make these type of crossing routes and seam passes look easy. He just needs to be more consistent and Bridgewater must have the confidence to keep searching for the tight end.

Defensive end Justin Trattou (#94) is a playmaker and he looks even more polished this year. He used his speed and power to reach his arm inside, knocking away the ball from the quarterback. Trattou's pass rushing skills are more refined and he isn't rushing off pure athleticism any more. He has 4.5 sacks in the preseason and added two of them in this game. He provides solid depth behind both Everson Griffen and Brian Robison and is a lock to make this team.

Rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (#11) made plays like this throughout his entire college career. It was encouraging to see him finally get involved during this two-point conversion attempt. Quarterback Shaun Hill put nice touch on this throw and Treadwell high-pointed the pass over-the-top of the cornerback. His size and physicality will continue to be a threat if he is utilized frequently in the red zone. When he ran fade routes in training camp, it was easy to see he would become a huge threat inside the red zone and hopefully this is something we will see often during the regular season.

Rookie cornerback Mackensie Alexander (#20) is making strides every game and Mike Zimmer is coaching him up every step of the way. On the first play, Alexander made a shoe-string tackle in space and flashed his run support skills. Alexander dropped an easy interception in the corner of the end zone in the 4th quarter, but made up for it by hauling in a leaping grab over the receiver. As you can see in the film clip, Alexander was bobbling the ball as he went to the ground and had the concentration to finish the catch as he absorbed impact. He has the confidence to be a really good player and picked up a taunting penalty for being a little over zealous after the play. Mike Zimmer will straighten that out and his defensive back "swagger" is definitely an admirable trait of his game.

Defensive tackle Toby Johnson is making the roster decisions even more difficult on the defensive front. In this film clip, Johnson beautifully sheds his blocker and pulls down the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-short. Johnson had two other run stops in the game and is talented at pulling away from blockers and using his size to make plays. It would be difficult to keep him on the active 53-man roster, but it could be possible if the team elects to keep five defensive tackles and just four defensive ends.

Linebacker Edmond Robinson (#51) put out some great tape on Sunday and picked up a tackle for loss coming off the edge on this play. He broke down and pounced on the ball carrier. He made another nice tackle in space and is a player that will only develop more with additional time in Mike Zimmer's defensive system.

Guard Isame Faciane (#69) does a nice job pulling open a hole and Jeremiah Sirles (#71) blocked through the whistle across the line of scrimmage. Additionally, David Morgan (#89) did a great job of staying low and driving defenders across the play. Jhurell Pressley (#42) picked up only five yards, but this is the type of run blocking a coach wants to see from his offensive front.

Left tackle T.J. Clemmings (#68) was destroyed on this play, forcing Teddy Bridgewater (#5) to step into the pocket and put a "shake-and-bake" move on Chargers safety Adrian Phillips (#31). Bridgewater showed some serious athleticism as he ran up the hash marks for a gain of 22 yards. This is the type of play Bridgewater can make with his legs when the pocket breaks down. He slid to the ground and was smart, which is the only concern a coach has when his quarterback leaves the pocket.

As a whole, the Vikings appear ready to get into the regular season and their first-team units left plenty of room for optimism as their preseason action came to a close.

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