Friday, September 2, 2016

Notebook: Vikings close out the preseason with a 27-25 win over the Rams


The Vikings closed out the preseason with a 27-25 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Daniel House lets you take a glance inside his post-game notebook. 

Updated: September 2nd, 2016 12:55am

By: Daniel House

The Vikings closed out the preseason with a 27-25 win over the Los Angeles Rams. It was a long game with several replay reviews and penalties for both squads. It was the final opportunity for many fringe roster players to show they are worthy of a spot on the final 53-man roster. Joel Stave left injured, Jhurell Pressley put on a show, the offensive line struggled, and Toby Johnson wrapped up a very solid preseason campaign. How might some of these performances impact the final roster decisions?

For the answer to that question, take a dive inside my post-game notebook as the Vikings wrapped up their preseason slate with a 4-0 record:

Stave leaves with an injured hand, Sorenson fills in
In the second quarter, Joel Stave was forced to leave the game with a hand injury and did not return. Recently re-signed quarterback Brad Sorenson finished the game 4-for-9 with 53 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jhurell Pressley. Stave performed inconsistently during his short stint on the field, but also notably connected for a 19-yard completion to Jarius Wright as he rolled outside the pocket and utilized a pump fake. Stave’s final stat-line was 9-for-18 for 76 yards. The problem has been consistency for Stave and tonight he had similar issues. Brad Sorenson was in the game just to get the Vikings through the final preseason matchup. The Vikings will likely sign a young quarterback to fill the void at the positon when roster cuts begin over the next two days.

Pressley shines with receiving and return touchdowns
Jhurell Pressley was one of the huge bright spots from tonight’s game. He ran the ball with a shifty edge and creates some extra yards after contact. He carried the ball just 14 times for 29 yards, but added four receptions for 49 yards through the air. Most notably, he scored on a 28-yard reception where he broke a tackle and sprinted up the sideline for a touchdown. Pressley wasn’t done for the night after adding the receiving touchdown. On special teams, Pressley popped off a 106-yard kickoff return touchdown. He followed his blocks well and broke two tackles as he weaved through opponents for a long score. Pressley didn’t see much action over the first three preseason games, but put out some great tape for teams who may consider snatching him if the Vikings try to place him on their practice squad.

Additionally, running back C.J. Ham plowed ahead for 59 yards on 15 carries and added a 1-yard touchdown. The undrafted running back made one final case to the Vikings and other teams who may want to utilize his blend of power, speed, and patience in their running game.

Treadwell has a case of the drops, Wright gets involved
Rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had two bad drops after getting open on defensive backs. He appeared to start making a play after the catch before looking the pass into his frame. Treadwell had trouble with these concentration drops throughout his college career and training camp. He has been putting in extra work with the JUGS machine in practice, but it appears improving his hands is currently a work in progress.

The always dependable Jarius Wright saw extended action in this game. He hauled in a tip-toe sideline catch outside the numbers for a 19-yard gain on third down. Stave perfectly placed the throw and hit Wright who broke off his route to the sideline. Wright has slid down the depth chart, but in the post-game press conference, Coach Zimmer said they wanted to play him because he missed time with injuries late in camp. He also noted the team would need Wright this season.

Offensive line is leaky
The offensive line allowed five sacks and performed very poorly in this game. Carter Bykwoski was beaten frequently and nearly caused Brad Sorenson to lose his life as he was beaten on a rush. Bykowski was also destroyed as he and Zac Kerin were confused on a stunt. It led to a sack and put another hit on Joel Stave’s body. Nick Easton and Isame Faciane each gave up pressures and the entire offensive line unit really had a tough night at the office. I want to watch the game back to see more of the offensive front, but it initially looked pretty poor.

Toby Johnson dominates, adds diving interception
Defensive tackle Toby Johnson made an even stronger case for a final 53-man roster spot. He had two quarterback pressures and hauled in a fantastic diving interception as defensive end Justin Trattou got a hand on Jared Goff’s arm. Johnson laid out for the ball and snatched the tough interception. Johnson put together a phenomenal preseason and will definitely have the eyes of other teams on him if the Vikings decide to try sliding him onto the practice squad. Tonight, he might have done enough to solidify a roster spot, but we won’t know for sure until Saturday.

Zach Moore had a sack late in the game and corralled four tackles. He is also making a strong case for a roster spot and if the Vikings decide to keep five defensive ends, a guy like Toby Johnson might be on the outside looking in. It all comes down to whether the coaches value interior defensive lineman or edge pass rushers.

Brothers makes some plays in the second half
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers tied for the team lead in tackles (8) and added a brilliant pass defensed late in the game. He was getting downhill and making some stops, but his reaction time still seemed a little slow at times. Brothers was better in coverage and showed some of the reliable tackling we saw on his college tape. I’m not sure he has done enough to make the team and it will come down to whether the coaches see more future potential with a player like Edmond Robinson or a rookie like Brothers.

Kearse is all over the field, Harris looks rusty
Safety Jayron Kearse was all over the field in this game. He tied for the team lead in tackles (8), added a fumble recovery, and forced one as he tackled a punt returner. Additionally, he laid a big hit on a running back in space and stopped him dead in his tracks. Kearse isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder or make a tough run stop. He was out of place on a long gain in the red zone and Mike Zimmer let him know about it. Nonetheless, that was one of his only mistakes. It is obvious the man has a knack for making plays and I think he did enough tonight to solidify his 53-man roster spot.

Anthony Harris looked a step slow and didn’t seem very comfortable in the back end. Mike Zimmer even noted this in the post-game press conference. He called Harris “rusty.” I still don’t see any way he doesn’t make the team, but tonight showed he has some work to do before the regular season begins in 10 days.

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