Mike Zimmer won another preseason game, a perfect 8-0 for those tracking of Zimmer’s preseason record over the last two seasons, as the Vikings defeated the Cowboys 28-14 on Saturday. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had another sharp performance, completing all seven of his pass attempts for 76 yards, but we’ll focus on five other topics that stood out in the Vikings’ fourth preseason game.
1. Eric Kendricks was everywhere on the field. For a rookie linebacker in his fourth preseason game, he looks very comfortable both against the run and in coverage. He was used with the first team in the nickel package as the middle linebacker with Gerald Hodges receiving the start in the base, but Kendricks served as the backup middle linebacker with the second unit. The UCLA product recorded four tackles in 27 snaps. As much as Zimmer has mentioned how other defensive players haven’t cut it loose during the preseason, that hasn’t been an issue for Kendricks.
2. The running game struggled again without running back Adrian Peterson and center John Sullivan. It fared better later in the game when the third stringers were in the game, but Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata finished with 12 yards on nine carries. Despite the emphasis in practice on the running game, McKinnon’s longest run went for four yards. I still wouldn’t panic, however, considering the Vikings’ best player and best offensive lineman weren’t out on the field, but the Vikings didn’t improve in this area at all.
3. It’s starting to look more and more like the Vikings will keep six receivers on the 53-man roster. It’s a pretty good unit, too. We saw that Mike Wallace is still capable of taking the top off a defense when he caught a 39-yard deep ball from Bridgewater. It should ease any concerns fans may have had about the lack of receptions for Wallace, who had one catch for two yards prior to the Cowboys game. He finished with three catches for 50 yards.
Stefon Diggs had another impressive game on both offense, three catches for 49 yards, and on special teams with a 23-yard return. Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t have a target on 16 snaps, but he scored on a 107-yard kickoff return in the first half. The Vikings aren’t going to give up on a first round pick like Cordarrelle Patterson after two seasons, regardless of the growing pains he continues to go through as a wide receiver. Adam Thielen also didn’t have any catches on 16 snaps on offense, but he’s been reliable on both offense with the backups and special teams, where he had 16 snaps as well.
4. The penalties were a problem on every phase of the game. The Vikings were called on 11 penalties for 80 yards. It’s the most penalties the Vikings have been called for this preseason, and it’s a week after they were penalized just once against the Raiders last week. The penalties included a delay of game on backup quarterback Shaun Hill, a false start on left tackle Matt Kalil, a false start on offensive lineman David Yankey and 12 men on the field on punt return. These are all mental errors that could’ve been avoided but racked up 20 yards of field position for the Cowboys.
5. Tom Johnson is a very valuable backup defensive tackle for this team. Sharrif Floyd had a good outing, but Johnson has performed very well throughout the preseason. He finished with a sack and two quarterback hurries. The Vikings are set up well at nose and three-technique tackle with Johnson and Shamar Stephen backing up Floyd and Linval Joseph.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Fans who were clamoring for a big play from Mike Wallace finally got what they were hoping for in tonight’s 28-14 win.
Midway through the second quarter, Teddy Bridgewater went to the line with a running play buzzed into his headset from the sideline. But as the quarterback started counting silver helmets, he determined there were too many Cowboys in the box. Time to call an audible.
Bridgewater switched to a pass play and backed up into the shotgun. Seeing that he had Wallace in single coverage, he took a shot downfield to his speedy wide receiver. The result was a 39-yard reception.
“It was a look where we wanted to run the ball at first but we had a bad look, so we just had to get out of the play,” said Bridgewater, who went 7-of-7 for 76 yards tonight. “A quarterback’s job is to get us into the right play.”
The chunk play, which set up a Vikings field goal, was one of three catches on the night for Wallace, who finished with 50 yards receiving.
But in the locker room, Wallace shrugged it off when a reporter asked him if it felt good for him to break through with his first bomb in purple.
“It’s preseason, man. It’s preseason, man,” he said. “We’ll take it. It’s a good way to get it started. But the season hasn’t even started yet, so it’s cool.”
Coach Mike Zimmer admitted that the Vikings came into the game with a plan to get a couple of touches. But the 39-yarder wasn’t in the script.
“I know everybody wants to see Wallace get a bunch of deep throws and so do I,” Zimmer said. “But it’s important for us to go through our progressions and make our reads and make the correct throws and that’s why [Bridgewater’s] completion percentage was 100 percent tonight, because he continues to do those things.”
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Greetings from Jerry World, the gigantic monument to American football that the Cowboys call home. In a little under an hour, the Vikings will play their all-important penultimate preseason game.
As I wrote in today’s paper, the Vikings starters are expected to play into the second quarter. Whether they stick around after halftime will depend on whether they satisfied coach Mike Zimmer with their performance.
Two starters will not play, though. Running back Adrian Peterson will not touch the football in his homecoming because it’s the preseason and the Vikings won’t risk injury with him. Center John Sullivan, meanwhile, has not practiced in 10 days due to back spasms, so he is out tonight.
Also out for the Vikings are tight end MyCole Pruitt, offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, nose tackle Shamar Stephen and cornerback Josh Robinson.
The Cowboys are expected to be without star wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Still, this will be a tough test for the Vikings, especially their defense, in this final tune-up. The Cowboys were the NFC East champs last year and have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, led by left tackle Tyron Smith.
Keep an eye on Gerald Hodges, who will start at middle linebacker for the first time in his life. That position battle remains wide-open in late August.
At safety, Antone Exum will return from a hamstring injury, so keep an eye on him, too. That being said, Robert Blanton can probably cement a starting spot as long as he doesn’t have an awful performance here at Jerry World.