Vikes at Bills Game Wrap: Plenty of Work To Do

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It’s the preseason and time to try things, so I am going to revive my Trending; Worth Defending; Should Be Ending game wraps from the old Vikings Journal site.

Here is how it works: the Trending section details some of the headline makers, good or bad. In the second section, we look at some things that might have flown under the radar a bit, as far as how they affected the outcome of the game. We determine which of those things are worth defending or not. And in the final second are usually the aspects of the game that should be ending as soon as possible. Enough said about that. Hope you enjoy the format, and let me know what you think (hopefully you won’t think that this format should be ending).

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The Vikings took on the Bills in Buffalo and did not look all that great doing it. It is just the first preseason game, but head coach Mike Zimmer said he wasn’t happy with much that he saw in the first half of the game. Fans couldn’t have been too excited, either, as the game was a bit slow to get going and then a little sloppy later on. But that’s what practice is for, and you can be sure that Zimmer will have them practicing next week. With a final score of 17-10 Vikings, there is much to improve in the remainder of the preseason.

Trending

Everyone was looking forward to rookie running back Dalvin Cook getting some run against the Bills, and he got plenty. Cook rushed five times for 13 yards (which leaves a lot to be desired) and he caught four passes for 30 yards in his first quarter work. Cook looked good enough, particularly on the first drive when he rushed twice to make it third and short and then caught a pass for the first down. Cook, without Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon in the game, saw plenty of action. And while he didn’t do much for the scorebook, he did enough to excite viewers. He is so natural as a pass catcher; he just needs a few bigger holes to get underway in the run game.

Sam Bradford started and did little to get the offense going. He did suffer a couple sacks, but he also underthrew a couple receivers. The offense under his tutelage managed just 34 total yards in three series. Bradford didn’t look too sharp and finished five of seven for 35 yards. He didn’t have a lot of help from his offensive line, but the offensive leader needs to step it up. Hopefully he goes downfield next time.

Speaking of the offensive line, one of the other big offseason stories, the Vikings have not yet fixed the problem. Right tackle Mike Remmers got toasted off the right edge and gave up a bad sack. Later, Cook missed the opportunity to chip the left defensive end and instead headed toward the flat for another pass, but Bradford went down again. The run blocking wasn’t great, either. So this unit has a ways to go to get where the Vikings want them. They must gel soon.

Worth Defending

In the race for the punt returning job, Rodney Adams acquitted himself quite well, even though his stats might not win awards. He had three KR for 65 yards, and two punt returns for 11 yards, and a third in which he executed a fair catch yet was still tackled (and hung onto the ball). He looked good, until his muff in the second half.  Meanwhile, his toughest competition, Stacy Coley, did a decent job in the return game, plus looked good as a receiver. As for Adams as a receiver, he had just three targets, but caught two, and one of them was a nice grab and dive for a touchdown. No clear winner yet, and this battle for returner/backup wideout will go down to the wire this preseason.

With Bradford gone, Case Keenum replaced him and looked alright. To be sure, he was playing with the twos but he finished with 11 of 16 for 121 yards and led the team to a third-quarter touchdown (two-yard run by C.J. Hamm). Keenum can run, as well (one rush for seven yards), but so can his competition, quarterback Taylor Heinicke (one rush for 14 yards).

But Heinicke did not look good throwing the ball (despite the nice naked bootleg pass to Adams for a two-yard touchdown). Heinicke overthrew several receivers, and one of them drew the ire of his head coach Mike Zimmer for not hitting his tight end when he was open. He improvised well, but did nothing to pass Keenum on the depth chart—especially when threw a bad pick in the fourth quarter (poor decision).

The defense played okay (the ones pitched a shutout in the first quarter), but not against the run. The run defense gave up 127 yards on 24 carries for an average of 5.3 per carry, and Zimmer told KFAN that it definitely has to get better. They did, however, play well against the pass. The starting defensive line got after Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, and on the night, the defense had four sacks. They had better shore up the run defense, or that is all they will see this season.

Should be Ending

Riley Reiff got injured in the first practice of the season (and has yet to return to the lineup) and now Trae Waynes leaves the game after injuring his shoulder on the first play of the preseason. In addition, backup running back Bishop Sankey left the game with a knee injury and didn’t return. The first injury is to a starter, and the second is to a backup, but both hurt the team’s depth. Not much you can do other than hope that they will stop happening.

Something that shouldn’t be ending is the new replay process. The one challenge that occurred was handled quickly, decisively and correctly. Be still my beating heart. I hardly had time to get a beer.

Mistakes should be ending. Just ask Heinicke. I am sure he heard that from Zimmer and will again during film review. You never want to do that.

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