You guys, I saw something on Saturday. I saw something that scared me, it excited me, it intimidated me and it wowed me. I’m still taken so far aback that I need to share it with you.
Let me first set the scene for you. We were hanging out in the press box of Blakeslee Stadium on the campus of Minnesota State University Mankato. It was me and 10,500 of my closest friends packed into the bleachers, well actually I was broadcasting live up in the press box with Meatsauce and Nordo and we all walked away with the same reaction. I even feel comfortable saying that former NFL linebacker Ben Leber and play-by-play announcer Paul Allen who both joined the broadcast as well were left with this same feeling.
With everybody poised and ready to be impressed by rookie running back Dalvin Cook, veteran wideout Stefon Diggs and quarterback and leader Sam Bradford leading the offense up and down the field, it didn’t happen. Instead, Mike Zimmer and George Edwards unleashed the hounds to send a bit of a message and help to better prepare his offense.
It came in the form of about a million blitzes. Okay, that might be a little over the top but in all seriousness during 11-on-11 drills I would venture to guess that the defense brought extra pressure at least half of the time. Anthony Barr’s presence in the backfield foiled multiple screen-plays and short pass attempts, Harrison Smith would’ve had multiple blind side sacks even Trae Waynes was blowing plays up on the regular. Makings things worse for the offense, when the white jerseys weren’t bringing extra pressure, the defensive line was still finding themselves in the backfield blowing up plays and pressuring the QBs ALL. NIGHT. LONG!
Danielle Hunter was the thing of nightmares for Sam Bradford on multiple plays pressuring the QB out of the pocket for what would have been multiple sacks if the “game” had been live. Everson Griffen did it in the backfield AND dropping back in coverage to lock up the middle of the field on passing plays. Linval Joseph was making sure that Nick Easton and Pat Elflein has some film to learn from come Sunday morning classroom time. Tom Johnson welcomed Dalvin Cook the the NFL with a “chest bump tackle” that shot the rookie running back three yards in the wrong direction knocking him over behind the line of scrimmage. Outside of one play in which Stefon Diggs did put a nasty double-move on Xavier Rhodes for a 45-yard touchdown grab, it was almost a complete domination by the defensive side.
It was legitimately tough to analyze.
Is this defense and specifically the defensive line really that good? Is the offensive line really that bad? One of those is probably more likely than the other, but who knows? It was so lopsided that you couldn’t walk away understanding exactly what you had just seen.
What’s getting lost in the shuffle here is how this practice might be a good thing for the Vikings offense. How does getting embarrassed in front of 10,000+ fans benefit the offense?
To digest that thought, think back about what we actually saw. The offense was limited, they weren’t going to pull out any of their surprises, maybe half of the offense has even been installed and they were working on specific weaknesses not necessarily honing in on strengths to attack the defense. So there’s more to come from them. Beyond that, they have a lot of tape now to highlight exactly how they got exposed. What went wrong? What can be fixed? What do you do to combat those particular things? And then remember that for all of the practice you were without your starting left tackle. For most of the practice you were without your second string left tackle which subsequently shuffled the rest of the offensive line…remember how that went all of last season? Not fun.
It was an impressive spectacle and many people are going to take it as a negative for the offense. Let’s hold off on that for a little bit. Even if the offense and the line will struggle this year, I think we can all agree on the fact that the defense is going to be upper echelon. Enjoy that as much as you can.