The Vikings played three preseason games. All three games resulted in losses, and the Raiders, 49ers, and Broncos all got the better of the Vikings. But the results aren’t as important as the observations the team can make and the players’ health.
Players had time to get into game shape, take a few hits in live action, and get used to playing against different opponents instead of just practicing against players wearing their own jerseys.
Ten Vikings, however, didn’t play in the preseason:
- QB Kirk Cousins
- RB Dalvin Cook
- WR Justin Jefferson
- WR Adam Thielen
- TE Irv Smith Jr.
- OLB Danielle Hunter
- OLB Za’Darius Smith
- MLB Eric Kendricks
- CB Patrick Peterson
- S Harrison Smith
In addition to those ten, Blake Proehl and Ryan Connelly didn’t play, but they currently aren’t on the active roster. They are on the reserve PUP list and are recovering from torn ACLs.
Nick Mullens didn’t play for the Vikings but appeared in three games for the Raiders. He threw 29 passes including a touchdown against the Vikings.
The ten inactive players for all three games are the main attractions of the Vikings. The organization needs them to be healthy during the regular season. Therefore, they didn’t take any risks in a meaningless game. Injuries can happen during practice but are more likely to occur in games.
The Vikings played both lines, offensive and defensive, in the preseason opener. Defensive tackles Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson looked great. The first-team offensive line struggled against the blitz-heavy Raiders defense.
Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, and Irv Smith form the foundation of the Vikings offense. The unit is trying to be more explosive and consistent compared to recent years. Consistency is the biggest point of criticism of most Vikings fans, as the offense completely disappeared for big stretches of games, which led to some defensive breakdowns.
The ceiling for the unit is sky-high. Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson are a deadly duo in the passing attack. They might even get a boost from the newly implemented scheme. The same scheme helped Cooper Kupp win the triple crown with the Rams. O’Connell was his offensive coordinator.
The offense will still feature one of the best running backs in the NFL. Dalvin Cook has been near the top of the league in all categories in the last few years. While the Vikings could pass more often, they will still depend on Cook to keep the defense on their toes. An effective running game, subsequently, leads to good play-action opportunities. He will also get touches in the passing game.
Thielen was another player who didn’t see game action in the preseason. He was one of the best receivers in the league for a while, but his production in terms of yards decreased in recent years. His touchdown numbers, meanwhile, increased. Health was a big problem. He missed 11 games throughout the last three seasons. To have a healthy Thielen is a big priority for the Vikings.
The same can be said about Irv Smith. The tight end missed the full 2021 season and is already injured again. He had to undergo thumb surgery and, therefore, missed the preseason. The starting tight end is expected to be ready for Week 1 and could be in for a big year.
The edge rushers will be important for the Vikings after two seasons without solid play. Danielle Hunter missed all but seven games throughout the last two seasons. In both years, the defense collapsed without him. In 2022, the Vikings added another star edge rusher when they signed Za’Darius Smith. He dealt with a back injury in 2021 and missed most of the season. If the two can stay healthy, a lot is possible for the defense.
The other three, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Patrick Peterson, are all at least 30 years old. They have proven able to play at a high level. Peterson and Smith have the critical job of mentoring rookies Andrew Booth and Lewis Cine. The defense is entering a scheme change as well. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, a former Vic Fangio disciple, is implementing a new 3-4 defensive scheme.
The next time Vikings fans will see the stars of the team suit up is on September 11th, when the Packers come to town for the first divisional showdown of the 2022 season. There could be some early struggles because of the many changes, but the veterans should get used to playing speed quickly.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt