Observation Deck: Minnesota Vikings
August, 28, 2014
By Ben Goessling | ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite not having Adrian Peterson on the field for the entire preseason, the Minnesota Vikings have found success running the ball, thanks in part to an offensive line that has done an impressive job executing offensive coordinator Norv Turner's power running game.
That success continued in a 19-3 win over the Tennessee Titans to wrap up the exhibition season on Thursday night. Joe Banyard, who's fighting for a roster spot at running back, carried 18 times for 111 yards. Dominique Williams followed with another 15 carries for 58 yards, and Jerick McKinnon gained 23 yards on three carries.
All told, the Vikings ran for 598 yards in four preseason games, averaging 4.75 yards per carry and effectively salting away leads in their final two preseason games. As much as their line has struggled with consistent pass protection in the preseason, the group has been as good as usual opening holes for the run, and should be even better once Peterson is unveiled for the start of the regular season on Sept. 7.
Turner's offense will involve a healthy dose of downfield passes, but the power running element of the scheme is an important facet of the offense, too, and the Vikings should end the preseason encouraged about their ability to create balance on offense.
Here are some other thoughts on the Vikings' final preseason game of the year:
- The Vikings continued -- or concluded -- their audition at safety, playing Robert Blanton and Kurt Coleman for most of the first half. Andrew Sendejo got a healthy share of playing time in the second half, while injuries again kept Jamarca Sanford out. With the two-year starter missing most of the preseason, it remains to be seen if he'll be able to hang onto a roster spot among a crowded group of safeties.
- Christian Ponder got his most extensive action of the preseason, hitting 12 of his 15 throws for 121 yards. Ponder, who didn't play in the Vikings' previous two preseason games, figures to make the roster as a third quarterback, but his playing time on Thursday night might have been his final significant action before he hits the open market as a free agent next March.
- Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who made a nice catch in tight coverage for the Vikings' lone touchdown of the game, left in the second quarter with a hip injury and did not return. Fullback Zach Line --who might have been in need of a good showing to make the roster -- departed in the second half with an ankle injury.
- The Vikings' swing tackle spot is still in some doubt, and they used much of Thursday's game to take a look at three different players -- Antonio Richardson, Mike Remmers and Austin Wentworth, who rotated at the tackle positions throughout the game. The absence of several linebackers due to injury also gave the Vikings a chance to look at both Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole, the middle linebacking candidates who played next to one another in nickel coverage.
- Kicker Blair Walsh, who had missed a pair of field goals from more than 50 yards, ended the preseason on a good note, hitting all four of his field goals with a long kick of 45 yards. Jeff Locke also drilled a pair of punts that traveled 50 and 52 yards.