With the first preseason game in the books, Minnesota comes up short in last night’s brawl after Seattle’s second half heroics notched them 13-24 win against the Vikings. With much to dissect, there was plenty of good (and some bad) to take note of. Here are six takeaways from last night’s Preseason Week 1 game.
1. Chandler Shines, Widens RB Competition Gap
Coming into last night’s preseason game, all backs were competing for in the RB2 competition… After last night, not so much, well at least among the combatants. Ty Chandler separated himself, very evidently, from the rest of the pack with eleven carries and four receptions, Chandler was very clearly the lead back last night. Not only did he easily look to be the most effective rusher constantly finding lanes and falling forward, but he showed his ability to receive and play in pass protection too. Though Mattison and Nwangwu didn’t play, Chandler balled. That said, another surprise of last night was recently signed Abram Smith out-snapped rookie draftee Dwayne McBride. Smith was largely okay, but McBride wasn’t great. The rookie carried the rock only six times for 15 yards and one of those was a key fourth down conversion. That conversion saw McBride flounder, and he got stood up and ultimately tackled for a loss. Overall, a rotation but very much Chandler’s night to shine.
2. The Quarterback of the Future?
The debut of Jaren Hall out of BYU was, let’s say, hopeful and anticipated for most at best. However, it was not a great outing for the former Cougar. Granted, much of that falls on his offensive line as he was running for the majority of the night with Seattle bullying the third and fourth stringers. Still there were some bright spots to note, mostly his ability to diagnose and escape pressure (if we ignore the back-to-back sack plays). Hall’s final stat line was six of fifteen for 37 yards and no touchdowns, no interceptions… Not ideal. On the bright side, Hall chucked a beauty to N’Keal Harry on third down that was beautifully placed where only Harry could come down with it. Mullens as a whole was efficient and effective. Outside of a fantastic Nick Muse leaping TD grab (yes, 7th Rounder Nick Muse), Mullens made safe and smart throws, nothing massive. Mullens finished with an impressive stat line of fourteen of twenty for 139 yards and a touchdown. It will be interesting to see if Hall is better with the second-string offensive line. Right now, though, Mullens staked his claim as the clear back, with an evident QB2/QB3 split.
Nick Muse touchdown! pic.twitter.com/I4WiQUNiXh
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) August 11, 2023
3. Defense, defense, defense!
Though Minnesota ended up losing last night, it was a very encouraging outing from Brian Flores and his new look defense. Through the first quarter and a half, Minnesota held Seattle to just 39 yards and forced a three and out. The starting rotation was able to play solid coverage, apply pressure, and neutralize the run and pass game efficiently. Truly, there was more pressure last night than there was most of last season. Undrafted rookie Ivan Pace Jr and edge rush Luiji Vilain, both stood out and aided in this process as well. Pace called plays and had a team high six tackles while Vilain loaded up the stat sheet with 3 tackles, 1 sack, a few QB pressures, and a forced fumble. Ultimately, the Seahawks ended up picking apart younger guys later in the game, but the starting defense looked tight. It will be interesting to see how the additions of the veterans held out from last night will change or affect who starts and who plays as well as how the defense plays.
4. A FIRST ROUND RECEIVER
Yes, Minnesota has a running mate to pair with superstar Justin Jefferson and he was a first-round receiver! Last night, he made quite a few key catches. He also led the team in receptions and yardage and generally looked rather impressive. That’s right, we’re talking about Jalen Reagor!!! Reagor was immensely effective last night with four receptions for 55 yards. Though it’s preseason, the takeaway here was a step in the right direction for the embattled speedster. To pair with this, Reagor added return value as well. All jokes aside, the true first round receiver that lived up to expectation was USC WR Jordan Addison. Simply, he was just fun to watch. Though he only had one catch for 22 yards, he saw three targets and should have had a second, highlight reel catch that was ultimately taken away from him, which you can check out below. Addison’s athleticism and route running ability was on display last night. He isn’t yet established as the WR2, as evident by Osborn not suiting up last night. However, he is quickly trending toward that direction.
Jordan Addison gets both feet down on replay (but refs didn't see it)
incredible catch (ruled incompletion) pic.twitter.com/naNfSQQnZt
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 11, 2023
5. Special Teams Need Work
Special teams were… Well not great. New coordinator Matt Daniel’s squad looked unprepared and sloppy in last night’s debut. Seattle broke a big return on a kickoff and was largely more effective in the return game. Pair with this a muffed punt where Thayer Thomas called for a fair catch but ended up running into his own player, ultimately seeing the ball bounce off a Viking to be downed in the red Zone for Seattle.. It was, as a whole, less than ideal. Going into next week’s game against the Titans, the hope is Minnesota cleans up these woes. McBride handled the return duties with Nwangwu sidelined and was inefficient at best. Also, the kicking competition that was so highly touted looks dead in the water. Joseph had a perfect night and Podlesny didn’t even see the field. On the bright side, undrafted CB NaJee Thompson was a highlight on our special teams and put himself into a good position to compete for a roster spot.
6. High Flying DBs, Many Impressed
The secondary had quite a few players improve their stock with last night’s performance. Akayleb Evans looked the part of a starting corner in his limited work. Rookie Mekhi Blackmon played also played well with some sticky coverage (albeit, maybe a little too handsy but physical). Both players showed ability to be on the field and be effective in both the run and the pass defense. Add to these two standouts undrafted rookie Jaylin Williams and Joejuan Williams who also rose their stock. Jaylin caught the only Vikings interception last night and Joejuan also showed off his chops in pass defense using his length in an impressive pass breakup in the endzone. Similarly, backup safeties Jay Ward and Theo Jackson also had solid performances last night. Both made solid plays and defensive stops during their snaps and both finished with five and six tackles, respectively. All in all, some players took full advantage of Flores’ new scheme. Cine however came back and had an up and down debut, flying around the field early but also getting stood up not once, but twice in the box. The athleticism for number six was on display but he’ll need to clean up some fundamentals in the tackling department. Sadly, Andrew Booth Jr also just had a poor overall outing, with his main play of note coming from a touchdown allowed to undrafted receiver Jake Bobo.
A really nice play here by #Vikings CB Joejuan Williams for a PBU, who has had a solid camp thus far.
Also a nice pressure and spin move by UDFA Andre Carter to force Drew Lock out of the pocket. pic.twitter.com/UDes0eZEtq
— Matt Anderson (@MattAnderson_8) August 11, 2023