MINNEAPOLIS — Two days of joint practices between the host Vikings and visiting Jaguars provided quite the learning lab for players for both teams.
Fresh looks and quality reps in mostly scripted format transitioned to Saturday's contest.
Defenses for both teams looked strong; offenses struggled, and a key sequence of mistakes on special teams set up a late 4-yard touchdown drive by Jacksonville in a 14-10 win.
For all that the Vikings and Jaguars taught each other during two clean practices without scrums, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone have plenty of teaching points from Saturday.
"To be honest with you, I'm glad we didn't win that game today because we didn't deserve to win. We didn't play well enough, and we're going to get back to work and get going here."
The other part of the preseason that continues to be a learning experience involves the new rules that are to be implemented in 2018.
Consider this one an ongoing question as officials, coaches and players continue to adjust.
One change forbids lowering the helmet to initiate contact. Another that is being more heavily enforced involves prohibition of driving a quarterback into the ground.
Both are high-speed judgement calls, and both occurred Saturday.
Vikings fullback C.J. Ham caught a 4-yard pass from Kirk Cousins and was low when he was running after the catch. Jacksonville corner A.J. Bouye was flagged for lowering his helmet to initiate contact, and the Vikings were awarded 15 yards, changing what would have been second-and-21 at the Jacksonville 41 to first-and-10 at the 26.
Minnesota was able to get a 44-yard field goal by Kai Forbath, despite the drive stalling at the 26.
Jaguars Cornerback A.J. Bouye
"I was talking to the referee, and he said it is a tough thing to call or not call," Bouye said. "When a running back is coming at me and [is] bigger than me, as a defensive back, you try to go low. If anything, it should offset when both players go low against each other."
The Vikings recorded six sacks, and press box statisticians counted 12 quarterback hits. It would have been seven and 13, respectively, had Antwione Williams not been flagged for roughing the passer.
Williams had a clean rush on Cody Kessler and appeared to have the quarterback dropped for a loss of 7, even making sure to initiate contact with his shoulder pads instead of his helmet. Officials, however, flagged Williams for roughing the passer.
Rather than a second-at-17 at the Jacksonville 42, the Jaguars faced a first-and-10 at the Minnesota 36. That drive also stalled, but 15-yard penalties often come with multiple consequences.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer protested the call during the game but said he had a different perspective after reviewing the hit.
"You know what? After I looked at it, after I calmed down a little bit, I looked at it and he was, his head was to the side and he was going to the side and if he would have just rolled, but he kind of pumped him into the turf. I actually think that was a good call."
Vikings DE Brian Robison, the longest-tenured Viking who is preparing for his 12th season, said there's still quite a bit of confusion.
"At the end of the day, this whole rule deal is sketchy at best. I don't think we know exactly what is supposed to happen," Robison said. "I mean, we've seen the tape, and some of the plays look totally legal to me and they are saying they are fouls.
"I think we are all confused about it," he added. "I think if you ask the referees, they might be confused which ones they are supposed to look for to throw [a flag]. At the end of the day, you just have to go play ball and let the chips fall where they may."
Robison also was asked if the new rules could lead to less-aggressive play by defensive players.
"Well, that's the problem," Robison said. "If it leads to less-aggressive play, you start looking at the fact of now we've got guys slowing up on a play and might get hurt. To me, if you slow up on a play, it will weaken the strength of our game. I understand what the NFL is trying to do. They are trying to cut down on a lot of the head injuries and stuff like that. It's just confusing, to be honest with you."