Kickoff for the Vikings second preseason game, which will take place in Seattle against the Seahawks, is only hours away. Here are a few final thoughts on the game as the Vikings prepare to take the next step toward the 2016 regular season.
Flash may be on tonight
Cordarrelle Patterson was lauded by both head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman for a productive and impressive offseason, but his training camp was interrupted with a shoulder injury. Patterson has returned to action from the shoulder injury but he didn't play in last week's preseason opener. There's a chance Patterson plays and plays a bunch against the Seahawks on Thursday night, giving him an opportunity to transfer his work during the offseason onto the field in the preseason. That would be a welcome sight to all in Vikings Nation.
Early-down defense important
Cincinnati didn't get on the board last week against the Vikings until late in the 2nd quarter, but that didn't have Zimmer satisfied with how his defense played in the opening two quarters of the preseason. At or near the top of Zimmer's list of issues was production on early downs. Cincinnati had three yards to go on its first 3rd down of the ball game and one yard to go on its next four 3rd-down plays. All told, Cincinnati converted six of its first seven 3rd downs and was 8 of 15 (53%) for the game.
The issue isn't 3rd down defense; it's 1st and 2nd down defense. You will see a more satisfied coach Zimmer at the postgame press conference if Seattle's offense faces more difficult circumstances on 3rd downs on Thursday night.
Exum's next step
Antone Exum, Jr. is among a group of players challenging Andrew Sendejo for a starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith. Zimmer was asked about Exum earlier in the week, specifically about what the third-year pro needs to do to take the next step. An interesting part of Zimmer's commentary was that it's not about making the big plays, but about not giving up the big plays.
"He's a really good athlete and he can make a lot of plays," Zimmer explained. "But he has to be consistent in his communication with the checks, being in the right place and, really, being dependable when he's out on the field.
"Jimmy Johnson used to have a line, a saying: 'It's not how many good plays you make. It's how many bad plays you give up.' So, that's a little bit of his deal right now. He has got to be more consistent and be consistently good and then make the plays that are there for you."
Exum saw a lot of time on the field last week in Cincinnati, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see others, such as Michael Griffin, get a few more reps on Thursday night as the coaching staff continues its evaluation of that roster spot.
There's no question that playing quality teams in the preseason is a good way to test the mettle of your team. That means Thursday night's game against the Seahawks, a perennial playoff team of late, will give the Vikings roster some quality work.
But Zimmer intimated earlier in the week that facing Russell Wilson could actually work against the coaching staff's goal of having players hone in on the fundamentals during the preseason. Wilson's mobility can cause linemen to deviate from their technique as they look to keep their eyes on the shifty passer.
"Most of the time what happens is you start peeking and you quit rushing," Zimmer said of defending a mobile quarterback. "So, instead of maintaining and trying to beat the guy you're on, you're looking around for the quarterback and then you don't rush. But we've been fairly disciplined with our rush lanes, so I'm sure there's a possibly that he'll get out a couple times."
Zimmer pointed to a few of his defenders who could be particularly helpful in keeping Wilson contained within the pocket.
"I think we're more athletic, which that always helps, when you can add big, long guys with range like (Danielle) Hunter," Zimmer said. "(Everson) Griffen is a heck of an athlete, and (Anthony) Barr is a big, long athlete that can run."