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Phillips, Hicks, Booth & Cine Make Vikings Debuts at Las Vegas

The final stats and score don't count, but Harrison Phillips impressed in his first game as a Viking.

New Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell opted against playing most of Minnesota's starting defense at Las Vegas but did open with first-stringers in the trenches.

Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson and Armon Watts started Sunday's 26-20 loss against the Raiders. The trio offered a first look at the Vikings 3-4 defense – a base they haven't used since 1985 – under Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell.

"We wanted to get those groups – especially the interior of the defensive line and that offensive line – some snaps together," O'Connell said postgame. "Getting off the ball, communication up front, different front structures than we see, different run game than sometimes we present to our defense.

"It was a really good chance to get those guys some snaps – but still being smart. Getting those guys in, some good work, and then getting them out," he added. "There will be some things we can definitely correct."

View game action photos between the Vikings and Raiders during the 2022 preseason opener at Allegiant Stadium.

Phillips notched his first sack with the Vikings when he took down Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham midway through the first quarter.

Phillips finished his outing with three tackles, the sack and a quarterback hit.

"I thought Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson did a great job inside," former Vikings linebacker-turned-analyst Pete Bercich said during the postgame simulcast.

While Tomlinson and Watts aren't new to the Vikings roster, they're new to this defense and certainly benefited by getting reps with the group they'll play with in the regular season.

Watts sacked Stidham for a loss of 11 and also recorded a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

O'Connell opted to sit starting linebacker Eric Kendricks but did play free agent addition Jordan Hicks, who also made his Vikings debut. Troy Dye started at the other ILB spot.

Dye led the team in tackles with six, and Hicks followed just behind with five.

At outside linebacker, the Vikings started second-year players D.J. Wonnum and Pat Jones II, who combined for three tackles.

O'Connell started Cameron Dantzler, Sr., and rookie Andrew Booth, Jr., at cornerback; Camryn Bynum and first-round draft pick Lewis Cine started at safety.

"It went great for me. Being out there, playing fast, not really thinking too much – just reacting to what I see," Cine said of his pro debut. "It was a good first experience."

He added: "You kind of have to let your athleticism [take over] and trust your training to react to what you see. I feel like I did a good job of that today. But I'm still learning, still growing, of course – and it's only up from here."

Asked to provide an early assessment of the rookie defensive backs, O'Connell said he'll need to watch the tape before offering detailed feedback.

"That's one thing I do know. I'm so used to being kind of consumed on that offensive side, more than likely I'm looking up and just seeing that snap play out in real time," O'Connell explained.

Booth finished with two tackles on defense, and Cine had one.

That's exactly what the older DBs were looking for from the young ones after weeks of practicing without true, game-day contact.

Cine smiled when asked what veterans Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson advised from the sideline.

"They just told me, 'Dude. Just let it loose. Go play fast.' They only wanted to see me hit somebody," Cine laughed. "But they were real supportive."

Flags were a problem for Minnesota on all three phases, including one play where Booth was charged with two penalties. Late in the first quarter, the Raiders were helped from their own 45-yard line to the Vikings 19 after an official called Booth for pass interference and for grabbing the opponent's face mask.

View pregame photos ahead of the Vikings-Raiders 2022 preseason opener at Allegiant Stadium.

Dantzler and cornerback Parry Nickerson added two more penalties credited to the secondary, both being called for illegal contact.

"Talking to Ed and [Vikings defensive backs coach] Daronte [Jones], it sounded like our guys were real competitive, and maybe it was more the illegal contacts, it felt like. A couple holding calls there," O'Connell said. "We just need to continue to play the technique. In my opinion, there's not many coaches in this league better at coaching defensive back technique than Ed Donatell and our guys we have here.

"So then it's just a matter of evaluating, ultimately, 'What worked for you and what was called?' Because let's not forget, this same [officiating] crew was at our practices for three or four days, and those guys were able to get through some of those practices without those flags being thrown," O'Connell continued. "They showed up tonight, so we've gotta compare and contrast where we can be better."

Sunday proved a solid outing for defensive linemen James Lynch, who tied for the team's second most tackles with five, and T.Y. McGill, Jr., who led Minnesota with 2.0 sacks.

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber commented from the sideline that he was impressed with Minnesota's 4.0 sacks to finish the day.

"I really liked our defensive front – the young guys up front. You know, we had a 4-man rush with a lot of twists … a lot of stunts and twists in there to free those guys up," Leber said. "I thought they executed really well, really fast. It's good to see we can bring some pressure without bringing a blitz and an extra fifth guy."

O'Connell said starters on either side of the ball for Minnesota's second preseason game will be determined after seeing how joint practices with San Francisco go Wednesday and Thursday.

The Vikings will host the 49ers Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. (CT).