MINNEAPOLIS — The first preseason performance for the 2021 Vikings offense left much to be desired Saturday evening.
Minnesota decided to rest all of its offensive starters, which meant a host of backups had a chance to make a strong impression as they try to secure roster spots in the coming weeks.
Few did make a good impression, as the unit led by quarterbacks Jake Browning and Kellen Mond mustered just six points and 235 total yards of offense in a 33-6 loss to the Broncos.
"We were going to give these other guys some opportunities to see if they could make the club," Zimmer said. "Some of them proved us right, some of them proved us wrong.
"A lot of these guys are backup players," Zimmer added. "The things they showed today was definitely not good enough."
In fact, the Vikings offense actually allowed more points (eight on a safety and pick-six) than it scored. Minnesota was called for a holding penalty in the end zone — resulting in the safety — and Browning was intercepted by rookie Pat Surtain II.
Browning had looked crisp in camp the past few weeks but couldn't carry that momentum over to the preseason. He completed five of 10 passes for 31 yards.
"It wasn't as good as it has been" Zimmer said of Browning. "[The offense] had the ball on the 2-yard line to start out with, so that wasn't real good either.
"The interception for the touchdown was thrown behind the guy," Zimmer added. "I just didn't feel like he was as sharp as he's been in the past week."
Browning assessed his own play, including the poor throw on the pick-six.
"We'll see the film, but I think even if I threw a perfect ball, I think he still makes the play on it just because he was squatting so hard," Browning said of the ninth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. "So being able to read his demeanor in his drop and know that, earlier in the game, had the same route, guy squatted on it, said no to it there, ended up scrambling and getting a safety.
"Just getting a feel for his demeanor and not just saying, 'Alright, this is the coverage, this is where the ball's supposed to go' and just throwing it. You gotta get a feel for the demeanor," Browning said. "I thought other than that, I tried to play on time, tried to put the ball where it's supposed to be. You never really know until you watch the film, it's never as good as you thought, never as bad as you thought. We'll see."
Browning and Mond were the only two quarterbacks who played, as those two are vying for the backup job behind Kirk Cousins. Nate Stanley is hurt, and Danny Etling suited up but did not play.
View action photos from the Vikings-Broncos preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Browning, a former University of Washington standout, said he felt his performance was "a missed opportunity for sure."
He added: "As far as the competition and all that, for me, it's just day to day. Been doing that for the last two years. Feel like I've gotten a lot better doing that. We have an off day Sunday, and Monday [we need to] be ready to roll and come back with some piss and vinegar. [I'm] a little pissed off that I missed an opportunity and didn't play as well as I hoped."
Mond, meanwhile, completed six of 16 passes for 53 yards. He also rushed five times for 25 yards.
He led the Vikings inside the 5-yard line late in the first half and again in the second, but the offense only came away with three total points.
Mond, a 2020 third-round pick, said his focus coming out Saturday's tilt is speeding up his entire game on the field.
"Yeah, I thought I did a pretty good job in those [hurry-up drives]," Mond said. "Still trying to get the whole operation. One, with new receivers, getting signals down, communicating with the offensive line.
"I think just as a whole, we were able to drive and do some good things, but I think just my operation being a little bit faster, I think that's going to be really key," Mond added. "Just have to continue to get better. Not just me, but as a whole entire offense, gotta do a better job communicating and getting up to the line and getting the ball snapped faster."
Zimmer said: "I don't think the game is too fast for him, I think it's just him picking up the tempo a little bit. He's kind of a laidback guy, doesn't really say a whole bunch. I think he's got to kind of get out of his shell a little bit. If you're going to be the quarterback, you've got to do those things."
Perhaps one of the only bright spots was undrafted rookie running back A.J. Rose, Jr., who carried 25 times for 100 yards against the Broncos. He also had one reception for 18 yards.
"I knew I was going to play some, but the opportunity presented itself, and that helped me make the most of it," Rose said. "I believe that I made plays out there when my number was called."
Rose took the bulk of the offensive carries in part because fellow rookie Kene Nwangwu suffered a knee injury in the first half and did not return. Nwangwu returned the opening kickoff 18 yards but did not record a carry.
"I thought Rose did a nice job of running the football today," Zimmer said. "We planned on getting Kene a bunch more reps, and he got hurt early in the game."
Zimmer didn't have much of an update on Nwangwu, who had impressed in training camp.
"I don't know," Zimmer said. "I don't think it's serious."