All 32 teams have notched their first preseason games of the 2017 season, and there are a number of takeaways from each squad's performance.
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks recently doled out grades to "one player of interest" from each NFC team based on their first preseason outing. He gave Vikings second-round draft pick Dalvin Cook a 'B' after Minnesota's 17-10 win over the Bills Thursday night. Brooks wrote:
Despite his limited production on the ground, Cook was fairly impressive as a playmaker for the Vikings in his debut against the Bills. He snagged four passes for 30 yards on an assortment of dump-offs and slip-screens that allowed him to work in space. Although he was held to 13 rushing yards on five carries, Cook's ability to contribute to the passing game will make him a valuable asset going forward.
Brooks handed out 'A' grades to some players in the conference, including Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who was 18-of-25 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut against Denver.
He displayed the full arsenal of a QB1, exhibiting outstanding touch, timing and anticipation on quick-rhythm throws. In addition, Trubisky flashed impressive athleticism and mobile playmaking ability on a handful of bootlegs to his right and left. Considering how well the rookie performed in his debut against the Broncos backups, he could make a move up the depth chart sooner than expected.
For the other two NFC North teams, Brooks gave Lions receiver Kenny Golladay and Packers cornerback Kevin King an A- and B-, respectively.
A look at Minnesota's punting competition
As position battles wage on across Minnesota's roster, one such competition is at punter.
The Vikings have two punters and two kickers to evaluate before making final roster cuts after the fourth preseason game on Aug. 31. *Star Tribune *reporter Mark Craig on Monday delved into the competition between veteran Ryan Quigley, who signed with Minnesota this offseason, and Taylor Symmank, who participated in the Vikings 2016 rookie minicamp and again in this year.
Craig spoke with Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer following Minnesota's first preseason game against Buffalo.
"I thought they both performed very well [at Buffalo]," Priefer told Craig. "Quigley was 3-for-3 on his punts [in terms of them being acceptable efforts] and Symmank was 3-for-4. Symmank was more of the 'wow' punts. He had the higher, farther punts. But Quigley did a better job of directional punting, which really helped us in coverage."
On paper, Symmank would appear to have had the edge in the preseason opener. He had four punts for a gross and net average of 44.0 yards, and three inside the 20, including a long of 60 that rolled dead at the Buffalo 6. Meanwhile, Quigley had three punts for a gross average of 40.7, a net of 38.7, one inside the 20 and a long of 46.
Priefer offered perspective, however, that explained why each player is still being evaluated closely.
"[Symmank] shanked that one for 31 yards," Priefer told Craig. "And you know what that did? Buffalo got the ball at its  and went down and kicked a field goal [for a 3-0 lead]. So it's all relative. It's all complementary football. It's field position. Hidden yardage. That sort of thing."
Vikings 'all in' with their defense
With the recent contract extensions for Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph, it's clear the Vikings are sticking to a strategic plan implemented by General Manager Rick Spielman.
John Holler of *Viking Update *took a look at the defensive identity established for the team under Head Coach Mike Zimmer and said the Vikings are proving that they're "all in" with that defense. Holler wrote:
The Minnesota Vikings are taking a different approach, one that has brought Super Bowl titles home to places like Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Seattle – build a dynamic defense that is loaded with playmakers in an era that has been dominated by rules changes to make it more difficult for defenses to shut down offenses.
Holler said that Minnesota's plan was demonstrated through the trio of deals during training camp.
The Vikings have pushed their chips in the middle – for 2017 and beyond – saying that they're going to make the most of what they've built defensively and hoping to have enough offense to augment the dominance they have on the defensive side of the ball.
Holler went on to highlight additional playmakers on the Vikings roster, including Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith. He wrote that the Vikings "have planted their flag with the rest of the league that defense is going to be their calling card."