We’re halfway through the 2019 preseason and that much closer to the Vikings home opener on Sept. 8.
Exhibition contests should be taken with a grain of salt, of course, but NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus released an early power rankings through two preseason games. He placed the Vikings at No. 13, saying that quarterback Kirk Cousins “looked nice and loose in an efficient cameo” against the Seahawks, during which the first-team offense played two series.
It will be interesting to see how Minnesota’s attack operates with [Offensive Coordinator] Kevin Stefanski (his interim label now removed) and – looking this up, one moment – [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor] Gary Kubiak in the mix. Cousins’ counting stats were actually pretty great in his first season in Minnesota … Entering his eighth season, it’s time to tie that production to more wins and a deep playoff run.
The only NFC North team ranked higher than the Vikings by Hanzus was the Bears, whom he tabbed at No. 7.
The Bears held out 26 players that are either starters or key reserves against the Giants. However, the game did lead to a development at one key position. The Bears waived Elliott Fry on Sunday, leaving Eddy Pineiro as the only kicker remaining in one of the league’s most heavily scrutinized positional battles this summer.
The Packers were ranked 15th, and the Lions were 26th.
View exclusive black-and-white images from the Vikings game against the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Brett Jones PFF’s top-graded OL through 2 preseason games
Analytics site Pro Football Focus is back to work evaluating performances throughout the preseason, and they’re not only focused on the first-team units.
PFF’s Michael Renner recently tabbed Vikings center Brett Jones as the highest-graded offensive lineman through two weeks of the preseason. Jones received a 91.5 overall grade, and Renner pointed out that over 44 pass-blocking snaps through two games, Jones hasn’t allowed a pressure on the quarterback.
Meanwhile, Jones was highlighted as Minnesota’s “player to watch” this Saturday against Arizona. According to PFF, he also performed well on run-blocking snaps, warranting a 90.5 overall grade.
PFF wrote that Jones has “done everything right to solidify his spot as the team’s primary backup” behind starting center Garrett Bradbury.
Mizutani: Weatherly ‘coming into his own’ on Vikings defense
Defensive end Stephen Weatherly has made significant strides since being drafted in the seventh round in 2016.
Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press delved into Weatherly’s past three seasons, which included spending his rookie campaign on the Vikings practice squad.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh. If I could’ve just made some big plays, I would have made it,’ ” Weatherly told Mizutani. “My biggest issue with that was when I was trying to go out and make those big plays, I wasn’t doing the things I was supposed to do within the defense. That was what ultimately led to me getting cut.”
Weatherly said he “took a step back” after conversations with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who explained that “it wasn’t about making big plays all the time” but about doing his job effectively.
Now a couple of seasons into his NFL career, Weatherly has developed into a key rotational player on the defensive line, consistently spelling the dynamic duo of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter off the edge. He also might start taking on a bigger role as an interior pass rusher, considering coach Mike Zimmer has been experimenting with that wrinkle throughout the preseason.
Frankly, Weatherly doesn’t care where he plays, inside or outside, as long as he’s playing. He prides himself on being versatile, and while he has made a name for himself using his speed, he can also generate a surprising amount of power with his 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame.