EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are looking forward to opening up the offense and finding their groove.
Minnesota struggled to get anything going offensively against Jacksonville in the second preseason game, but the buzz this week revolved around bouncing back.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen spoke to media members on Monday and emphasized that oftentimes during a game it’s “about momentum” and getting into a flow as a unit.
“It’s about making that one play to get things moving,” Thielen said. “I think there were a few times in that game [against the Jaguars] where, you know, [if] you make a play, you catch a ball, you run a better route and you get a first down, then things start to flow and start to go.
“I think it’s about going back to the basics, making sure we’re getting more separation and making sure that we’re getting that first play to get us going,” Thielen added. “Once that happens, this offense can do big things.”
Quarterback Kirk Cousins told media following Wednesday’s practice that Friday’s preseason game against the Seahawks is the Vikings best chance at a “dress rehearsal” before the regular season gets underway.
Cousins said he wants to establish a rhythm, confidence as a unit and string reps together.
“And just get a flow going of converting third downs, playing well in the red zone, moving the football, having a mix in the run and the pass,” Cousins said. “We need all of that to make ground and be ready to go for Week 1.”
Against Jacksonville, Minnesota’s starters played just four series, tagging in the second-team offense early in the second quarter.
Within those series, however, the Vikings picked up just two first downs on their own merit (an additional three first downs were awarded off of Jaguars penalties). One series was halted by a fumble on the first play. On the day, Minnesota failed to convert a single third down on 12 attempts.
Looking ahead at Preseason 3, Cousins and Thielen hope to get things rolling during their time on the field.
“Getting a rhythm really helps, and many times you can get that by going no-huddle or getting up-tempo, getting the defense on their heels,” Cousins said. “When you aren’t converting third downs and you have penalties and you have turnovers, you may be doing good things individually on some plays, but it’s hard to string them together. Any time you go for 0-for-12 on third downs in a game, you aren’t really giving your coordinator or your offense a chance to develop a rhythm and put a drive together.”
Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo addressed a similar topic on Tuesday.
While he said that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will ultimately decide on playing time for each group Friday night, DeFilippo wants to make the most of any time the offense has.
DeFilippo said he’s looking forward to bouncing back both personally and as an entire unit.
“Ideally, the more plays you run and the more you can run the football sets up your play-action game, which means you can push the ball down the field,” DeFilippo said. “Now I can get the ball in my hand a little bit quicker, maybe run a double move on the outside like we showed against Denver early where we got a couple first downs.
“You saw us on that first drive get a couple first downs, and then you can kind of open it up a little bit,” DeFilippo added. “I think whenever you’re just on and off the field, it just makes it really, really hard to get done what you want to get done.”
Murray: ‘I have to do my job no matter what’
There’s no denying that the Vikings offensive line situation is less than ideal, with a number of players dealing with injuries and combinations continuing to shuffle.
Running back Latavius Murray was asked Wednesday how it affects him, and he said that ultimately it shouldn’t matter.
“I have to do my job no matter who’s in [at offensive line], so it’s up to us to make the guys right,” Murray said. “I take pride in that and making their blocks right, running behind them when they open up holes, create something when it’s ugly. You have to take pride in that as a runner. Overall, it shouldn’t matter who’s in.”
Entering his second campaign in Purple, Murray is looking forward to using Friday’s preseason game as a jump-start to the regular season.
Hopefully, the Vikings will trend the right direction at the right time.
“I was always kind of taught that you want to get better as the season goes on and be playing your best football in December and January,” Murray said. “So I think for us to come out and have a good start [is what you look for], but again, we’re still getting better, we’re still improving, and this Friday will be a good chance for us to go out there and get better.”