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3 Areas of concern after Vikings’ first preseason game

Football is back, baby! After an offseason that seemed to drag on forever — don’t they always? — the Minnesota Vikings finally took the field for their first preseason game. While the result, a 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, isn’t ideal, wins and losses matter little at this stage. What matters far more is how the players look and compete when given their chance to shine.

Will they seize the opportunity and show they belong, or is the spotlight too much for them? Preseason football is about setting the roster and evaluating what you’re doing well and what needs to improve before the regular season. With that in mind, let’s look at three areas of concern after the first preseason game.

Area of concern #1: Offensive line

The quarterbacks for the Vikings weren’t impressive in this game, and we’ll talk about that in a bit, but the issues start up front. It’s the first game of the preseason, so it’s important to not overreact to bad performances. But that’s exactly what this was for the Vikings’ offensive line: a bad performance. Just all-around bad. They were getting pushed around up front all night, but whomever the Seahawks put in.

Ed Ingram, in particular, was a low point in the Seahawks loss. Ingram is presumed to be a starter, and he was struggling all night in both pass protection and run blocking. The running backs for the Vikings had a great night, but it was largely in spite of the offensive line, not because of it.

The Seahawks don’t have a particularly potent pass rush, so to see the Vikings line consistently struggle was disheartening. Especially so when you consider it’s the first preseason game and they weren’t facing the full brunt of the Seahawks attack. If the Vikings are going to be where everyone expects them to be at the end of the season, they’re going to need a lot better play up front than what we saw against Seattle.

Area of concern #2: Defensive backs

Despite the impression you may get from the plethora of “X Quarterback threw Y number of interceptions today” think-pieces you see this time of year, offense tends to have the upper hand early in the preseason. It can take a bit for defenses to catch up. Even with that knowledge, the Vikings’ defensive backs made things a bit too easy for the Seahawks. Kalon Barnes, Andrew Booth, and Lewis Cine stood out particularly — and not in a good way.

All three struggled in various ways, with Barnes and Booth getting burned on multiple occasions. The struggles Cine showed up more in the tackling aspect. Or, rather, lack thereof, as he missed several tackles he should have made.

Unlike the issues with the offensive line and the quarterbacks, I have every faith that these issues will be worked out before the season begins. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores tends to run a tight ship with his defenses. I can’t imagine he was thrilled with what he saw on the field, and I have to think that tackling will be a point of emphasis in practices moving forward.

The defense showed a lot of good things in this game and a lot of the signatures that make Flores such a coveted defensive coach. The tackling struggles were a black eye on an otherwise promising look.

Area of concern #3: Backup quarterback

This one may be a bit unfair to both Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall. In the case of Nick Mullens, the aforementioned offensive line was a big factor in him not impressing more. Nearly every dropback, Mullens had a plethora of rushers in his grill. For Hall, it was his first-ever action in the NFL. He’s a late-round rookie so expectations should be low from the start. He’s also a bit of a project, so it may be a bit unfair to single him out in this section. With that said, the Vikings may have reason to be concerned if Kirk Cousins goes down if this first game was any indication.

Granted, you can say that for just about any team in the league. There are few teams who can take their starting quarterback missing time well. But it may be a particularly bad scenario here. Minnesota is a team that has re-tooled recently and is looking, at least on paper, like a team ready to make waves in the NFC. There’s a nice blend of star power and promising young talent up and down this roster. Which could all go for naught if Mullens or Hall have to see significant time.

Mullens drove the ball against the Seahawks defense and was able to put up points. However, he was late on a handful of throws, and there were a number of throws that were significantly off the mark. It’s the first preseason game, so that’s to be expected to some degree, but it was noteworthy.

It wasn’t all bad for Mullens. It’s important to point out that there were a few instances where Mullens showed what made him buzzworthy for a few weeks during his stint in San Francisco. When Mullens wasn’t facing intense pressure from the Seahawks’ defensive line — which wasn’t often — there were times where he was able to recognize his outlets and make the smart, veteran throws.

As for Hall, there weren’t a whole lot of positives to his performance. He was able to throw the ball away a few times instead of making a catastrophic mistake, which is good recognition from a rookie. But when “he threw the ball away” is the best thing you can say about a performance, that’s not a comforting feeling.

It’ll be interesting to watch how Hall develops and if he’s able to push Mullens for the backup spot or winds up with a practice team designation. Either way, the Vikings could be in for a rough time if Cousins can’t play all 17 games.

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