What we learned from the Vikings defense in Week 1 of preseason
For the first time in 207 days, the Minnesota Vikings took the field as it faced off against the Seattle Seahawks in week one of preseason play. The Vikings raced off to 10-0 but it was slowly salted away, resulting in a 24-13 loss. While a handful of starters didn’t appear as expected, we got to examine live play for the first time this season with new members on the roster. Here are some quick takeaways from the defensive side of the ball.
Welcome to the Brian Flores defense
While teams in preseason aren’t going to show all their secrets in these games, we did see the introduction of Brian Flores’ defense after the team fired Ed Donatell this past off-season. The Vikings lined up in both three and four-man fronts against the Seahawks. Earlier in the off-season, Flores noted that Minnesota wouldn’t be committed to just running a traditional 3-4 or 4-3 defense, but it rather is dependent on certain matchups. Minnesota’s linebackers also lined up and pushed closer to the defensive line in the A-gaps pre-snap, giving a small taste of what is to come during the regular season.
The relatively young Vikings secondary had its ups and downs on Thursday night at Lumen Field. Starting with the positives though, Akayleb Evans made a nice tackle on a jet sweep early in the contest. Joejuan Williams recorded a PBU in the end-zone while undrafted free agent Jaylin Williams of Indiana picked off Drew Lock. Rookie cornerback Mekhi Blackmon, who’s trending in the right direction to see a lot of playing time, also had a nice shutdown play on a one-on-one fade route.
This is quite an athletic interception here by Jaylin Williams.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) August 11, 2023
Mekhi Blackmon smothers the WR slot fade.
— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) August 11, 2023
As for Lewis Cine, he displayed his blazing speed on the first defensive play of the game, flying across the field and wrapping up former Ohio State stud Jaxson Smith-Njigba for just a two-yard gain, but Cine possessed his struggles throughout the night. He looked a bit lost in coverage. One play, in particular, came on Seattle’s first offensive touchdown drive. Jake Bobo ran a crossing route behind the Vikings’ linebackers. Cine, the safety behind Ivan Pace Jr. took a bit too long to react to the play allowing Lock to connect with Bobo for a 20-yard gain.
Cine fun fits weren’t stellar either. With time ticking down in the first half, he attempted to tackle Seahawks rookie running back Zach Charbonnent. Instead of lowering his body to make the stop, he instead tried to make the tackle up high, and Charbonnet, who by no means is a small athlete at 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, made him pay.
Pete Carroll must LOVE Zach Charbonnet.
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 11, 2023
Andrew Booth Jr. also appeared to have a rough outing. On the Seahawks’ second touchdown drive, Bobo got behind Booth for an easy touchdown from Lock. Matt Landers out of Arkansas also bullied Kalon Barnes for another score, practically putting the game out of reach (Even though the records don’t count).
Andrew Booth Jr. beat by Jake Bobo for a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/qDCJMMob30
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) August 11, 2023
Not a bad debut for Matt Landers 👀 #ProHogs
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) August 11, 2023
While Cine and Booth are more than not going to be starters, it is still alarming to see those two struggle. The duo was this front office regime’s first two-ever draft selections. Injuries delayed their opportunities to see more action on the field, but at some point their play is going to have to live up to the hype they received coming out of Clemson and Georgia.
Moxy by the front seven
Looking back at the positives, the Vikings front seven was relatively aggressive and active during pre-season game No. 1. If you take away a 22-yard gain early in the fourth quarter by Holton Ahlers, the Seahawks averaged just 3.2 yards per rush with Ivan Pace Jr. leading the way. The pass rush kept Lock a bit uneasy despite an efficient stat line. On the Vikings’ lone interception, the pressure by second-year player Ezesi Otomewo and T.J Smith getting his hands in the air contributed in Lock throwing an errant pass. Despite not having starters Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, Harrison Phillips, and seasoned veteran Dean Lowry, it’s nice to see other guys step up and perform especially with the defensive line depth being a bit of a question mark heading into this year.