Four (mostly ugly) games later, the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason has finally concluded. Our sights move to the regular season, but not before we review a few noteworthy items from Minnesota’s 30-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.
Taylor Heinicke, the hero in Minnesota’s comeback win against San Francisco last week, made the start at quarterback despite lingering rib pain. He led the Vikings to their only touchdown of the night before exiting the game after he was sacked for a safety in the final minute of the first half. Heinicke and, later, rookie tight end Bucky Hodges were evaluated for concussions and did not return.
The defense looked shaky at times for a second straight week. More miscommunication in the secondary led to long Dolphins completions – including a 65-yard touchdown strike when Miami wide receiver Jakeem Grant got loose behind Jayron Kearse and Sam Brown. Later in the game, the Vikings thought they stopped the Dolphins in the red zone on 3rd-and-5, but Mackensie Alexander was flagged for taunting. The Dolphins were awarded a fresh set of downs and punched it in for six points on the next play.
A poor defensive showing and uninspiring play from the offensive line were themes throughout all four preseason games. It was a forgettable preseason for both units.
Here's a recap of Thursday night's game:
Brad RempelBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who spent the final week of the 2016 season on the Vikings practice squad, caught nine passes for 127 yards and a touchdown – 104 more receiving yards than any other Vikings player. He got in a rhythm early with Heinicke, connecting on a 21-yard pass that led to an 8-yard touchdown reception on 3rd-and-6. Jones won’t crack the 53-man roster, but he showed enough flash to potentially lock up a spot on the practice squad … if he doesn’t get claimed by another team.
Associated PressBruce Kluckhohn
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
Former Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner made his highly anticipated preseason debut in the third quarter. Leidner, who was working for the food delivery service Bite Squad a few weeks back, finished the night 14 of 16 for 129 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions for a 91.8 quarterback rating. He wasn’t spectacular but didn’t look out of place, either. Leidner’s best throw went for 29 yards to Jones in the third quarter.
Teddy Bridgewater joined sideline reporter (and former NFL punter) Greg Coleman for an emotional interview during the game. Bridgewater took us through a typical day being Teddy (spoiler: it’s full of workouts and rehab). Bridgewater was a little choked up talking about how his teammates helped him through his tragic knee injury in August 2016. It got a little dusty at U.S. Bank Stadium.
? It’s not a number, but rather a question mark. Who is the Vikings’ starting center? Zac Kerin began the game at center on Thursday, meaning Pat Elflein and Nick Easton did not play. So will it be Elflein or Easton directing the line when Week 1 comes around? It’s still unclear at this point. As is the confidence that head coach Mike Zimmer has in his offensive line.
THEY SAID IT
“Man, it’s a grind. I love it. I embrace it. Every day is a new challenge, and I’m motivated by [my teammates].” – Teddy Bridgewater on his rehab process
“I don’t think it was very good … we had a little discussion about it.” – Mike Zimmer on Mackensie Alexander’s taunting penalty in the first half.
“I’m very thankful to these coaches, this organization and ultimately these teammates as well … just an unbelievable group of guys, you know friends I’ve made forever now. You know you only dream about that as a kid in Minnesota growing up here and watching these guys play so, you know really great group of people to be around.” -- Mitch Leidner, Minnesota native, on suiting up for the Vikings
New Orleans. Finally. Adrian Peterson and the Saints roll into Minneapolis on Sept. 11 to open their regular season on Monday Night Football. Let the 16-game rollercoaster begin!
Side note: That picture above is still so strange.