MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings’ offense is built on the running of MVP back Adrian Peterson.
But with Peterson taking Friday’s preseason opener off, and with Minnesota knowing what it has in one of the league’s best running games, the passing offense was the focus Friday.
The Vikings, who were second in the league in rushing last season but 31st in passing, had 33 pass attempts to 15 rushing attempts in Friday’s 27-13 preseason loss to the Houston Texans. Minnesota is trying to work on the timing of its passing offense in hopes of providing more of a complement for Peterson this season.
“We want to work the passing game some this preseason and we’ll take a similar approach probably next week as well,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’re going to still run the football, but we do want to get our timing down in the passing game. We want to be more efficient in that area. So it will be a point of emphasis next week.”
Backup quarterback Matt Cassel, who replaced starter Christian Ponder after just two offensive plays, finished 12-of-19 passing for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In all, Minnesota was 20-of-33 passing for 271 yards. Ponder completed his first pass, a 15-yard completion to Jerome Simpson, but was intercepted on his second pass that went off Simpson’s hands.
Cassel, signed in the offseason from Kansas City, is trying to work on his cohesiveness with his new team and new receivers. Cassel was under pressure early and threw a bad interception on his second series, throwing the ball straight to the defender.
“You could tell he was a little bit rusty and part of that is learning a new offense and new system all the way around and getting familiar with our personnel,” Frazier said. “He got in a rhythm and it seemed like he did some good things as far as moving our team, taking command of the offense. So there was some encouraging moments for him. The turnover, that’s something we’ll have to take a look at and see how we can improve on that, but I thought he did some good things.”
Floyd fine: As important as anything for Minnesota is coming out of Friday healthy.
Rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd left the game early with a knee injury and didn’t return, but could be seen on the sideline working with athletic trainers and moving relatively well. It was the only injury of note for the Vikings.
“He should be fine,” Frazier said of Floyd. “We could have put him back in the game. We just decided because of where we were this time of the year we wouldn’t do it. But he should be fine.”
Sticking with the plan: Despite Ponder and the first-team offense getting only two offensive plays on the opening series, Frazier stuck with his plan to turn to Cassel and the second team with the second series.
Ponder, along with the starting offensive line and receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, didn’t play after the first series.
“It was a temptation,” Frazier said of being tempted to play the first-team offense longer. “And then I had to remind myself why we made the decision that we were going to go one series. And we had talked about whether it was two plays, three plays, 10 plays. We’ll have some opportunities to get our 1s a lot more work, but we really need to look at some other guys and find out who’s going to be able to help our football team. We’ll have time to evaluate our 1s for the next couple weeks, but we need to evaluate some people on this roster.”
Several players were in uniform but didn’t have helmets and didn’t play, including Peterson. On defense, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Chad Greenway were in uniform but didn’t play.
Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes (hamstring), A.J. Jefferson (knee) and Jacob Lacey (knee) were not in uniform, along with linebacker Desmond Bishop (groin) and center Joe Berger (personal matter).