The third preseason game has always been the regular season warm-up, with many of the starters playing the majority of the first half. The Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks kicked off at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday night for their final tune up. Both teams have questions to answer heading into the regular season. Will Kirk Cousins be comfortable in the new offense? Is Dalvin Cook fully recovered from his knee injury that occurred last October? Can this banged up offensive line for the Vikings protect their new franchise quarterback? Who can Russell Wilson lean on to give him support in his offense? Fans on both sides were looking for answers as these two teams faced off for their tilt in Minneapolis.
Questions for Kirk Cousins
Coming over to a new offense can take time for quarterbacks to feel comfortable. New personnel, new terminology, and a new environment takes time to adapt to. Kirk Cousins had only played a handful of possessions heading in the Friday night game.
Cousins faced the challenge of having the Seahawks defense throw a ton of pressure his way early on, but executed two efficient drives to start the game. The opening drive saw three third down conversions to extend the drive, setting up the Vikings for a field goal attempt that was missed from 42 yards. The second drive went the length of the field (13 plays, 97 yards) and found pay dirt from two yards out with Latavius Murray.
Kirk had the opportunity to execute a two-minute drill to finish off the first half. He hit Stefon Diggs across the middle for a third down conversion, but missed Adam Thielen on consecutive passes that were sure first downs. Laquon Treadwell worked his way open to move the chains twice, one on third down that put the Vikings into Seahawks territory. The drive stalled out at the 25-yard line, where rookie Daniel Carlson missed his second, yes second, 42-yard field goal of the game.
Cousins finished his night 17/28 for 182 yards. His most impressive stat of the game was his production on third down. The Vikings were 7/10 in the first half, with many conversions coming from third and long. His connection with Stefon Diggs is evident, but timing and accuracy were issues with his other star receiver, Adam Thielen. With only two weeks to go until the real deal, there is definite room for growth for this Vikings offense.
Kirk Cousins Grade: B-
Welcome Back, Dalvin
Vikings fans are no stranger to having their star running back go out with a serious knee injury. Cook injured his knee on October 1st in his rookie campaign while playing the Detroit Lions. He missed the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair his torn ACL. The Vikings have been careful with Cook this preseason, but he made his debut on Friday night. Cook only was on the field for three plays, carrying the ball twice for two yards. This didn’t answer any questions about Cook’s health and explosiveness, but it was a good sign that he was back on the field.
Offensive Line Struggles
Without a doubt, the biggest concern for the Vikings coming into the season is their offensive line. Multiple early camp injuries and a ton of inexperience is not what a contending team needs up front. The Vikings have tried different combinations of players to see what works in the running game and what can keep Cousins clean in the pocket. As the old saying goes, “if it first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Friday night definitely showed the offensive line is, at best, a work in progress. The Seahawks had their way early on, putting constant pressure on Cousins. Bobby Wagner crushed Cousins with a blitz straight through the heart of the line, when the Vikings were looking to punch the ball in early in the second quarter. Despite a flag negating the sack, it was a perfect picture to show what the line played like during the game.
For what it’s worth, the line did protect Cousins on the beautiful 97-yard drive. Seattle threw blitzes and defensive line stunts from all angles, but Cousins was kept clean and threw for 81 yards on the drive that was capped off with the Murray touchdown.
The running game was non-existent, with the starters out there in the first 30 minutes, gaining 27 yards on 13 carries. No sacks were given up with the “ones,” but Cousins was hurried and hit on numerous occasions. The offense did rack up 209 yards in the first half, which is a positive sign for the purple and gold.
Starting Offensive Line Grade: C-
The magician Russell Wilson carried his Seahawks offense for the majority of the 2017-18 journey. This season, the Seahawks are looking to display a more balanced approach, drafting running back Rashaad Penny out of San Diego State and continuing to see what they can get from Chris Carson. With Penny being out of this preseason game, the running attack was led by Carson, who brings some experience to the backfield from last season.
After starting the game with a three and out, the Seahawks looked impressive on their second drive. They picked the Vikings stout defense apart, with Wilson finding different receivers throughout the drive. He found his new weapon Brandon Marshall on three different occasions, and Chris Carson was untouched from six yards out to score the Seahawks first touchdown of the game.
A solid running game early on was a good sign for the Seattle offense, in particular for the offensive line. The feared foursome on the Vikings defensive line will give many teams difficulties running the ball, but the Seattle backs were able to find gaps to pick up good yardage early to move the sticks. Danielle Hunter providing pressure from the edge, but wasn’t able to get home on Wilson in the first half. Pressure was missed from the opposite side, with Everson Griffen inactive. The running game, two lengthy first half drives (12 plays, 8 plays), and zero sacks are all positive signs for the Seattle offense as they look ahead to week one.
However, gaining 138 yards in the first half isn’t exactly eye popping for the Seattle offense. Their 12-play, 75-yard drive was the sole bright spot for the starting group. Wilson was forced to move around inside and outside of the pocket to try and create positive plays for his squad. Wilson played into the third quarter against the “twos” for the Vikings, tossing a 34-yard dime up the sideline to Marcus Johnson. He demonstrated his incredible accuracy when he gets time in the pocket, but found himself scrambling to gain time to throw much of the game. Wilson finished the night a modest 11/21 for 118 yards, although he did extend plays to move the chains on multiple occasions.
Seahawks Offense Grade: C
All in all, both teams have massive room for improvement looking ahead to the regular season. Both offensive lines allowed consistent pressure on their franchise QBs and struggled to punch the ball into the end zone. With week one only 15 days away, these two fan bases still have questions about their teams when they lock helmets with their opponents on September 9th.