After last week’s penalty-laden affair, the Vikings needed a smooth, disciplined performance in week two. And they did for the most part with a 25-19 win over Seattle in front of the home fans. The first and second offenses found some good rhythm, the defenses played solid bend-don’t-break football and the Vikings moved to 2-0 in preseason action.
That said, the camp battles are where the real interest lies. And some players in some battles stepped up with strong performances, while others floundered a bit. Here are those who stood out, for better or for worse.
We are now in year three of Sloter’s Vikings run and the calls for him to finally win the backup job are louder than ever. Working against the threes and fours, Sloter has consistently put up excellent numbers. Last night, that came to the tune of 116 yards on 11 of 13 passing and a touchdown. There are two preseason games remaining and no definitive word on who the Vikings are planning on keeping behind Kirk Cousins between him and Sean Mannion. As such, one would assume Sloter is going to work with the twos at some point. After last night’s performance, there is plenty of evidence Sloter could make a strong run for Cousins’ backup. In fact, some are arguing that Sloter should already be ahead of Mannion, and one can see why.
…were it not for Mannion’s performance last night. The interception was the lasting image of Mannion’s night, but as this clip from Jordan Reid shows, he was not to blame for the pick-six. Chad Beebe read zone coverage while he was being defended man-to-man and cut off his route. Meanwhile, Mannion read the coverage correctly and put the ball in front of Beebe, so the ball sailed by when Beebe throttled down. Were it not for that error by his receiver, Mannion’s line would have looked more impressive than it already did, as he went 11 of 14 for 88 yards and a touchdown to Irv Smith.
Mannion may get knocked for dinking and dunking his way down the field, but he was not checking down. Rather, he was delivering good balls on time on quick drops and worked some strong drives. Even with Sloter’s slightly better numbers, Mannion probably still has a narrow edge in this backup race going into week three.
2019 Zylstra carries none of the hype that last year’s edition did. That said, Zylstra’s route to the 53-man roster seems much clearer after last night. He worked with the second- and third-team, catching five passes for 37 yards and a touchdown, while showing good poise and hands working the sideline. We also know from last season that the Vikings value him as a gunner on special teams. As such, for the moment, it looks like Zylstra along with Olabisi Johnson are favorites for the back end of the receiving corps.
With Ameer Abdullah out, Boone snatched every opportunity to insert his name in the conversation for third running back. Abdullah’s role as return man had Boone on the outside looking in. But these past two weeks, Boone has flashed both home run ability and grind-it-out, short yardage power. He had twice as many touches as any other player last night, recording 66 yards on 21 carries and another 45 on a long reception. That long reception, a well-run slant out of the backfield that also required a tough catch, set up the Vikings’ first touchdown. It also served as the longest play of the game for either side. Maybe Abdullah’s returning abilities give him the extra element over Boone, but from an offensive perspective, Boone has answered every bell.
It is a broken record at this point. Odenigbo always pops off the screen in preseason, regardless of who he works against. And with the Vikings’ hurting a bit for end depth, he finally looks poised to make the roster. After recording a sack in week one, Odenigbo came back this week with a sack he shared with Armon Watts, with Odenigbo recording the initial pressure. He added two other hits on the quarterback for a team-high three. As far as pressure goes, Odenigbo has been the guy in two preseason games.
“We’re trying to showcase him a little bit, I guess.”
That was the post-game quote from Mike Zimmer after Treadwell bounced back with four catches on four targets and 47 yards Sunday night. Given Zimmer’s comments, it seems clear that the Vikings have no intentions of keeping Treadwell. Rather, they are merely trying to boost his trade stock. Still, Treadwell’s solid game can only help the Vikings as they look to recoup some of their investment in the former first-round pick.
Early in camp, Taylor was splitting third receiver snaps with Chad Beebe. Now he is at the back end of the depth chart putting up minimalist numbers. In two games, Taylor has one catch for five yards on two targets and has yet to sniff first-team reps. As Zylstra and Johnson have emerged the last couple of weeks, Taylor’s margin for error from here on out seems razor thin.
Hill’s suspension made his status with the Vikings tenuous to begin with. We said after the news of his eight-game penalty that the Vikings should keep him in the fold to get a feel for their secondary situation. However, that was largely contingent on Hill’s play continuing to exceed expectations like it did in 2018. Through two preseason games, Hill has not exactly wowed in coverage. But worse than that, he delivered a hit on Paxton Lynch Sunday night that was, at best, flagrant and unnecessary. As Lynch began his slide, Hill lowered his helmet to Lynch’s and delivered a rough strike with his crown. He was subsequently ejected from the game and may face further disciplinary action. Those last five words have formed the catchphrase of Hill’s football career the past few years.
Johnson is the only nose on the roster outside of the starters who is getting serious run right now, so his roster spot is pretty safe. Holmes also seems secure, as he has taken almost all three-technique reps with the ones with Shamar Stephen injured. Still, they both struggled mightily Sunday night, particularly against the run. The two of them accounted for little push up front against Seattle’s first line. Plus, on several occasions, they found themselves many yards into the defensive backfield. Holmes’ pass rushing also did not stand out like it did a week ago. And with Hercules Mata’afa getting snaps as the top pass rush unit nose, the battle between Holmes and Mata’afa could be inching a little closer.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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