Sure, it was only an intrasquad scrimmage, but the Minnesota Vikings played football in their home stadium Friday.
Just 16 days before their season opener against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings simulated a full half of football at U.S. Bank Stadium, complete with fake crowd noise, music and officials. The only thing it lacked was tackling (and fans, of course), but not having commercials made for a fast-paced, high-energy scrimmage — even if it wasn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing.
Kirk Cousins got five drives at quarterback and led two field goal drives while only generating one first down combined on the other three. Unofficially, he finished 11 of 20 with 118 yards and three presumed sacks taken. His best connection went down the left sideline for 32 yards as Adam Thielen made a highlight-reel catch over Holton Hill, but Cousins found himself under pressure on many dropbacks throughout the afternoon.
The run game is hard to get going in non-tackling scrimmages since backs don’t have the opportunity to break tackles, but neither Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison or Mike Boone were especially impressive, combining for 16 carries and 40 yards, just 2.5 yards per carry.
Thielen was the most explosive receiver, snagging three catches for 64 yards, while Justin Jefferson got plenty of targets with both the first and second teams, hauling in four grabs for 22 yards. He also had a drop.
The Vikings’ defensive line was particularly impressive, which may not bode well for the team’s offensive line. Jaleel Johnson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Armon Watts all recorded sacks, and the unit collectively bottled up the run game.
In the secondary, Jeff Gladney got more first-team nickel work than we’d seen recently. He was also involved in consecutive reps against Alexander Hollins that turned some heads. Gladney flew in for a well-timed pass breakup on Hollins, only to get burned down the sideline for a 34-yard completion on the next play. Speaking of Hollins, he also drew a lengthy defensive pass interference penalty on Kris Boyd.
Sean Mannion got three drives at quarterback and struggled mightily on his first two, going three and out. His third effort resulted in the scrimmage’s first touchdown drive. After Hollins helped him out with his long reception and drawn pass interference, Mannion finished the job with a two-yard touchdown pass to Tajae Sharpe.
The offenses started moving the ball better with the reserves, as Jake Browning and Nate Stanley led consecutive touchdown drives to end the game. Browning hit Mike Boone on a swing pass for a six-yard touchdown, and Stanley connected with Dillon Mitchell for a 23-yard touchdown on a broken play.
Players gathered afterward to make an additional statement about social justice following a two-hour meeting on Thursday. Ameer Abdullah called for the “proper [prosecution]” of Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the neck of George Floyd. Shortly after the team’s statement, the Wilf family released their own statement, lending support to the players and committed action to the following three areas: “1) urging citizens to use their right to vote and increasing voter education and registration; 2) supporting the adoption of impactful educational curriculum on racism and Black history; and 3) advocating for law enforcement and criminal justice reform.”
Here are some additional notes from Friday’s scrimmage:
- T Rashod Hill was dressed but did not participate in the scrimmage. DE Kenny Willekes left the field on crutches.
- DE Danielle Hunter missed his 11th straight practice with what Mike Zimmer continues to call a “tweak.”
- It looks like Dakota Dozier is the starting left guard. He took all the first-team reps for the first time in camp.
- TE Tyler Conklin made a ridiculous catch near the end zone, but he was ruled out of bounds. There was no replay to confirm or overturn the call.
- Dan Bailey made all five of his kicks, two field goals and three extra points, putting on a bow on a very clean camp.
- WR K.J. Osborn took all but one rep as the kick returner and punt returner, though he didn’t always look comfortable in the punt returning role. He also made two catches for 23 yards with the third team.