The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 through two preseason home games and have yet to score an offensive touchdown. The response from the Vikings’ offense during Saturday night’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts was, “Hold my beer” after the twos and threes were gashed by the Denver Broncos’ varsity offense in the preseason opener.
Kirk Cousins mustered only two first downs across his three first-half drives before Jake Browning took over at the 5:25 mark of the second quarter. After another three-and-out on Browning’s opening drive, the offense showed a temporary pulse during a two-minute drill when Browning found Chad Beebe on a 32-yard pass that advanced them into Indianapolis territory. The drive culminated in a 49-yard Greg Joseph field goal — the only points of the night for the Minnesota offense.
Kellen Mond took the reins for the second half — or maybe he didn’t? The consolation-prize quarterback that the Vikings were left with after the front office’s lowball trade-up “attempt” for Justin Fields went three-and-out on his first four drives. The former Texas A&M signal-caller moved the chains for the first time on his fifth drive, with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
To make matters worse, first-round pick left tackle Christian Darrisaw — who played through a groin injury throughout 2020 before having surgery in January — has yet to practice due to the same groin issue. Darrisaw had a second surgery on Aug. 12th.
Now, I’m no Mel Kiper Jr, but it’s easy to see why Darrisaw slid in April’s NFL Draft with his lingering groin issues. Unfortunately for Rick Spielman and the Vikings’ chronically underwhelming offensive line, Minnesota had no choice but to select the oft-injured tackle after he fell to No. 23 overall. Chalk this one up to damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Darrisaw and the left tackle position remain the most obvious concern for this team, as they’re just three weeks away from the season opener in Cincinnati.
Speaking of oft-injured former first-round draft picks. Anthony Barr has been sidelined for weeks with an undisclosed injury and has yet to dress in the preseason.
Hopefully, this undisclosed, multiple-week absence is simply the Vikings operating with an abundance of caution. But similar to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott — who is also dealing with a different injury than the one that forced him to miss last season — there is reason to be antsy regarding Barr’s status for Sept. 12th.
Luckily for the defense, Danielle Hunter has reportedly looked fantastic throughout training camp — despite not dressing for either preseason game. Make no mistake about it, Hunter’s presence will be able to shore up a lot, if not all, of the holes on Minnesota’s 29th-ranked defense from last season.
As long as No. 99 is out there hunting down Joe Burrow in a couple of weeks, there’s little need to fret over the defense.
Circling back to the offensive side of the ball: It’s nearly impossible to effectively gauge this offense when both Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook are sitting out the preseason — offensive line issues and all. For as much fun as we all have dunking on Plexi-Kirky, it’s important to remember that he had the second-best passer rating in the entire NFL from Week 3 on after Jefferson was inserted into the starting lineup.
So while there are obvious concerns over Darrisaw, Barr, and the backup quarterback spot, let’s keep in mind that this team has been without its three best players — Hunter, Jefferson, and Cook — for both preseason games. And to be perfectly clear, Cousins and the offense cannot survive without Jefferson and/or Cook. And we saw just how godawful the defense was without Hunter last season.
While it would’ve been nice for rookie offensive play-caller Klint Kubiak to have a test-run or two dialing up play-calls for his most talented offensive toys, let’s pump the brakes before Skoldiers go running for the hills. As long as the Vikings have a healthy and active Hunter, Jefferson, and Cook, there’s reason to have a glass-half-full attitude about this football club.