After a disaster of an opener in the preseason, it’s safe to say that the early part of training camp has not gone the way head coach Mike Zimmer wanted it to go.
After a disappointing 7-9 season that saw the defense fall apart, Zimmer would like to have seen a more fully vaccinated start to training camp and a team that at least showed it could perform the fundamentals of the game in the opening exhibition at home against the Denver Broncos.
The Vikings did not offer a competitive effort in being blown out 33-6, and it was just as bad as the score indicated. The offense was harassed by the Bronco defense in the opening stages of the first quarter, while the Denver offensive line was able to open big holes against the Minnesota defense. The Vikings were chasing the score from the early stages of the first quarter and never came close to putting up a significant fight.
That’s what rankled Zimmer the most, as the outcomes indicated a lack of overall urgency and decisiveness. Excuses are plentiful, as many of the team’s starters and key participants did not even dress (31 players), but the same could be said for many teams around the NFL last week. The overall performance by the Vikings was among the worst of the league’s 32 teams.
“I thought we had two good days of work this last week with those guys so we were going to give these other guys some opportunities to see if they can make the club. Some of them proved us right, and some of them proved us wrong,” Zimmer said. “A lot of these guys are back-up players and the things they showed was definitely not good enough.”
Zimmer has promised his team will work hard in practice this week as it prepares for the second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday.
Since the Colts are trying to figure out who their starting quarterback will be as newly acquired Carson Wentz recovers from foot surgery. That means candidates Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger will most likely take turns trying to light up the Minnesota secondary as both men attempt to win the staring QB job.
Whether Zimmer plays a few more of his starters or not, he will need to see a better from the players that line up wearing their home uniforms.
The Vikings were one of the easiest teams to play against a year ago, and there is no way that Zimmer can allow that kind of attitude to manifest itself this year. While the personnel on defense indicates the team will be substantially stronger on that side of the ball this year than it was in 2020, the attitude that the players project has to be far more intense.
It wasn’t just a matter of getting outmanned and beaten physically last year. There was an overall passive attitude that when the defense took the field, and opposing offenses delivered highlight-film performances. Nothing changed in that are with the loss to the Broncos.
The Vikings will be a different team when defensive end Danielle Hunter takes the field. After missing all of last year following disc surgery, Hunter is healthy again in training camp. Players and coaches have noticed his speed and aggressiveness since the start of camp, and he may be among the best pass rushers in the NFL this season once again.
Hunter has a chance to rank among the league leaders in sacks as long as he can stay healthy, and the other additions on the defensive line should also help. Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson are substantial, aggressive interior linemen who will make the Vikings much tougher to move the ball against this season.
But depth is likely to be an issue on both sides of the ball this season. The lack of talent among the non-starters was obvious in the preseason opener, and Zimmer wants to see more from those players from this point forward. If not, it will take a miraculously healthy season for plans to work out successfully in in 2021.