MANKATO, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings opened the preseason looking a lot like they did when they closed last season. And that’s not good when it comes to the offensive line and its ability to protect quarterback Sam Bradford.
Playing without starting left tackle Riley Reiff because of a lingering back injury, the Vikings’ first-team offense gave up two sacks in the opening 7 1/2 minutes of a 17-10 win at Buffalo. The first unit also mustered just one first down and didn’t score in three possessions.
New right tackle Mike Remmers whiffed in pass protection, leading to the first sack on Bradford. The second sack came when the Bills overloaded left tackle Rashod Hill, who showed awful technique, rookie running back Dalvin Cook failed to chip the end and Bradford went down in a heap again.
Throw in a holding call on left guard Alex Boone on a 9-yard catch and run by Cook for a first down and, well, the offensive line underwhelmed once again. And, as Vikings fans know all too well, that was a common theme during the team’s season-ending 3-8 slide last year.
Two days later, after the Vikings returned to practice, head coach Mike Zimmer put a positive spin on his film review of the game.
“Really, there were some good things that happened all along,” he said. “The first two plays offensively, we drove them off the ball” with two runs for nine yards by Cook.
“We had some nice surges and good runs (in those two plays). A six-yard gain. Then the two sacks kind of set us off a little bit.”
Defensively, the Vikings’ first unit played two series and forced two punts. But it was far from what Zimmer is looking for. The coverage was sloppy and the run defense leaky.
And there was a shoulder injury to starting left corner Trae Waynes to keep an eye on. Waynes was hurt making a tackle on the first play. He left after the second snap and didn’t practice on Saturday.
The good news is the Vikings still have Terence Newman to step in for Waynes. Newman has started and played well for the Vikings the past two years. But he’ll turn 39 on Sept. 4, so the Vikings ideally would like him to play fewer snaps while Waynes, a former first-round pick, steps up as a starter.
The Vikings have three more practices before heading to Seattle for their second preseason game on Friday night.
“We still have a lot of things to work on, but I still like the way this team works and how they respond to things,” Zimmer said. “So, we’ll get better this week.”
Notes: Running back Bishop Sankey tore his right ACL in Thursday’s preseason win at Buffalo. Sankey, who had four carries for 14 yards and four catches for 15 yards, was unlikely to make the 53-man roster. A former second-round pick of the Titans, Sankey had been serving as added depth while Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon nursed injuries. … Running back Bronson Hill, who spent part of last season with the Jaguars, was signed Saturday to take Sankey’s roster spot. The Vikings also worked out former University of Minnesota running back David Cobb. … Defensive end Brian Robison returned to practice Saturday. He missed Tuesday’s practice and was held out of Thursday’s game because of an undisclosed minor injury. … Reiff, who missed the preseason opener because of a back injury that kept him sidelined most of camp, is back in full pads. But he has yet to get work during full team drills. … Safety Andrew Sendejo missed Saturday’s practice because of an undisclosed injury. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Jayron Kearse. … Defensive end Tashawn Bower, an undrafted rookie from LSU, turned some heads at Buffalo. Playing the right side, Bower had a sack on a nice power move and later flashed his athleticism when he reached high to bat down a pass. … Wide receiver Rodney Adams got the first crack at becoming Cordarrelle Patterson’s successor as kick returner. Adams returned kicks and punts at Buffalo. Adams returned three kicks for 19, 19 and 27 yards. He muffed one of his two attempts at fielding punts. He called for a fair catch on the other. Marcus Sherels, the No. 1 punt returner, was given the night off at that position and doesn’t appear to be in danger of losing that job.