The Minnesota Vikings fell in their final preseason game on Friday night but that gives way to the regular season. With the Sept. 12 opener at the Cincinnati Bengals 15 days away, there are several takeaways that provide optimism and some doubt.
Irv Smith Jr. could be in for a big year
Viking fans have been waiting for Smith's breakout since he was selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. While Smith flashed in the final four games last season, he did so with less yards per route run (1.55) than Tyler Conklin (1.58).
But Friday's game showed what Smith could become when used properly. On the Vikings' opening drive, Smith was schemed into space which allowed him to create yards after the catch.
That usage made him a star at Alabama, where he caught 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns during his junior season. While he only caught two passes for 32 yards on Friday, it's a positive sign of what the Vikings have in store for Smith and what he could become this season.
Everson Griffen is back
When the Vikings signed Griffen last week, the expectation was that he would be a situational pass rusher. Against the Chiefs, Griffen showed he had plenty to offer in that role.
The bulk of Griffen's work came in the second quarter when he showed off a quick spin move and then collected a sack on the following drive.
Griffen may have a new number (for now) but he appears to have something left in the tank. That's great news for a Viking defense that generated just 23 sacks last season.
Jake Browning might not make the roster
It wasn't long ago when Mike Zimmer stood at a podium praising Jake Browning before a training camp practice. Three preseason games later, Browning might not even make the team.
Browning turned another rough performance against the Chiefs as he looked frantic and inaccurate. The third-year pro completed just 2-of-8 passes for 41 yards and doesn't look like a serviceable option behind Kirk Cousins.
That last part is something the Vikings should consider when making their final roster. Zimmer said earlier in camp that upgrading the backup quarterback position was "a monetary issue" but it might be worth the cost.
With Gardner Minshew's trade to Philadelphia, the options are becoming slim but the Vikings need to make a move.
Kellen Mond is still a project
In a perfect world, Mond would have capitalized on Browning's struggles and taken the backup quarterback job. Instead, he looks like a quarterback that's years away from being an NFL quarterback.
Mond's performance on Friday night wasn't terrible. Out of the three quarterbacks, Mond had the most success, leading a pair of touchdown drives. He also was able to use his legs to extend plays and pick up 40 yards rushing.
But there were also moments where he looked like a third-round pick. Several of Mond's passes soared above the heads of receivers while others bounced at their feet.
Mond's accuracy had never been his strength at Texas A&M but it needs to improve to become a solid contingency plan. That didn't happen in the preseason and the Vikings should at least be concerned.
It's OK to worry but too early to panic
After a winless preseason, it's understandable to be concerned about the Vikings. But there's also a silver lining that the Vikings were without several of their best players.
The Vikings starting offense didn't generate a touchdown this preseason but were without Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen. The defense gave up two touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes but were also missing Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter.
It's too rosy to believe that these players will transform the Vikings into a Super Bowl contender but it's unlikely this team will go in the tank. Getting their stars back will go a long way in making this team back to the playoffs but if you're looking for a title, this may not be the year.