A 12-10 loss to the Colts Saturday night was another glimpse into the future of the Vikings, which features several issues ahead of the Sept. 12 opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't all bad like the first preseason game.
The offense is a work in progress
With many of their starters resting, the Vikings' offense struggled against Denver. Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook remained on the sidelines against the Colts but a majority of the first-team offense was on the field in a lackluster performance.
The offense wasn't helped when Adam Thielen left the game after suffering a thigh bruise on the first drive. Without his usual supporting cast, Kirk Cousins struggled, completing 5-of-7 passes for just 23 yards.
Overall, the Vikings put up just 227 yards of offense and converted 2-of-15 third downs. The performance made head coach Mike Zimmer concede that his team may need more work during Friday's preseason finale at Kansas City.
"They played a little over a quarter; we've got to make some more plays than what we did," Zimmer said of the first-team offense. "It seemed like a lot of times, and maybe not just with the first team, we had some penalties or miscues that got us in bad situations, so we have to eliminate those."
They need a backup quarterback
While Cousins didn't have one of his best nights, it was a better performance than Jake Browning and Kellen Mond.
Browning took over for Cousins midway through the second quarter and proceeded to struggle against the Indy defense. Although he hit a couple of nice passes to Chad Beebe to set up a missed field goal by Greg Joseph, Browning completed just 6-of-15 passes for 82 yards.
The second half belonged to Kellen Mond, who doesn't look ready to take the backup job. Mond had a bad exchange on his first snap and led the Vikings to four straight punts to open the second half. Mond looked better as the game progressed but finished 6-of-12 for 61 yards.
Zimmer acknowledged after the game that the team would have a conversation about upgrading the backup quarterback position but would have to be careful due to "monetary issues."
The defense is new and improved
The Vikings sat their entire starting defense last week but looked much better against the Colts. Although the Vikings held out Danielle Hunter, Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith, it looked like a unit that was much improved from last season.
According to Pro Football Focus, the defense generated 14 pressures on the night and forced a pair of Sam Ehlinger interceptions. One of those picks was returned for a touchdown by Troy Dye and the Vikings kept the Colts out of the end zone the entire night.
While the defense looked good, it comes with a caveat. The Colts were without starting quarterback Carson Wentz due to a foot injury and Ehlinger and Jacob Eason are projects that don't appear to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
The defense could get better when they get their five resting starters back but it will be hard to know until they enter the regular season.
Anthony Barr's health is a concern
One of those defensive starters is Anthony Barr, who missed Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury. Barr missed the final 14 games last season with a torn pectoral but has been in and out of camp with what Zimmer described as a new injury.
Zimmer said he isn't concerned about Barr "the football player" but was concerned about his health. When asked about his impact on the defense, Zimmer said there are more possibilities with Barr on the field and that they're handling him with "kid gloves."
This is not encouraging after the situation that played out with Hunter a year ago. After suffering a "tweak" in training camp, the injury eventually landed him on IR and required season-ending neck surgery. There's no indication that this could play out with Barr but it's something to watch in the weeks leading up to the opener.
The kicker position is far from settled
After the Vikings released Riley Patterson, it appeared that Greg Joseph had won the starting kicker spot. But although Joseph went 2-of-3 on his kicks against the Colts, it was more eventful than his stats suggest.
Joseph knocked down an extra point after Dye's touchdown in the second quarter but missed a 51-yard attempt wide right on the Vikings' next drive. Although he made a field goal from 49 yards, it had just enough power to get over the crossbar which made everyone in U.S. Bank Stadium nervous.
Meanwhile, Colts kickers Rodrigo Blankenship and Eddie Pinero have yet to miss a kick in training camp or exhibition games this season. Rodrigo and Blankenship went a combined 4-for-4 against the Vikings on Saturday and one will be available at the end of the exhibition season.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport also reported on Sunday morning that New York Giants kicker Ryan Santoso could be on the trade block. Per Rapoport, the former Gophers kicker has been deemed "starting caliber" but is currently behind Graham Gano, who made 31-of-32 field goals last season.
The Vikings have been burned by trading for kickers before but aren't strangers to making a last-minute move to shake up their special teams. If the Vikings want to upgrade on Joseph, there should be plenty of options available.