It was a tough Saturday for the Minnesota Vikings as they were blown away by the Denver Broncos in their preseason opener. The 33-6 loss will likely cause panic among the Vikings fan base but there are several things to take away from the game.
1. It's time to move on from Dakota Dozier
There were many players that disappointed on Saturday but in the case of Dakota Dozier, his performance might have been expected.
Dozier was one of the worst guards in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus last season, grading 87th out of 92 qualifiers. That didn't stop the Vikings from re-signing Dozier to a one-year deal this offseason and the veteran reminded everyone why it was a questionable move on Saturday.
Dozier's struggles began immediately when he allowed pressure up the middle on the first passing play of the game. Things got worse when he held former teammate Shamar Stephen in the end zone to allow a first quarter safety. Dozier also committed a pair of penalties before coming out of the game.
With five players to be cut next week, Dozier put his name into contention. But as rookie Wyatt Davis struggles to adapt to life in the NFL, Dozier could at least get another chance against the Colts next week.
2. The Vikings rookie class is more raw than expected
When the Vikings wrapped up the 2021 NFL Draft there was an expectation that several players would contribute immediately. While first-round pick Christian Darrisaw was out after a procedure to fix a groin injury, several other rookies struggled on Saturday and might be far from contributing.
Fourth-round pick Camryn Bynum has drawn praise from Zimmer throughout the offseason but blew an assignment on an 80-yard touchdown from Lock to K.J. Hamler.
Fifth-round pick Ihmir Smith-Marsette also had a tough afternoon with a pair of drops and a lack of awareness when he ran a two-yard out route on a 4th-and-5. Smith-Marsette capped off his afternoon by slipping on a kickoff return.
Even third-round guard Wyatt Davis struggled, allowing a pressure of his own against Shamar Stephen.
3. The Vikings need a backup quarterback
Another concern for the Vikings was at quarterback where Jake Browning and rookie Kellen Mond shouldered the load on Saturday.
Browning was erratic, relying on check-downs and short passes to offset the Vikings' struggles along the offensive line. While he didn't have a full array of weapons, Browning finished 5-for-10 with 31 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
That paved the way for Mond to jump into the backup quarterback conversation. Mond showed some positive traits by extending plays and running run-pass options (RPOs) and zone reads, but never got into a rhythm, going 6-for-16 with 53 yards passing and carrying the ball five times for 25 yards.
Asking Mond to succeed was a tall task for the Vikings after he just returned from a stay on the COVID-19/reserve list but it's clear neither quarterback would be ready to step in if Kirk Cousins goes down.
4. A.J. Rose stepped up in relief
There weren't many Vikings that played well on Saturday but one was undrafted free agent A.J. Rose. The Kentucky product held his own after Kene Nwangwu went down with a knee injury, running for 100 yards on 25 carries.
That's not a performance that jumps off the page but it's notable considering how bad the offensive line performed. If Nwangwu is forced to miss extended time, Rose could have bought himself a chance at a roster spot or at least a look on another roster at the end of camp.
5. Next week is a big for the Vikings
It's easy to follow the negative trail that Saturday's game produced but the Vikings can take solace knowing that few of their starters actually played in this game.
ESPN's Courtney Cronin said via Twitter that Saturday's game had the feel of a fourth preseason game and based on the results, it's understandable that the Vikings would take that approach.
Although the Vikings escaped serious injury by resting their starters, they also raise the stakes for next Saturday's game with the Indianapolis Colts. If Minnesota turns in a similar effort, it could be cause for panic. But if the Vikings show what they're capable of, they should be able to right the ship.