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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Cause for concern? Bradford, first-team offense end preseason with a thud

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS – Let’s start off with the good news for the Vikings’ first-team offense from Sunday night’s third preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In the final dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 at U.S. Bank Stadium, nobody left the field on a cart.

Quarterback Sam Bradford got up each time he was knocked to the turf; wide receiver Stefon Diggs did not get clobbered either time he dropped a pass going over the middle; and receiver Adam Thielen got right up after taking a shot on a second-quarter reception.

Considering the number of significant injuries that have occurred in preseason games, the latest being New England losing wide receiver Julian Edelman for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Friday against Detroit, the Vikings had to feel fortunate.

Oh, and Laquon Treadwell, attempting to go from first-round bust to productive wide receiver, caught three passes for 36 yards in his exhibition debut.

Other than that coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur couldn’t have been pleased with what they saw from their starting offense in the opening half against San Francisco in a 32-31 come-from-behind victory at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings failed to generate a point in the opening 30 minutes and did not cross midfield until late in the second quarter. That came when a scrambling Bradford connected with Thielen on a 28-yard pass to the San Francisco 6-yard line. Minnesota was unable to get to the line of scrimmage in time to run another play before the clock expired.

The Vikings’ five other drives all ended in punts – a result far too reminiscent of last season when the Vikings’ offensive struggles were a big reason the team finished 3-8 after a 5-0 start.

Among the biggest concerns Sunday was the abuse the 29-year-old Bradford took in the opening quarter playing behind what is expected to be the Vikings’ starting offensive line when they open against New Orleans.

Riley Reiff, a free-agent addition who injured his back on the first day of training camp and did not play in the opening two preseason games, started at left tackle. Nick Easton started at center, an indication that he’s going to beat out rookie Pat Elflein for that job. Alex Boone and Joe Berger were at the guard spots and Mike Remmers, another free-agent addition, was at right tackle.

Zimmer and Shurmur did mix up things in the second quarter, having Elflein take over at center, shuffling Easton to left guard and having Rashod Hill take over at left tackle.

The fact Bradford was able to make 15 starts last season was a miracle considering the amount of hits he took. That’s a big reason the Vikings made changes on the line. If Bradford takes a similar number of hits in 2017, it’s likely Case Keenum will be forced into action.

The Vikings’ offense looked dreadful on its first series of the game. Bradford opened in shotgun with the ball at the Minnesota 25. His short pass to rookie running back Dalvin Cook was snuffed out by 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster for a 5-yard loss.

It got worse when Bradford took the second-and-15 snap from his own 20-yard line and dropped the ball. That sack put the Vikings in a third-and-22 and likely had Zimmer fuming. The only positive on the backward drive came on third down when Bradford completed a 19-yard pass to Treadwell to make it fourth-and-3.

The Vikings actually managed two first downs on their next possession – one that came after 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer found wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on a 46-yard touchdown pass – but Minnesota’s offense stalled again as Bradford was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third-and-10 from midfield.

The Vikings’ second quarter drives ended at their own 37-, 40- and 38-yard lines before the final drive. Bradford finished 17 of 21 for 134 yards with no interceptions. It would have been 19 completions if Diggs hadn’t dropped two very catchable passes but, as was the case last year, points, not completion percentage, are the most important thing.

The offense also committed two penalties. Remmers was called for an illegal formation to make a third-and-4 situation a third-and-9, and Latavius Murray’s reception of Bradford’s pass was wiped out because the running back had gone out of bounds and then came back in to catch the ball.

The Vikings got their first look at Murray – Cook started and rushed for 17 yards on five carries – but he gained only 6 yards on two carries. Murray also caught two passes for 10 yards.

In three preseason games, Bradford led the Vikings to three points in 12 drives. The Vikings did not cross midfield in their preseason opener at Buffalo with Bradford leading the way, and although he had Minnesota in Seahawks territory in all three drives at Seattle, only one ended with a field goal.

Bradford’s preseason is now finished. He won’t play in Thursday night’s exhibition finale against Miami and almost certainly will be joined by the rest of the starters in not putting on shoulder pads.

Is the fact the Bradford/Shurmur offense didn’t do more when it didn’t count a big deal? If the Vikings come out against the Saints and move the ball no one is going to remember or care how ugly things looked on Sunday night.

But the lack of production from an offense that struggled far too often last season does make you wonder just how much better things will be in 2017?

The post Zulgad: Cause for concern? Bradford, first-team offense end preseason with a thud appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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