The Kevin O'Connell era began — kind of — with the Vikings losing 26-20 to the Raiders in their preseason debut on Sunday. Minnesota mostly played well and Kellen Mond's two second-half touchdown passes to Albert Wilson made the game interesting, but a slew of penalties and poor first-half red zone execution were too much to overcome.
The score doesn't matter. What matters are the individual performances by players up and down the roster, whether they're established starters or long shots fighting to make the team. Because this was the first time we saw this iteration of the Vikings play a game, there was a ton to learn.
The backup quarterback competition was at the forefront of things to watch in this game, and I broke down an up-and-down day from Mond that still saw him surge ahead of Sean Mannion.
Quarterbacks aside, here are four more takeaways from Sunday's game.
Ed Ingram looks like the Vikings' starting right guard
Perhaps no Vikings player did more to help themselves in Las Vegas than Ed Ingram, the rookie second-rounder from LSU who is competing with veteran Jesse Davis to start at right guard.
Ingram's case was helped before he ever got the field. Davis — who has spent the vast majority of training camp as a starter, but recently ceded some first-team reps to Ingram — played the first two series of the game with the 1s. It's a very small sample size of just eight plays, but Davis struggled in pass protection against the Raiders' stunts. He contributed to allowing pressure on the Vikings' third down, then was charged with giving up a sack on third down on the following series.
Ingram replaced Davis on the ensuing possession and played very, very well over his 30 snaps. He was a force in the run game, sealing off holes and getting to the second level effectively. Ingram also held up well in pass protection for the most part, giving up one pressure on 17 pass blocking snaps.
It was a nice showcase of everything that made the Vikings so high on Ingram during the pre-draft process. If he can continue playing at a high level during the remainder of the preseason, he should start at RG against the Packers in Week 1. After Sunday's game, I think the odds of that happening are now solidly above 50 percent.
The Vikings are loaded at running back
Dalvin Cook, when healthy, is one of the five best running backs in football. Alexander Mattison, the Vikings' No. 2 RB, has over 1,800 total yards and eight touchdowns over the past three seasons. And as we saw against the Raiders, the Vikings' depth at the position doesn't end there.
Mattison didn't play much, handling three early carries. From there, the young speedsters took over. 2021 fourth-round pick Kene Nwangwu stood out in his rookie year because he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, but he handled just 17 touches from scrimmage all year. He looks ready to be more involved on offense in his second season, if needed. Nwangwu ran seven times for 41 yards (5.9 YPC) and added two catches for 18 yards. He showed great speed, acceleration, vision, and even broke a tackle to pick up a first down after making a catch.
Fifth-round rookie Ty Chandler was just as impressive. Chandler ran the ball five times for 50 yards, gaining at least 12 yards on three of his carries. He was patient, followed his blocks well, and burst through the holes to pick up chunks of yardage. Chandler also set up the Vikings' first touchdown with a 56-yard kickoff return in which he bounced off of first contact and sprinted upfield. PFF credited him with four missed tackles forced on the day.
"I thought across the board, he's pretty decisive in the run game, puts his foot down and gets north and south," head coach Kevin O'Connell said. "He ran with the type of physicality that you sometimes don't get to see in practice. It's there, the vision is there. So he was a real bright spot for me tonight."
Even with Mattison set to hit free agency after the season, the Vikings' future at running back is bright with Nwangwu and Chandler waiting for their opportunities. I think suggesting Mattison could be traded is a bit of an overreaction to one game, but I also understand where that idea comes from.
Brian Asamoah has a bright future
In addition to Ingram and Chandler, the other rookie who stood out the most was third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah. The Vikings love the sideline-to-sideline speed he brings to their defense, and that was on full display during one first quarter play in the low red zone. Asamoah instantly recognized that the Raiders were pitching it to Zamir White, so he angled himself perfectly and looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he chased down White for a TFL.
Asamoah later had a big hit on Kenyan Drake after a catch, although the play was negated because of a holding call drawn by D.J. Wonnum. All in all, it was a solid first game for Asamoah, with that one play showcasing a lot of his potential. He's not going to fill an every-down role this season unless Eric Kendricks or Jordan Hicks miss time, but the Vikings should be able to find ways to use him on defense and special teams.
Meanwhile, fellow young linebacker Chazz Surratt was not good against the Raiders. He missed a tackle, allowed two receptions, and generally didn't seem to play with much control. Surratt faces a major uphill battle to make the Vikings' roster.
As for top draft picks Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr., neither stood out much in either a positive or negative way. Booth got flagged for 36 yards of penalties on one play (pass interference and a facemask), but both calls looked a bit iffy.
The defensive line looked good
The Vikings wanted to get a brief look at their starting defensive line against the Raiders. It was just one series, but Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson were impressive in their first action playing together. Look at this pass rush move from Tomlinson to set up a Phillips sack:
Armon Watts, the Vikings' No. 3 defensive tackle, also made some things happen in this game, finishing with two pressures and a sack. Second-year edge rusher Patrick Jones II led the team with four pressures, while journeyman veteran T.Y. McGill had a pair of sacks.
Wonnum, James Lynch, and Jonathan Bullard also flashed at times.
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